Get crowd-sourced advice on the weekly mileage and number of runs you should do to smash your marathon goal.
There is no perfect way to train for a marathon. Different runners can succeed with different approaches, and often the amount and type of training you do will be dictated by your own individual circumstances. That said, it’s certainly no bad thing to check out what other runners are doing, especially those that have achieved a time target you are aiming for.
Fitness tracking app Strava is one of the best sources for this kind of information. You can browse the training logs of millions of other runners, including pro athletes, to see what they’ve been doing. And when you put all that data together, you get a pretty clear picture of the approach successful marathon runners tend to take with their training.
Strava has accumulated the data of male and female marathon runners who have hit times ranging from sub-three to five-plus hours and looked at how they trained in the 12 weeks leading up to the race.
The data is broken down by weekly mileage, the number of runs per week, and the average pace of those runs. It’s no surprise to learn that faster runners cover a greater distance in their training, with sub-three male runners averaging around 60 miles (96.5km) a week and female runners around 50 miles (80.5km). If you’re looking to chalk up a sub-four marathon this year, Strava shows the average weekly distance of runners who have achieved this is around 32 miles (51.5km) for men and women, while a sub-five marathon involves 20-25 miles (30-42km) a week on average for men and women.
The number of runs per week can be skewed a bit, especially as faster runners have a habit of recording warm-ups and warm-downs separately from an interval or tempo workout, which may be why sub-three men average eight runs a week. In general, however, the Strava data suggests that for every hour faster you get on race day, you’re adding one training run per week. So sub-four men and women do around four runs a week, sub-five do three, and five-plus runners do two to three.
As for building up your mileage and tapering before the race, the Strava stats show that most runners only take one or two weeks to hit their overall average distance per week and stick with it until two to three weeks before the marathon itself, when the distance starts to come down.
We’d caution that these stats aren’t enough to base your entire plan on. It’s important to remember that if you’re not doing anything like the mileage listed, you shouldn’t suddenly up it; instead, add 10% to your own total week by week to increase it gradually and reduce the risk of injury.
It’s also important to recognise that not all running is the same. You’ll need a variety of runs in your week, especially when you get to the faster times. So a six-run week will typically include three easy runs done at a pace much slower than your goal marathon pace, one interval session with short sections at faster than marathon pace interspersed with ever shorter rest periods, a tempo run at around or just below marathon pace, and a long run taken fairly easy. Even if you only do three runs a week, it’s important to mix up the types of running you do to get the best results – check out our free marathon training plans for more in-depth advice.
Written by Nick Harris-Fry for Coach and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s nearly dark when Kathleen Hamrick jogs into the jungle camp. She’s exhausted, overheated, soaked to the bone with river water, sweat, and grime. She has been running through the Amazon for five days now—through swamps that swallow you up to the waist in mud, along poorly marked village trails, up and down punishing hills, and across deep water river crossings.
There will be no sleep tonight. This stage of the course involves racing through the darkness, and there are two days still to go before the finish line. But Hamrick lays down her pack and immediately begins the nightly ritual: shoes off, dry your feet, get in your hammock, and rest while you still can.
A few minutes later another runner stumbles in, and Hamrick’s brother, William, part of the medical team, walks over to him. “Hey man, what’s going on?” he says. “You need me to take a look at your feet?” The guy nods his head and peels off his shoes, and William steps back.
“The whole bottom of his foot was coming off,” says Hamrick. “Jungle rot.”
This is the near-legendary Jungle Marathon, dubbed “The World’s Toughest Endurance Race” by CNN. The race covers 157 self-supported miles in six stages over seven days through the deep Tapajos National Rainforest in Brazil, where runners face extreme heat, unforgiving terrain, and dangerous wildlife. Except for water, runners have to carry everything they will need for the whole week—packs usually weigh in at just over 30 pounds, lugging the extensive list of compulsory items, which includes all their food, iodine, and hypodermic needles for blisters.
This past October 2016, 55 runners from 14 different countries tested their physical toughness and mental tenacity against the brutal course. Hamrick was among them.
A native Alabamian, Hamrick wasn’t much of a runner growing up. That all changed when, after some serious health complications in 2006, her doctors told her she might never be able to run. Most people would take their word for it. Hamrick decided to prove them wrong, and ran her first marathon.
Running became for Hamrick an active protest against her limitations, a way to see progress, get outside, and experience the world on foot, away from the noise and demands of day-to-day life.
“I developed a love for my feet against the ground in these beautiful places,” explains Hamrick.
Clearly, she loves a good challenge. As Director of the iLab at Birmingham Alabama’s Innovation Depot, Hamrick regularly puts in 60+ hour weeks overseeing UAB’s (The University of Alabama at Birmingham) entrepreneurship program, coaching budding businesspeople in risk management and start-up initiatives.
Expedition races are just one more way she pushes herself and the boundaries of what is possible.
In 2013, Hamrick and her sister Liz ran the 170-mile Grand to Grand ultramarathon, racing from the rim of the Grand Canyon to the summit of the Grand Staircase over seven brutally hot days. Despite suffering a stress fracture mid-way through the race, Hamrick won her division.
She carried that mental toughness and love of a challenge with her into the Jungle Marathon. For Hamrick, this was more than a race, it was about facing her fears and becoming something more.
“I’ve always been terrified of deep, dark water,” Hamrick says. “So that’s one of the things that attracted me to the race. I knew I would have to face that and overcome it.”
Over the course of the race there were miles and miles of swamps and river crossings, but the worst, for Hamrick, came on day four when the course ran straight down a river for several miles.
At first, the river was clear and cool, a welcome refreshment from the blistering heat, but before too long it turned murky, the water got deeper and faster, and Hamrick started hitting trees that had fallen under the surface, ripping the skin from the front of her legs with the impact. When she tried to get a footing, the muddy river bottom pulled her down up to her neck, leaving her floundering to keep her trashbag-packed gear dry and colliding her now-raw skin again and again into the hidden logs.
“I found myself hyperventilating out of fear,” says Hamrick. “I couldn’t see what was in the water with me, didn’t know what I was grabbing onto trying to get my balance. I was terrified. I just had to calm myself down, take deep breaths, and continue down the river more slowly.”
“I was scary, but it worked,” Hamrick adds. “I’m not afraid of deep, dark water anymore.”
Training to be Queen of the Jungle
To prepare for the race, Hamrick began training around a year before, starting from a base of only around seven miles a week and running primarily for time on her feet rather than miles.
