We wake up in a cold sweat, it is 3 a.m. again and we hear the ominous sound around us, inside of us, reverberating through the thickness of the night. It has been a week that this wailing and weeping has been following us into the dark. Or has it always been waiting for us in the dark? Is it ourselves? When we wake we check for moisture underneath our eyes and find none. We blindly put a hand over our mouths to check if the wail is escaping our lips, yet our mouths remain closed. Yet, the cries and the sensation of pain remain. Then we remember, it all comes crashing back into us and around us. We had caused this internal wail, this external siren, this unfathomable depths of pain, and we cry fresh tears all over again. As we pick up our dimly lit phone to our faces, we now know with a certainty where this wail originated and why it continues. Unlocking our screen in the dark, the light from the phone reflects off our face but all we see and feel is darkness inside that light. What do we see, what do we hear, what did we do? We try to soothe, we try to apologize, we try to mend this broken trust that had been placed into our hands. Yet, as we check our phone and the cries from our account and ourselves crescendo into a climax, we realize there is no mending, no fixing, only time can heal this wound. We cry together, as we check again the source of our pain, our bank account. What brought us to this painful moment, this never ending sadness, this wound that is still so fresh upon our hearts and our minds? Well, we have officially bought most of our shoes for hiking season 2021, 10 pairs in total, this is our story!
Yet, it comes with a price quite literally and figuratively.
We hope you enjoyed that intro, it was quite fun to write. Based in reality but exaggerated, or is it?? Every hiker that plans multiple long distance trails, and multiple thousands of miles in one hiking season, will experience some form of this pain. It is a necessity, to treat your feet right when going for a lot of distance, but the pain you are avoiding while on trail by doing this, does nothing to diminish the pain of the hit of buying an absurd amount of shoes all at once. Why 10 pairs of shoes? Why not less, why not more? Well, let us describe our reasoning and describe the cries of our hearts and bank account to you.
Yes, we recently bought (10) pairs of shoes for hiking season 2021. We have 8,000 miles to do, and more likely than not this will still not be enough pairs to get us through the season. It is a good start however. We could not push ourselves to get more than (10) at once, it already felt absurd to be buying so many. With this amount of shoes however, it would mean that we would be replacing them every 800 miles, which is already on the extreme end of the life of a shoe. We have had shoes that we have gotten 1,500+ miles out of but at the end of that it was more air than shoe. We could tie a lace to hold together the sole, but it was if we had flip flops. The padding was gone so every footstep thudded against the ground with noise, and echoed throughout our entire body with feeling. We have pushed many of our shoes to the max capacity of their "life" to the point that it would practically have been the same if we just duct taped a slab of rubber to the soles of our feet and hiked in those. Why? Well, in essence we are very stubborn hikers, you have to be some type of stubborn to complete long distance trails, and we wanted our shoes and our wallets to last. Yet, there is no avoiding it this year, no 1,500 mile "shoes" in our future, instead a necessity to take care of our feet as much as possible, because we are demanding as much if not more from them than they are asking from us.
Every time we look at our new shoes, this is all we see....
We have had pairs of shoes last only 200 miles. Granted the terrain was extreme and shredding them with multiple water crossings, thick bushwhacks, roots and rock, and trashed them completely very quickly. You thought we were talking about the Great Divide Trail didn't you? No, this "extreme" terrain actually came to us on the Pinhoti Trail. Could have been the trail, could have been the shoes, could have been how we were walking, but the ultimate outcome was the same. Our shoes were trashed very quickly and very violently. Then we have had shoes last anywhere in between these two extremes of 200 miles - 1,500 miles. A safe rule that we have come to use when thru-hiking, is replacing shoes every 600 miles or so. Sometimes a little less and sometimes a little more. Again, this is still us stubbornly wanting to conserve our wallets and our cries of pain from our bank account, it is still not recommended to go this long on one pair of shoes. The universal rule or standard that we have come to see, that people chose to comfortably replace their shoes is around the 400 mile region. It is before the shoe begins to break completely, but enough that it is teetering upon that threshold. It all comes down to willingness to walk in discomfort, willingness to be stubborn, and the willingness on how many times you want to hear your bank account wake you with cries of sadness throughout the night.
If you do the math on 8,000 miles and averaging 600 miles per shoe, you will come out with needing about 13 pairs. Again, through our experience we have found that this average does not always work out completely. Just like on a construction job site you should use about a 10% estimate of extra material being needed. To be safe we always round up. So, more likely than not before this hiking season is all said and done, we will need about 15 pairs of shoes. Yet, we only bought 10 pairs, why not just go ahead and buy the remaining 5 that we know we will end up buying regardless? Well, come with us into our nights, come with us into our cold sweats, and come with us into the world of being a thru-hiker, and listen, hear and feel the wails of a bank account that expected better treatment from us, and we failed them. Experience the pain as we have to describe to them, we did all we could, we tried our best, we had no other option as our hearts ache because of their ache. You try to rationalize to them it could have been worse! Could have been 15 pairs! The wails will only increase, not recommended! We are so sorry, will always bear this weight upon on heart and souls, that we were the cause, yet we hope, will always hope that we can also be the solution. We may not be able to mitigate the pain felt in this instant, but we can be there for the pain, be there together in the tears, and simply be together through it. It may not "help" the intensity of emotions now, but that will never stop us from letting our hearts feel together, as we cradle our wailing cellphone to our chests at 3 a.m. and listen to our bank account cry as tears of our own intermix.
Welcome the stillness of the night, the ache, the pain, it shall pass.
Depending on how you hike, how you chose to plan your trails, and how you chose to break the news to your bank account, you will need many shoes in a hiking season. When having to plan for so many different trails and places, it is easier to get the planning of shoes out of the way all at once logistically, but not emotionally. When you are on one long distance trail, and know this will be the adventure for the year, it is easier to space out the blow and space out the pain. But you will have to buy multiple multiple pairs of shoes. Depending on how stubborn or how willing you are to hike through discomfort the amount you need will fluctuate. You may need more and you may need less. It all comes down to preference and comfortability. Your feet are by far one of the most important parts of your body that you need to take care of on a thru-hike. You demand step after step, mile after mile, and mountain after mountain of them. You literally hike all day, your feet being the vehicle that interacts with the rigidness of the ground as the rest of your muscles in your body deal with the effort. Take care of them as much as you can.
It never will get easier, and that in itself is a beautiful thing
So, yes we have (10) pairs of shoes, pre-boxed and ready to ship wherever we may be, on whatever trail system we may be upon, with (5) more that we will find along the way. They are ready for the journey ahead no matter where it takes them. We are ready for the journey ahead no matter where it takes us. Yet, our bank account it remains hurt, it remains fragile, it remains wounded. It knows we have done this year after year, yet it never softens the blow. Many years we would space out the shoes over the entirety of the trail and the cries would be minimal. Then some years we would buy in bulk and the cries would be felt deeper and stronger, yet we never have bought in bulk to this degree. We have had this conversation many times and even through the hurt and the initial pain in ourselves and thus our bank accounts they understand. Understand it will pass, understand it is a necessity, and understand when they cry at 3 a.m. we cry right alongside them. When the wails and cries wake us through the night, we now have defined the source, the cause, the effect, and our hearts break over and over again. It never gets easier, we just become stronger, more compassionate, more understanding, and will continue to be there, always.
With shoes on our minds and bank account cries in our ears and our hearts,