5 Questions for Jennifer Pharr Davis
The Farm to Feet global ambassador, author, and endurance hiker dishes on designing her own sock, her best endurance tip, and her next big project
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For endurance pursuits, a well-designed pair of socks is on par with an ultralight tent and chafe-free pack. Endurance hiker and author Jennifer Pharr Davis agrees: in 2011, she set the fastest known time (FKT) on the Appalachian Trail (AT) and was recognized as National Geographic Adventurer of the Year.
After her FKT, Davis continued to hike mega miles but with an underlying goal to find the perfect sock. Enter: Farm to Feet, Davis’s number one brand choice for socks that dry fast.
Outside Business Journal spoke with Davis about her latest book, her inaugural sock design, and endurance goals.
Consumers don’t generally prioritize their sock selection. Why are socks a key piece of gear for you?
I learned the importance of socks the hard way. The first time I hiked the AT (editor’s note: Davis has hiked it three times) I got trench foot in Pennsylvania, which is halfway—and it wasn’t because of my shoes or the weather. I wore the wrong socks: ones that don’t breathe or dry.
Now, I’ve tried all of the brands and all types of hiking socks. I prefer wool or a wool blend. Farm to Feet socks dry the fastest, are the most breathable, and have padding where it needs—but not too much padding. The socks are lifetime guarantee and are made in a factory in North Carolina, local to where I live.
And now you help to design socks? Tell us about the Blue Ridge.
I approached the brand about how much I love the product—I think they create the best socks on the market—and a partnership blossomed. Farm to Feet is also good at storytelling and connecting with authentic people and places that are meaningful to the outdoor world.
My husband and I own Blue Ridge Hiking Company, so Farm to Feet asked if we would like to help with a sock design.
The Blue Ridge [editor’s note: set to debut spring 2019] is a unisex hiking sock, and it has a beautiful scene with the iconic southern Appalachian mountains and a female hiking figure: it’s a statement that Farm to Feet supports the outdoors and women in the outdoors.
The sock will be in the technical hiking series with all of the features I like: thin, compression, above-the-ankle height, no seams, and padding—beneath the ball of the foot, beneath the heel, and on top of the arch.
When you set the Fastest Known Time (FKT) on the AT, in 2011, you averaged 47 miles per day. What is a tip that you have for someone trying to reach their peak endurance and performance?
A key to endurance is that you need to be hopeful and believe things can get better. It’s a relationship between the mind and the body: you have to lean on your mental reserves when you’re feeling weak physically and vice versa. Also, have someone physically supporting you on the trail, or at home believing in you, helps.
Congratulations on your seventh book, Pursuit of Endurance. What can readers expect?
Pursuit of Endurance is a look at endurance through the lens of Fastest Known Times (FKTs) or trail records. I tie together the personal stories of six athletes—who have all set records on the AT or Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) with sports psychology and physiology.
The athletes include Warren Doyle, who is working on his 18th completion of the AT. Barkley Marathon finisher Andrew Thompson. David Horton, the ultrarunning godfather. Scott Williamson, who completed a yo-yo of the PCT. Heather Anderson, the first woman to hold the unsupported thru-hiking records on the AT and PCT. And Scott Jurek, the most well-known ultrarunner in North America.
What’s next for your adventure goals?
I’m hiking Pinhoti Trail, 340 miles—which is the southernmost part of Appalachians—this year. Pinhoti, means turkey in the Creek Native American language. It’s a beautiful area, and I have two kids under the age of five, so it’s great to stay closer to home.