“I mostly trained on trails in Birmingham,” says Hamrick. “I like Red Mountain Park because it’s close by and all in all a really fabulous place to run. Then I did elevation training at Ruffner and Oak Mountain State Park… They’ve got some good climbs and descents.”
In the final few months, she was running about two hours a day, every day through the week, then running for eight hours every Saturday and Sunday. To mimic the conditions she would face in the jungle, one long-run day per week Hamrick would carry a 31-pound pack and step into a hot shower, shoes and pack and all, to start off her run completely soaked.
“My main concerns for the race were heat and humidity, which we have here in Birmingham,” Hamrick adds. “Anybody around here in the Southern states would actually probably do quite well in the jungle, because it’s just a perfect environment to train for that race.”
One thing you can’t train for is the wildlife. According to the race website, jungle creatures abound. Runners step over snakes on the trail and sometimes spot piranha, anaconda, and river dolphins in the numerous water crossings throughout the race. There’s at least one story from a runner several years back about being stalked by jaguars while racing through the night. None of this phased Hamrick. According to her, one of the biggest dangers was simply not taking good care of your feet. Remember that guy with jungle rot?
Thanks to her disciplined nightly ritual, Hamrick’s feet fared better than most. But other, less careful runners started to get blisters by the third day, and with nearly a hundred miles to go through parasite-filled jungle swamps, many of those blisters became badly infected and caused huge problems.
“Foot care was key, and a lot of people were just not caring for their feet. They were keeping their wet shoes on and not drying them out,” says Hamrick. “Some of the fastest runners dropped because of foot complications.”
Heat was another huge challenge. With 99% humidity and temperatures climbing over 100 degrees, the jungle was intensely hot and wet, so much so that Hamrick and the other runners were given two days to acclimatize before the race began. With the heat, water became a major issue. Because the race ran through remote, protected areas of the rainforest, the race organizers had arranged for local villagers to put out water at designated drop points for runners to rehydrate. That didn’t always pan out.
Sometimes, the villagers would forget to put out water, or they would put it somewhere different than the prearranged spot. As a result, runners would go for hours through the blazing, sticky hot jungle, carefully rationing their water, only to arrive at a designated water point and find that nothing was there. Hamrick ran out of water three times this way. Several times she added significant mileage to her total when, finding no water, she thought she was lost and retraced her steps.
“It’s really terrifying to run out of water in the middle of the jungle,” Hamrick says. “It just plays tricks on your brain, you know?”
Though Hamrick had some close calls, other runners fared much worse from the heat and dehydration. Several threw up blood. One athlete collapsed alone in the jungle, and the medical crews had to go find him. All told, the race had a 30% dropout rate, better than most years.
On the final day of the race, a 15-mile stretch of soft sand beach, Hamrick, once again, could not find water at the designated drop.
“I sprinted that section,” laughs Hamrick. “I was the first female across the finish line that day only because I was terrified that I would die of thirst.”
The “Why” of an Expedition Racer
What is often most fascinating about adventure athletes, particularly outdoor-oriented endurance athletes, is the reasons why they do what they do. Though innately competitive, it’s often when you press ultrarunners, mountain climbers, and expedition racers that you learn the unexpected philosophical or existential motives. The reason they run, climb, bike, suffer, usually extends beyond the sport or the event.
“One of the big reasons why I do these expedition races now is that, at the starting line, I don’t know 100% if I can finish it,” says Hamrick. “It’s scary to jump into something that you might fail, but I think that stepping into that place where you are uncomfortable is how you learn and grow. That’s why I do these races, to push myself outside of my comfort zone.”
Hamrick sees similarities between expedition racing, entrepreneurship, and life—the assessment, risk management, problem solving, and then ultimately, constantly and intentionally pushing the envelope and taking calculated risks, in order to grow, whether as an athlete, a business, or a person.
“That’s something I try to instill in my students,” says Hamrick. “If you’re not a little uncomfortable, you probably are not doing whatever it is you do to the fullest extent.”
So, what’s next for Hamrick? She’s currently got her eye on a 155-mile, self-supported expedition race in Hawaii, running from one volcano to the world’s most active volcano (of course). She’ll be training for it over the next year, and raising support for a number of charities along the way.
Written by Andrew Shaughnessy for RootsRated in partnership with BCBS of AL and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.
Grab your (trail appropriate) shoes and get ready to off-road.
Whoever you are, you owe it to yourself to embrace the great outdoors. In a 2015 study, Stanford University researchers found that volunteers who exercised in a natural setting – as opposed to an urban one – not only reported decreased anxiety and depressive thoughts, but actually showed decreased neural activity in areas of the brain associated by mental illness.
Researchers theorise that natural settings feel less threatening and turn off our evolved stress response, but there might be more to it than that. “The ground beneath your feet demands 100% of your attention,” says running coach George Anderson. “It’s the perfect mindfulness practice. Every step needs careful consideration.” And, of course, your body will also reap the benefits, adjusting to the demands for core and hip stabilisation that come from running on uneven terrain.
In short: it’s the season to hit the trail. But don’t just throw on your most beaten-up trainers and head out to the nearest wilderness – that’s the path to injury. We’ve assembled an everyman’s guide to getting outside your comfort zone, from taking your first (tiny) steps to competing in your first race. Thank us when you’re breathing that sweet, oxygenated air.
Trail Running Technique Tips
Once you leave the pavement, it’s less simple than left foot, right foot. Here’s how to change your movement from the ground up
Give your feet time to adjust
“The biggest mistake I see people making is making a complete switch suddenly,” says Dr Andrew Murray, an ultrarunner and consultant in sport and exercise at the University of Edinburgh. “Around 85% of running injuries are due to training error. This can be doing too much too soon – increasing volume by more than an average of 10-15% each week – or it can be by completely changing the terrain you’re running on. I’d advise making any change a gradual transition – start with a three-miler [5K], and increase your volume gradually.”
You’re bound to be tense at first, and it messes up your running. “Running relaxed can enhance your lower body’s natural suspension system,” trail and ultra veteran George Anderson. “But it takes conscious effort to overcome the desire to stiffen the joints.” Check in with yourself every few hundred metres, and note when you’re stiffening up.
Use your arms
They’re an afterthought on the road, but crucial for efficiency on the trail. “Using your arms for balance is key,” says author and trail runner Tobias Mews. “Keep your arms – or at least your elbows – a little bit wider for added balance on more technical trails. You might need also need to lift your feet a little higher.”
