The Princess and the Pea is a well-known children’s story about a notoriously fussy girl who can feel the tiniest lump in her mattress. And while we have yet to welcome an actual princess on Coastrek, we get it. A tiny piece of sand or dirt can suddenly seem like an insurmountable problem if it’s inside your walking shoes on a very long walk.
That’s why we focus - maybe even hyperfocus - on the type of walking shoes our trekkers wear. The right shoes are often the difference between finishing the walk or leaving early.
We’re all about support - arch support, ankle support and our support crew along the way - but before you hit the trail, how can you make sure you have the right runners? There are a few things to consider so read on to make sure you have happy feet on your next trek.
1. Get fitted properly
It can be tempting to buy something a friend has recommended (especially if it’s on sale) but the most important thing you can do for your precious feet is to get fitted by an expert. This means going to a specialist footwear store like Athlete’s Foot, seeing your podiatrist and asking for shoe recommendations or going to a specialist orthopaedic shoe store and asking for help.
Don’t buy hiking shoes online without trying them on in real life. It’s a bit like online dating. A shoe can be very attractive and meet all your criteria - only to discover that after two hours together, you’re ready to run away (just not in those shoes!).
If you have weak ankles, we recommend that you train in low-cut trail runners to strengthen your them but wear high cut trail runners for the event.
We generally recommend trail runners as they generally have good tread and enough cushioning to suit the Coastrek routes.
Hiking boots are often hard, hot and inflexible but some people swear by them, especially if it's wet. You must choose what works for you - you have to walk a lot of miles in your shoes.
Also, please don’t think we’re telling you that you need new shoes. You don’t. If you’re happy with your existing shoes, don’t go shopping.
The most important thing is that you buy the best shoes for your feet. For this reason, we strongly recommend you don’t scrimp. The best shoes might be expensive but they will be worth every cent.
By the twentieth kilometre, some people will sell their first born child (or dog or cat or prized family heirloom) for shoes that don’t hurt.
Don’t be that person.
2. Wear them during training
In a similar vein, don’t be the person who puts their new hiking shoes on for the first time on the day of the trek.
Sure, shiny new shoes fill you with a sense of possibility and hope. It’s fun to wear something new. We understand.
But rather than wearing new shoes, maybe focus all your ‘new stuff’ feelings on your drink bottle or socks.
Think of it like a long haul flight. You would much rather be sitting next to someone you find comfortable and adorable. That way when you’re drooling on their shoulder, no-one feels awkward.
If you buy new shoes, wear them in on your training walks.
If there are any problems, you will know well in advance. If they’re amazing, great!
3. Wear gaiters
While this may sound like something that only happens in Florida, gaiters are a lifesaver when it comes to getting stuff like sand, dirt and rocks in your shoes.
Just in case you’ve never heard of gaiters, they are little elasticised ‘skirts’ that you put around your ankle to create a barrier between your ankle and the top of your shoe so that debris doesn’t get in.
A very long walk is like a long relationship. Small things become big things over time. Sand causes blisters and blisters cause tears.
Wearing gaiters stops the problem where it starts.
4. Lube up
It’s tempting to continue with the relationship analogies here but we’re keeping it clean. Blister prevention is a slippery business. If you want to finish your Coastrek with feet that look like, well feet, make friends with Vaseline and pawpaw ointment. We have a whole guide on this but the main thing to know is that you need to slather your feet in greasy goop before you put on your socks.
This is not the time for conservatism. Pretend you’re an unsupervised toddler and the Vaseline is Nutella. Really layer on the lube to avoid getting blisters or ‘hotspots’.
5. Change your socks
It might sound excessive but you are going to need to change your socks every four hours. Trust us - after eight hours, you’re going to be psyched about having excuse to sit down. Pack enough socks to change them regularly. Why? Because socks get sweaty, stretched, slippery and hot. By packing fresh socks - and changing them regularly - you are going to get the chance to sit down and check your feet for potential blisters.
Wearing the right walking shoes is a bit like marrying the right person. What happens on the wedding day is way less relevant than what happens when things get tough. The right shoes will support you, carry you and protect you in the many kilometres ahead. Choose the right ones and you will be a happy trekker!