In 2011, when Jennifer Pharr Davis set the Appalachian Trail speed record, she wasn’t wearing heavy leather hikers. She was in a pair of Salomon Synapse—low cut, light-weight, and practically a running shoe. Extra weight on your feet takes more energy to move. An oft-quoted theory calculates that a pound on your foot equals five pounds on your back.
Plenty of light hikers and burly running shoes have a solid shank to protect your feet from rocks and other trail debris, while at the same time supporting them for long miles. If you train the muscles in your feet like you train the rest of body, they’ll take the brunt of trail miles better regardless of your footwear. Light hikers and trail shoes are available in both low and high cut versions. We like Merrell’s Proterra Sport (1 lb. 7 oz., $100) and for those whose feet are barefoot ready, Vibram FiveFingers Speed XC (11 oz., $140).