…and your eyes
“Trails, by their very nature, are littered with hazards – stones, roots, drop-offs, scree, mud, sand and so on – which means that your senses need to be fully functional,” says Mews. “It helps not to be too obsessed with looking at your feet. Focus on looking a metre or so ahead to work out where you’re going to go for the next few strides.” Soon it’ll become second nature.
Don’t overdo it
“Running off-road requires a lot more balance than on the flat road surfaces you may be used to,” says Anderson. “Feet landing at funny angles and a constantly undulating gradient places increased demands on the stabilisers in the core and hips, so you’re always going to go slower than you do on the road. Run by time at first, rather than planning a run on distance and ending up taking an hour longer than you’ve planned.”
Aim for negative splits
“Start off slowly and assess how you’re feeling every few minutes,” says Anderson. “It’s always better to finish strong than to start strong and limp home with your muddy tail between your legs.” Don’t try to maintain a consistent pace throughout your run – you’ll need to run based on the terrain.
“Alongside nutrition, the key to any form of running is to know your body,” says Mews. “Think of yourself like a car – you need to find the optimum speed that burns just the right amount of fat and carbohydrates without going anaerobic and overcooking yourself. The simple way to do it is to do a bleep test or if you have the chance, a VO2 max test – neither of which is much fun. But the results are useful.”
Go with the flow
“You can’t go for a minute-per-mile pace in a trail race,” says Mews. “So you need a shift in mindset to make that relaxing, rather than stressful. Think of it like this: instead of focusing on the details, you’re free to relax and go with the flow, even when you’re running hard.”
Practice your passing
“There’s a certain etiquette to passing people on narrow sections of trail,” says Mews. “It’s worth practising – try nipping past people smoothly on training runs.”
Don’t get hung up on time
Even comparing races from year to year isn’t necessarily a great way to plan your race day pace: trail conditions can change due to weather, trail maintenance or even wildlife. One piece of advice that always applies: don’t go out too fast.
Perfect your fueling strategy
Going out for over two hours means eating on the move.
Pre-hydrate before you leave
The average person loses between 800ml and 1.4 litres of water an hour during exercise – more in the heat. Glug a bottle of water before you set off – and avoid booze the night before, since it impedes your body’s ability to produce the glucose your body needs for energy.
Take on custom chews in the early going
They’re favoured by the old school but jelly babies are full of simple sugars that release quickly, causing a rush of water to the gut and possible stomach upsets. Look for maltodextrin chews, which your enzymes take longer to deal with.
Drink as you eat on the final stretch
If you’re sweating and moving fast, your blood flow’s going to your skin and muscles, not your gut. Dehydration worsens the effect, ruining digestion and upping your chances of bacterial infection. If you feel nauseous, slow down and take on more fluid.
Remember: leave no trace
If you’re used to lobbing your wrappers, get out of the habit now. You’ll typically be DQed for littering – so get used to carrying your empties.
Build A Trail-Proof Body With This Conditioning Workout
Off-road running demands more functional strength than sticking to the road does. Put a spring in your step with this single-leg circuit. Go through the whole thing, rest 90 seconds and repeat three times
I was standing in a parking lot in Yellowstone National Park staring at a mess of gear strewn across the pavement.
“Where’s the rainfly for the tent?”
One thousand miles away in my apartment in Dana Point, Calif., that’s where it was. Because I didn’t double-check all of my gear before I departed for Wyoming, I didn’t realize the rainfly was in a stuff sack in my closet. So, during a 70-mile journey through the soaking Yellowstone backcountry, I struggled each evening to fold and shape a rectangular blue tarp into a dome-shaped fly. The word “origami” comes to mind.
That wasn’t my first backpacking trip, but my failure to thoroughly check my gear was the type of mistake novice backpackers make all the time. And they don’t make mistakes because they’re dumb or careless. It’s because you can easily mess up when you’re doing something for the first time. Plus, it’s simply not easy to organize all the possessions you’ll need to leave civilization and explore unknown territory. If you’re new to backpacking, do yourself a favor and take heed of the following rookie mistakes. With a little knowledge, you’ll improve your chances of a successful first outing.
Mistake 1. Not Reviewing Gear and Supplies Carefully
I was actually lucky that I realized in the parking lot that I had left the rainfly behind, because I was able to duck into a general store and purchase a tarp. But, many novice backpackers don’t realize they’ve forgotten something until they reach their backcountry camp. To avoid this problem, create a gear list weeks in advance of your trip and begin immediately acquiring the items you need. Don’t wait until the last minute to purchase things, except maybe stove fuel if you’re flying to a destination.
A week or so before you depart for your trip lay out all of your gear and supplies on the floor in your home. Then, check off each item on your list as you place it in your backpack. This will give you time to pick up things you may have forgotten about. Also, avoid washing clothes at the last minute, because things tend to be hectic right before a trip, and there’s a good chance you’ll leave something in the dryer. Before you leave civilization for the last time and go the trailhead, do one last shakedown of your gear.
Mistake 2. Not Testing Gear Before A Trip
Several years ago I loaned a camping stove to friends who were heading to Alabama’s Sipsey Wilderness for their first backpacking trip. When they returned, they told me they had fun but confessed that they owed me a new stove. They hadn’t tested the stove before they hit the trail, and when it flared up while making dinner, they were startled and kicked it into the Sipsey River. While that did a great job of putting out the flame, the current carried away the stove, and they ate a cold supper.
To avoid such a disaster, be sure that you know how to use every piece of gear before you hit the trail. It’s common for people to arrive in camp without having ever set up their tent, and they spend some very frustrating moments trying to figure out which pole goes where as darkness quickly descends. Keep in mind that you might arrive in camp not only late, but also tired, hungry, dehydrated, and not thinking clearly. It’s not a good time to learn how to use something for the first time.
The most important thing to test before your trip is your hiking shoes or boots, especially if you’re wearing leather boots that you have to break in. You don’t want to discover during the first day of a trip that your footwear causes blisters.
Mistake 3. Arriving at the Trailhead Much Later Than Expected
It’s a familiar scene for people heading out on their first backpacking trip: You planned to pull out of the driveway at 9 a.m., but two hours later you haven’t left yet, and you’re dashing around the house trying to find sunglasses, or some other important item. Then, you realize you forgot to put gas in the car. Once you’re finally on the road and approaching the trailhead, you lose your cell signal and make two wrong turns.
