The Amazing 540

If you’ve been on the PCT for any length of time in the past ten years then you know that by and large trail runners are the most popular type of shoe, and if you’ve hiked recently you’ve undoubtedly noticed that of the trail runners Brooks Cascadias are the most prevalent trail runner out here. Well, I’d like to take a minute to honor the lowly New Balance 540. Available for a mere $55 or less at any department store, these are not a shoe to draw much attention or garner much support as a valid through hiking shoe. In fact, when my friend Jesse came back from Fred Meyer and reported that they came in a wide I secretly scoffed at the idea of wearing a department store shoe. “Far to chintzy to do any serious hiking in,” I thought, especially for someone as rough on gear as me. I went and tried them on as a token of appreciation for Jesse’s concern about my feet. These are wide! Was my first thought. They’re comfy too! And it would be hard to go wrong for this price, my frugal side rejoined. I put my Superfeet in and checked out with them on my feet, my old new balance in the box. 250 miles later I was relieved when I made it halfway across Oregon in them, and I was pleasantly surprised when, 498 miles later, I had crossed the whole state in them. Around mile 475 I went into Fred Meyer in Medford and bought two more pairs, size 11 4e, and mailed them ahead. I still don’t need a new pair yet. I’m in northern California and with 540 miles on them these are the best shoes I’ve ever hiked in, at a cost of less than 10¢/mile! You’d need to get 1200 miles out of a pair of Cascadias to beat that, and I promise they’d have a hole in the pinky toe by then.