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Recommendations for durable & lightweight shoes for hiking the AT.

We are planning a through hike on the AT in 2021 and slowly selecting our gear and been avid tent campers and day hikers for many years however now we are planning the most adventurous hike of our lives. We have hiked the Green mountains, White Mountains, Smokey Mountains but always in mid cut boot. Trail runners have gained popularity in the past number of years with much benefit however I am not able to accept the idea of having to purchase new shoes every 250-600 miles. Is there a shoe that will give me the lightweight & comfort of a trail runner but the durability in a boot maybe in a mid cut shoe or something? We bought a pair of Altra's Lone Peak 4 mid cut (From REI Grand Rapids MI) for my wife and appreciate the wide toe box and the way it keeps her foot from sliding forward as its a mid cut shoe. Does the design of a mid cut cause the shoe to last longer than a low cut?   Thank you for your input. I think the shoe is now my greatest concern for this adventure!      

Rick Lambright
2 Replies


Thank you for reaching out and for sharing your goals for 2021!

There are a lot of options available in terms of hiking shoes that may meet your needs. Because of this, and because the right fit is critical to your time on the trail, we recommend starting with a virtual outfitting appointment with one of our employees. They can talk through your specific needs and plans to get you a personalized recommendation. Additionally, having the correct fit in your footwear can help extend the life of your shoes. In the meantime, here are some suggestions for you to take a look at to familiarize yourself with some hiking shoe options:

A mid-cut shoe doesn't necessarily mean it will last longer or be more durable than a low cut shoe, that depends more on the design and materials used. Some people just prefer the feeling of security you get with a boot that comes up a bit higher on your ankle. If you choose to go with a waterproof option, a higher boot can buy you an inch or so of protection walking through puddles or streams as well. 

@Philreedshikes uses Hokas for hiking, @TomIrvine can speak to Altras and Oboz, @John and @Dad_Aint_Hip both appreciate the Merrell Moab line of footwear, and @REI-PearlD likely has some good advice as well. Perhaps they can weigh in with some thoughts!

Hopefully this helps get you started, thanks!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Hey @icecreammaker!

I just want to chime in and also recommend the Topo Trailventure Mid  as another trail runner-turned-mid option that has a wide toebox and the height you might desire. 

I chatted with a couple of other Green Vests at my retail location who have completed the AT and the PCT within the past five years. All of them completed the trek in trail runners with gaiters. They wore the Brooks Cascadia, the Altra Lone Peak, and the Altra Timp. (Actually, the person who finished the AT hiked about 3/4 in the Cascadia, and 1/4 in their Chaco sandals!) But, as you're already aware, they did have to replace their shoes about 3-4 times on average. You would be looking at the same replacement time for most of the boots that @REI-JohnJ mentioned, with the possible exception of the Oboz Sawtooth, or the Salomon X-Ultra which might only require one replacement. 

I hope this helps! You're right to take seriously the quality and comfort of your footwear--at best, ill-fitting footwear will make your trip not fun, and at worst, it can make your trip impossible. Like John said, our virtual outfitters and store staff are ready to help you find the perfect match. 

Happy hiking!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.