Travel delays can have big impact on backpackers. If you arrive at the trailhead much later than expected, you’ll have less time to reach your first campsite. During the late fall, winter, or early spring, when the days are shorter, you could end up hiking and setting up camp in darkness, which is a pain, especially if you’re not experienced.
To avoid this scenario, gas up your vehicle the night before the trip and load as much gear as possible. On the day that you plan to drive to the trailhead, wake up pretty early to give yourself buffer time in case you have to search for something you misplaced. If possible, plan to hike only a few miles on the first day of your backpacking trip. If you’re delayed, you’ll still have time to reach camp at a reasonable hour.
Another option is to drive to your general destination a day early and stay in accommodations relatively close to the trailhead. This will allow you to start hiking relatively earlier, even if you get sidetracked.
Mistake 4. Attempting Unrealistic Hiking Mileage
During my first backpacking trip as a teenager, my buddies and I showed our overly ambitious hiking itinerary to the park ranger, and he said flatly, “You better eat your Wheaties.” Naturally, we ignored him, and we suffered so much we still talk about it today.
One of the biggest mistakes beginner backpackers make is building trail itineraries that are too ambitious and don’t take into account physical abilities, difficult terrain, and high elevations. If your itinerary requires you to hike 10 miles each day and climb several steep hills, you’re going to be pretty worn out. Plus, you’ll have little time to relax around camp and just enjoy yourself. If possible, hike a few miles the first day and gradually increase your daily mileage over the course of the journey.
People who have been backpacking for several years will tell you they’ve made plenty of mistakes and learned many hard lessons on the trail. So, if you’re new to backpacking, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have your own mishaps, and that’s OK. That’s part of the adventure. But, if you’ll heed the advice of experienced hikers, you can minimize your foul-ups and spend more time enjoying the wilderness rather than stressing over things that you left in your closet, or kicked into the river.
Written by Marcus Woolf for RootsRated in partnership with BCBS of AL.
Weekend backpacking trips are one of the greatest gifts of the summer. You can get so much in just two to three days: a breathtaking vista, a serene mountain lake, a secluded old-growth forest. The only problem is that all too soon you’re back at the trailhead, preparing for the long drive home and wondering how you’ll get through five more days before your next big adventure.
Usually, this is when hikers start to google “Appalachian Trail Town Guide” or “PCT Gear Checklist,” but if you aren’t quite ready to quit your job and sell your house, there are other long trail options, ones that can be squeezed in alongside life’s many other responsibilities. And since these trails don’t get the same press as the jewels of the triple crown, the odds of getting a week of breathtaking vistas all to yourself are even better.
1. Benton-Mackaye Trail
States: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee Season: Year round Duration: 2-4 weeks Learn more: BMTA.org
The Appalachian Trail is widely considered one of the most social trails in America, and no wonder as thousands of hikers attempt a thru-hike every year. But if you’re looking to experience what the AT might have been like before its fame grew far and wide, look no further than the 300-mile Benton-Mackaye Trail. It shares its southern terminus (Springer Mountain) with the AT, but quickly veers to the west, deep into the Appalachian Mountains and away from the crowds. Here you’ll find the small wonders this corner of the world is known for: deep, lush forests, blooming wildflowers, and cool, bubbling creeks. While this trail is well-maintained by a devoted group of volunteers, amenities are kept at a minimum compared to other trails in the region. The good news is that a lack of established shelters and infrequent signage mean that you’re even more likely to have this trail all to yourself. (If you only have time for a section hike, be sure to check out the best Benton Mackaye day hikes in Georgia and in Tennessee/North Carolina.)
2. John Muir Trail
States: California Season: Summer Duration: 2-3 weeks Learn more: PCTA.org
The granddaddy of them all, the John Muir Trail offers a wholly unique adventure for intrepid backpackers: 211 miles of trail without a single road crossing. Starting at a mere 4,000 feet in Yosemite Valley, you’ll soon leave behind the crowds as you climb up above the treeline and into the high country where no fewer than eight mountain passes await you. Make no mistake about it, the remoteness (not to mention the difficulty) of this trail requires serious training and planning, so be prepared to cross snowfields, wade through swollen rivers, and safeguard your food from the area’s notorious bears. The majority of JMT hikers are headed southbound, but you’ll still see plenty of northbound hikers along the way, as the PCT shares 170 miles of trail through the High Sierras. The only real downside to this trail is its popularity as most reservations are snapped up months in advance of hiking season.
Leave behind the noise and crowds of Houston and travel an hour north to find the solitude and quiet you’ve been craving on the Lone Star Hiking Trail. Tucked away in the Sam Houston National Forest, this 128-mile pine needle-cushioned footpath takes you deep into the backcountry along serene, bubbling creeks and over gentle slopes. As you hike, you’ll wind your way through dense stands of magnolia trees and miles and miles of hardwoods, home to woodpeckers and bald eagles alike. This is one of the few long distance trails that can be hiked year-round, and might even be best in winter, when the scorching temperatures of Texas are moderated. Another bonus: no permit is required to get started, and maps can be downloaded for free at the volunteer-maintained website.
4. The Long Trail
States: Vermont Season: Late spring through late fall Duration: 3 weeks Learn more: GreenMountainClub.org
America’s obsession with thru-hiking may well have started with the Long Trail, the country’s oldest long-distance route, and the inspiration for the Appalachian Trail. Traveling the length of Vermont, the bulk of its 272 miles trace the ridges of the Green Mountains, traveling along remote streams and through alpine sedge, and climbing the state’s highest peaks: Camel’s Hump, Killington Peak, Mount Mansfield, and more. But this trail is known less for the views than as a rugged journey through a thick forest of hemlocks, eastern white pines, sugar maples, and balsam fir. Be aware that while this trail doesn’t reach the same elevations as its Western cousins, it offers significant terrain challenges for the novice and advanced hiker alike. Expect scrambling, slippery log crossings, and rough trails. Today, the LT shares 100 miles of trail with the AT, but while the latter stops midway through Maine, the LT takes you all the way to the Canadian border.
5. The Mid State Trail
States: Pennsylvania Season: Spring to fall Duration: 5-7 weeks Learn more: Hike-MST.org
If you’re looking for something a little longer, and little wilder, check out the 522-mile Mid State Trail running straight down the middle of Pennsylvania. Straddling the Appalachians and the Allegheny plateau, this path is unusually solitary and remote, even as it brings you within spitting distance of established communities (and one or two ghost towns). It accomplishes this by keeping hikers above the fray, traveling from the highest knob and steepest ridgelines, across densely forested highlands, and up and around rolling hills. Like many of the trails in this region, the route is scattered with boulders of varying shapes and sizes, making it difficult to cover ground quickly. But, unlike those other trails, the secret’s not out on this one yet, and it’s a toss-up which you’ll see more of as you hike: bears or backpackers.
If your ideal wilderness trek is one where you won’t encounter another hiker for days on end, the Ozark Highlands Trail should be near the top of your list. But even if you start out in search of the trail’s peaceful valleys and lonely vistas you’ll stay for its smaller wonders: delicate waterfalls, remnants of bygone pioneers, and impressive rock formations, like the Narrs: a narrow catwalk of stone snaking along the Buffalo River. While reasonably well-marked, this trail is more rustic than most, so be prepared for your feet to get wet (and stay wet) during its many stream crossings. Fortunately, there are a number of ancient structures scattered along the way where you can air out and dry off. Procrastinating thru-hikers may rejoice that this one doesn’t require a special permit to get started, but know that the remoteness of the terrain and the difficulty of resupply (there are only two POs and no grocery stores along the way) mean it requires just as much, if not more, planning.
7. River to River Trail
States: Illinois Season: Spring through fall Duration: 1-2 weeks Learn more: fs.usda.gov
Even if you don’t have the time to hike the entire 6,800-mile American Discovery Trail, you can still tackle an important leg of it: the 160-mile River to River Trail travels across southern Illinois, from the Ohio River to the Mississippi. If you’ve never been to this part of the country, you’re in for a real treat. Towering slot canyons, sandstone sculpted bluffs, dense deciduous forests (hike this one in fall if you can), and, of course, sweeping views of two of the most iconic rivers of the Midwest are but a few of the treasures to be found along the way. While the forests surrounding this trail look untouched today, don’t be fooled, as you may be following an ancient wagon trail, long overgrown. A word of caution: since this trail is not maintained to the same standards that you’ll find in established wilderness areas, aspiring thru-hikers should come prepared with serious navigational skills.
8. Shore-to-Shore Trail
States: Michigan Season: Spring through summer Duration: 2 weeks Learn more: MTRA.org
Begin your adventure by dipping a toe into Lake Huron at one of two starting points on the eastern half of the 220-mile Shore-to-Shore Trail. As you travel west, wander through warbler territory, join up for a section of the 4,600-mile North Country Trail, and then skirt the more popular tourist destinations as the trail winds across the rolling hills that characterize the middle of the state. End your trip with a plunge into Lake Michigan via the steep bluffs of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. While there are many upsides to choosing this thru-hike, one downside is that heavy equestrian use can make this trail more challenging for those traveling by foot. Expect longer distances between established campsites (20-25 miles), deep grooves along the path, and maps that are more focused on the needs of thru-riders than thru-hikers.
9. Tahoe Rim Trail
States: California and Nevada Season: July through September Duration: 1-2 weeks Learn more: TahoeRimTrail.org
While Tahoe’s beaches are packed with tourists you’ll be high up on the ridgeline enjoying stunning vistas on this 165-mile loop around the lake’s perimeter. This one is anything but routine, traveling through densely wooded forests, up high mountain passes (there may be snow early in the season), and around the shores of shimmering lakes set against the moonscapes that are specific to this region. The TRT also shares a footpath with the Pacific Crest Trail for 50 miles through the Desolation Wilderness, offering ample opportunity to get some insider info before you plan next year’s big hike. Give yourself a minimum of a week to complete if you’re doing it all in one shot, or break it out into 14 separate day hikes and earn your Weekend Warrior stripes. Added bonus: since the TRT is a loop rather than an end-to-end thru-hike, transportation planning is a snap.
Discover 93 miles of pure heaven circumventing Washington’s most iconic peak. Its jaw-dropping spectacles include fields ablaze with wildflowers of all colors, bridges hundreds of feet over raging rivers and waterfalls, and a new angle from which to see the mountain up close and personal every single day (at least as long as PNW’s infamous weather cooperates). While you’re not climbing Mt. Rainier (14,411 feet), expect significant elevation change (22,000 feet in all) as you climb up and over its many ridges. The Wonderland Trail’s reputation has grown in recent years from a local treasure to a national destination, but if you have a flexible schedule this might just be the perfect year to hike it. A glitch in the reservation system for 2016 means that all reservations are now first come first serve, making it easier than ever to secure a last-minute spot on a once-in-a-lifetime thru-hike.
What’s a hiker’s worst and most common enemy? Bears? Weather? No! It’s the common, but painful, blister.
Even a short day hike can seem like a death march when you have blisters, but there are ways to prevent this suffering, or at least reduce the pain. The key is to know potential pressure points where a blister can form, and to know how to recognize when one might be forming. Plus, you can take certain precautions before hitting the trail.
Now, that’s not to say that you can reliably prevent all blisters from forming. But, you can definitely minimize the risk, pain, and possible infection with just a little pre-hike prep.
What Causes a Blister?
First, we need to know what causes blisters in the first place. There are many things that can cause a flare-up, including sunburn, mosquito and bug bites, and allergies. But the most common cause is friction.
Friction can be produced in a number of ways. When your skin is wet or damp it becomes very soft, and even the normal rubbing of your socks against the skin damages cells to a greater or lesser degree. If you have a simple wrinkle in your sock or a tight spot in your boot that puts undue pressure on a single spot on your foot, that rubbing will cause a blister. And, even if you wear gloves to do trail work, a blister can form due to the friction between the gloves and your skin when you use maintenance tools.
While blisters are painful, keep in mind that it’s actually the body’s way of repairing the damage caused to your skin cells. When the skin becomes damaged, the liquid that is formed within the blister acts as a buffer to prevent further damage to the skin and also aids in healing.
An Ounce of Prevention
Luckily, there are some common sense preventive measures you can take to avoid a painful, hike-ending blister:
Make sure your boots fit properly. If possible, buy them from a store whose staff members can precisely measure and fit your foot. Also, top-notch footwear and outdoor gear stores will have small ramps that allow you to see if your foot remains secure in the shoes or boots while ascending and descending. When you’re trying on footwear, wear a sock that is similar to what you’ll wear while hiking.
Consider buying an aftermarket insole to improve the fit of shoes or boots.
Before putting on socks, make sure your feet are clean and dry.
Avoid cotton socks. They retain water and sweat. Purchase either synthetic or wool socks.
Make sure the sock fits. You don’t want it too loose so it can slip and rub, or too tight where it will cause pressure points on your foot.
If your socks get wet, change into a dry pair immediately.
If you have areas that are prone to blistering, cover those areas with moleskin or adhesive tape to prevent problems later.
Check your feet often during breaks.
As soon as you feel uncomfortable friction in your shoes or boots, act quickly to prevent a blister from developing or worsening.
Prevention also means having the right gear with you just in case a blister begins to flare up while on the trail. There are basic blister kits available online or at your favorite outfitter, or you can simply pack the following:
Molefoam (which is thicker than moleskin)
2nd Skin (this is perfect to use on a hot spot when it flares to prevent cell damage)
Heed the Warnings
The key to preventing a full-blown blister is to recognize when you’re getting a “hot spot,” which signals that a blister is beginning to form. A hot spot is a small area that is red and feels a bit sore or hurts. It’s a sure sign that something’s up.
If you find that you have a hot spot forming, stop hiking and take care of it immediately. Take off your boots and socks, dry your feet, and then cover the spot with a circular piece of moleskin that will reduce the friction on the spot.
Even if you take all the proper steps to prevent a blister, there is still a chance that one will form during a hike.
If you get a small blister—less than the size of a nickel—cut a circular hole in the center of a piece of Molefoam, which is much thicker than moleskin. Center the hole in the molefoam over the blister, stick it down, and you’re ready to go.
If it is a larger blister, avoid draining it if possible. The liquid helps the healing process, and even though it’s rare, opening a blister increases the chances of infection.
There are times, however, when a blister is just too painful and you need relief. In that case, you will need to drain and treat it.
Wash your hands and the blister with antibiotic soap.
Sterilize a needle over a flame or with alcohol.
Insert the needle at the base of the blister.
Coat the blister with an antibiotic ointment and place a bandage or piece of gauze over it.
Just like you did for a small blister, cut a “doughnut hole” in a piece of Molefoam, center the hole over the blister and stick it down.
Fill the doughnut hole with an antibiotic ointment and cover the wound with adhesive tape.
Written by Joe Cuhaj for RootsRated in partnership with BCBS of AL.
Keep your footwear looking and smelling box-fresh as the weather turns.
Forget the weatherman. Forget your iPhone’s forecasting app. And absolutely forget your quick peek out the window and hapless attempts at predicting what the elements might throw at you today. There is a far more accurate and clearer method of predicting whether or not summer’s finally come to an end – your feet.
Yep, taking a quick look at your trainers after a stomp around outside will tell you exactly how far we’ve fallen from the sunny season. Gone are the days of nonchalantly throwing on your pristine white Stan Smiths and returning them back to their home beside the door in the same box-fresh condition. Now, with autumn upon us and winter looming up behind it, you and your smart-casual kicks, running shoes and trendy trainers have wind, rain, mud mines and sludge puddles to look out for when stepping out of your front door. And we’re sorry to say, the odds are not stacked in your favour.
But there are ways to level the playing field. Seven ways, in fact. Scroll down and discover our seven favourite trainer care products, all ready to extend the life of your trusty, tasty sneakers and not let the stinkin’ weather get the best of them…
Best For… Your Box-Fresh Streetwear Beauties: Crep Protect Spray
Rain, Pepsi, dog slob, even chocolate sauce is no match for the witchcraft that goes into every Crep Protect product, as the jaw-dropping video above proves. Crep Protect spray is now so entwined in the fabric of streetwear trainer culture that we bet almost every “sneaker freak” has a can of this at hand whenever a fresh pair lands on his or her feet. One coat of this magic stuff will keep your suede, nubuck and canvas shoes protected from liquids for up to four weeks.
Best For… Smart-Casual Emergencies: Jason Markk Quick Wipes
Clean and crisp white leather trainers (the sort you’d never dream of taking to the treadmill) have very much become a smart-casual staple of late. From classics like Adidas’s Stan Smiths all the way up to designer offerings from Prada and Balenciaga, throwing on a pair with your tailored chinos and tieless white shirt will have you joining the ranks of the most stylish relaxed professionals. But you’re only ever one spilt red wine or fumbled mini burger canapé away from undoing the look. Keeping your kicks crisp is key, and these catastrophe-ready Jason Markk Quick Wipes will ensure you’ve got that covered, no matter what your boss’s soirée throws at your feet.
Best For… Rescuing Your Mud-Messed Runners: Sneaky Cleaning Kit
Of course, there’s a strong possibility that you’re looking at this article through tear-filled eyes, wishing you’d learned how to protect your fave trainers before setting foot outside and absolutely ruining them to such a state that redemption seems impossible. If that’s the case, this one’s for you – a premium three-piece cleaning kit from Sneaky. Consider this pack the defibrillators you need to fire your footwear (suede, leather, nubuck, synthetic or canvas) back to life, with a self-foaming cleaning solution, a hog-hair brush and a microfibre towel all there to get you back on your feet again.
Best For… Your Cycling Shoes (And Everything Else): Muc-Off Foam Fresh
Put simply, if you’re cycling to work this autumn, make sure Muc-Off’s Foam Fresh is in your work drawers. Not only will it refresh your trainers after a pedal-powered pebble-dashing, but it’ll gently agitate dirt and grime away from all the other soft materials you may have worn while riding too.
Best For… Your Luxury Leather Numbers: Red Wing Leather Protector
If you’re going to trust anyone with your leather daps, let it be Red Wing – purveyor of the most hardcore and beautiful workman’s boots your hard-earned can buy. This spray is described as “one of the most advanced products available” in the leather protection game, and promises to push water, salt and grease to the surface of the material so it can be wiped away. Your feet are in safe hands with this.
Best For… Ironing Out Your Creases: Forcefield Shoe Crease Preventers
Listen, we need to talk. It’s bad news. It’s your toe box. It’s just too creased. Please accept our condolences at this tough time. Not a clue what we’re talking about? We don’t blame you – we only just realised the importance of looking after our toe boxes on finding Forcefield’s Shoe Crease Preventers. According to Forcefield, any true fan of sneakers knows that stains are only half the battle when it comes to keeping their prized possessions looking mint. A creased toe box – the material that sits about your toes – is a dead giveaway of well-worn trainers. Popping these things inside the front of your shoe will keep things good and straight. Oh thank God!
Best For… Unstinking Your Kicks: Sof Sole Fresh Fogger
Is there a visible stench-fug rising up from the pile of shoes by your door? Have your concerned neighbours posted a note through your letterbox to check that you’re still alive in there and not stinkily rotting away? Do your think your kicks could be used as a weapon of modern chemical warfare? Please, do yourself, your neighbours and your planet a favour and de-smell your shoes using Sof Sole Fresh Fogger. Quickly.
From the Smokies to the Rockies, and the Everglades to the highest point in Maine—and everywhere in between—the United States is full of world-class hikes. Whether you’re a hardcore peak bagger, out for an ambitious day hike, or are obsessed with the panoramic views for your Instagram feed, there’s always something thrilling to lace your hiking boots up for. Here, we tapped RootsRated editors for intel on some of the best hikes in the United States. Use them as inspiration for your next outing—or as a reason to plan a trip.
Teton Crest Trail, Wyoming
There are a lot of really great hikes on this list, but Wyoming’s Teton Crest Trail might just take the cake as being the most epic. For 35-45 miles (depending on your route), this slender singletrack path cuts a dwarfed, serpentine figure as it slices through the heart of one of America’s most stunning mountain ranges, linking together its very best features along the way. Over the course of two to five days, hikers will pass through wildflower-filled meadows, over airy mountain passes, past glacially-fed tarns, and across expansive basins that swallow up hikers and spit them out as tiny, inconsequential specks against the jagged backdrop of the Tetons. In short, this trail will skew your perception of what constitutes a bucket-list worthy hike. Pro tip: Permits are hard to come by, but because the trail weaves in and out of national parklands and national forestlands, if you camp in national forest designated areas, obtaining a permit isn’t necessary.
Roan Mountain, Tennessee
Ask any Southeastern backpacker what the best overnight trek in the region is, and the majority will tell you: the 14-mile traverse of East Tennessee’s Roan Mountain Highlands via the Appalachian Trail is a true standout. Not only is it home to one of the most unique shelters on the entire A.T. (the Overmountain Shelter, better known as “the barn” because it’s, well, a two-story barn), but it also offers up some of the best grassy “bald” hiking in America. Think of it almost like the Southeast’s version of ridgeline hiking: You’re above the trees, surrounded by a sea of billowing grasses in the foreground and a sea of bluish-gray mountains sprawling into every direction in the background, with nothing in the way to obstruct these views. The only downside? Cameras rarely do Roan justice.
Buckskin Gulch, Utah
In a region as labyrinthine and loaded with slot canyons as Southern Utah, it’s difficult to say that Buckskin Gulch is the definitive best slot canyon hike in the region. But it’s certainly the longest and the deepest … and, yeah, probably the best, too. For 13 miles, these narrows snake through a mazy tunnel of towering red rock walls, often no more than a wingspan’s width apart and so tall that they block out sunlight. Some hikers choose to link up with nearby Paria Canyon for an overnight 20-mile trip, but for day hikers, it’s just as rewarding to park at the Wire Pass Trailhead and embark on an out-and-back distance of your choosing. The important things to remember with this hike are largely water-related: First, flash floods are a very real threat, so be sure to check the forecast and plan accordingly. Second, bring more water than you want to carry; the dehydration creeps up quick in the desert.
Mount Katahdin, Maine
The tallest mountain in Maine and the North Star, northern terminus of the famed Appalachian Trail, Mount Katahdin is truly legendary. It juts upward out of the sprawling expanse of lakes, ponds, and deep woods that define Baxter State Park and towers over the land with a commanding presence. The most iconic way to reach the summit is via the vertiginous spine of the 1-mile Knife’s Edge Trail. Along its impossibly narrow and serrated saddle, hikers scramble from Pamola Peak across Chimney Peak to South Peak and finally to the 5,267-foot summit of Katahdin. Once the (likely fog-shrouded) summit photos have been snapped, a roughly 5-mile descent via the Appalachian Trail will take hikers back to the Katahdin Stream Campground trailhead 4,100 feet below.
Grayson Highlands, Virginia
In a word, the Grayson Highlands of Virginia are breathtaking. In 19 words, they are an almost make-believe land of high mountain meadows, 5,000-foot peaks, thick rhododendron tunnels, and mystical wild ponies. Like most state parks, there’s a large variety of activities to pick from (camping, bouldering, fishing, and horseback riding), but arguably the best way to get a comprehensive taste of the park’s character in a condensed snapshot is to hike the 8.5-mile out-and-back to the summit of Virginia’s highest point: Mount Rogers. The route starts out from the Massie Gap parking area along the Rhododendron Trail. It links with the Appalachian Trail, traveling through grassy pastures sprinkled with boulder outcroppings, and then eventually connects to the Mount Rogers Spur Trail, which twists through a lush, mossy forest to the summit.
Clouds Rest, California
The 14.2-mile round-trip hike to the Clouds Rest summit offers an exceptional taste of what Yosemite National Park is all about. As you’re standing atop its 9,926-foot perch, high above Yosemite Valley from a less-witnessed vantage point than the famous Half Dome buttress, with a giant sea of granite and coniferous pines and sequoias below, it’s hard to feel anything but utter awe and respect for your surroundings. The trailhead is located in the northeast corner of the park. From here, it’s a 7-mile mostly uphill trek whose elevation chart vaguely resembles a healthy year in the stock market—a few spikes up steep ridges here, a few dips into gullies there, but with a pretty consistent uphill hockey stick growth toward the summit. What the chart won’t illustrate, however, are all the glorious intangibles along the way—babbling snowmelt streams, sequoias so stout you’d need a group of five to fully hug them, ever-expanding panoramas as you ascend, the tranquillity at the summit, and of course, the icy plunge in Tenaya Lake as a refreshing reward once you return to the trailhead.
Wheeler Peak, New Mexico
It’s weird to think that the tallest peak in New Mexico would be overshadowed by anything within the immediate vicinity. But with Southern Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park some two hours to the north, and the cultural hotspot of Taos about 45 minutes to the south, that’s kind of what happens to Wheeler Peak. Don’t let this lack of regional recognition fool you, though: The 8.2-mile round-trip hike to this lofty summit in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is one of the best in New Mexico and a true lesson in uphill slogging. Averaging about 800 vertical feet per mile, this trail takes hikers through lung-expanding evergreen forests and then up lung-crushing climbs above treeline. What you’ll remember other than the impressive summit panorama will be the near endless collection of switchbacks that seem to pinball you back and forth, side to side, and up-and-up through a seemingly infinite sea of scree. Patience—and quad-strength—are both virtues on this hike.
Appalachian Trail, Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
For Appalachian Trail thru-hikers, the 72 miles of the A.T. within the Smokies represent one of the most revered sections of the entire 2,200 mile route. For long-weekend backpackers, this stretch represents one of the most efficient and spectacular ways to get an intimate taste of America’s most visited national park. Whichever way you slice it, the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies is a spectacular hiking experience teeming with old-growth forests, incredible biodiversity, challenging climbs, sprawling mountain vistas, and a booming population of fearless and curious black bears. You can’t go wrong with any day hike section you choose along this route, but to really maximize the experience, a 4-5 day excursion that covers the entire 72 miles is your best bet. Overnight permits are required, so make sure you plan in advance.
Half Dome, Yosemite National Park
You don’t need climbing skill or equipment to scale Yosemite’s iconic Half Dome. Using steel cable handrails, hikers can ascend 400 feet up the backside of this granite monolith to reach its summit of 8,840 feet, with panoramic views of the Sierra Mountains in all directions. From the Yosemite Valley floor, Half Dome is a strenuous, 12- to 14-mile round-trip hike. Break up the journey by hiking 4.7 miles to Little Yosemite Valley to camp. Then, hike 3.5 miles to Half Dome and hit the cables early before they’re super crowded. Usually, the cables are accessible May through October, and permits are limited, so set a reminder to snag one as soon as they open on March 1. Don’t forget to pack plenty of water and bring sturdy gloves.
Rae Lakes Loop, Kings Canyon National Park
The 41.4-mile Rae Lakes Loop showcases some of the most stunning scenery in the High Sierra. Beginning at 5,041 feet in a forest of pines, cedars, and cottonwoods, the trek requires nearly 7,000 of climbing for hikers to visit emerald meadows and cobalt lakes surrounded by mammoth granite towers. While the hike includes the heart-pounding, 2.1-mile ascent of Glen Pass at 11,998 feet, grades are generally moderate and water is plentiful along the way. To avoid several intense climbs, do this hike clockwise. Due to high demand for permits, book as early as possible to March 1, when permits are released, and hike in May to avoid summer crowds.
Appalachian Trail, Georgia section hike
Northbound AT thru-hikers begin their 2,200-mile journey in Georgia, where the trail climbs high, exceeding 4,000 feet of elevation, to offer epic views from rock outcrops and sublime walks through emerald forests of rhododendron, mountain laurel and moss-covered boulders. Stretching 78.6 miles, the Georgia portion of the AT is not only beautiful but also challenging, with steep, rugged terrain that strains less-seasoned hikers and causes some to abandon their dreams of hiking to Maine. If a thru-hike is a little too ambitious for you, the Georgia AT includes many access points, so several day hikes and short trips are possible. If you begin at Neels Gap you can visit the Mountain Crossings gear store to mingle with thru-hikers and see the only point where the AT passes through a manmade structure. From there, make the steep climb to the summit of Blood Mountain to explore a unique stone trail shelter and enjoy a remarkable view of Appalachian ridges rolling to the horizon.
Florida National Scenic Trail
One of the most iconic trails in the Southeast, this 1,300-mile route stretches from the state’s Panhandle all the way to Big Cypress National Preserve at the southern end of the state. But you don’t have to tackle the whole thing to savor some of its highlights, from serene marshland to spectacular wildlife viewing. Take your pick from a number of excellent section hikes: A few recommended routes include the 11-mile stretch from Clearwater Lake to Alexander Springs, one of the trail’s oldest sections, and hikes around Hopkins Prairie, where you’re likely to see sandhill cranes and eagles. Campgrounds, both primitive and traditional, are interspersed along the way, so you can easily turn your day hike into an overnighter.
The Dipsea Trail, Marin County, California
Don’t let this trail’s whimsical name fool you: The approximately 7-mile stretch is a doozy, with nearly 688 steps—in the first mile—and long uphill stretches for nearly 2,000 feet in total elevation gain. Even so, doing the Dipsea is a must for any Bay Area hiker or active-minded visitor, with forests that look like they’re lifted from a fairytale book, flowy single-track through majestic redwoods, and a finish at the Pacific Ocean. The trail is also home to one of the most infamous trail races in the country (and the oldest): The Dipsea Race, which has drawn hardy runners to battle its roots, ruts, and other ankle-twisting obstacles since 1905. Whether you run it or hike it, you must do it.
Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, Santa Cruz, California
You can hike its sections separately, but to really experience the essence of this 31-mile trek, one of the best in the San Francisco Bay Area (if not all of California), it’s best to make a true adventure of it, with two overnighters on trailside campgrounds. Built over seven years by a local nonprofit, the trail treats hikers to roaring waterfalls and towering coastal redwoods and passes through two excellent state parks, Castle Rock and Big Basin, before culminating at the Pacific Ocean. Another big plus? With a start in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the trail is all net downhill. No surprise, then, that reservations fill up fast, so plan ahead and be patient—it’s well worth the effort.
Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, New Hampshire
The iconic 6,288-foot Mount Washington in the White Mountains is a challenging and worthy summit, especially in the winter. While many are drawn to its eastern slopes to ski Tuckeman’s Ravine, a select few hike the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail on the western side to the mountain’s peak. This demanding, approximately eight-mile round-trip route challenges hikers with steep and exposed sections, icy scrambles, and the threat of erratic weather and strong winds. But the stunning views, frozen waterfalls, and exhilaration of standing atop New England’s highest peak make the cold toes, burning lungs, and treacherous trek worth it.
Longs Peak, Colorado
Longs Peak’s 14,255-foot summit looms over Colorado’s northern Front Range, a mountainous beacon summoning the adventurous. A journey to the top of Longs is a truly epic undertaking—even for fit hikers. The standard ascent route via the Keyhole is a 15-mile outing with more than 5,500 feet of elevation gain and is usually done in a single 10-to-14-hour push. Most begin in the darkness around 2 am, catching the sunrise above treeline about five miles in at the famous boulder field. Crossing through the Keyhole dramatically changes the character of the hike from a steady, class-2 cruise to a wild, exposed, class-3 scramble along well-marked ledges. A tough push up a loose gully called “The Trough” grinds up to 14,000 feet, where there is still work to do. A steep scramble through the “Home Stretch” exits atop the surprisingly flat, broad summit block. After all that work, there’s still the challenge of getting down safely. Big, bold, and tough, Longs is one of the most amazing adventures in the Rocky Mountains.
Mount Frissell, Connecticut/Massachusetts
At 2,454 feet, Mount Frissell stands in the heart of southern New England and New York’s rolling Taconic Mountains. When the full force of the changing seasons paints the trees in hues of red, yellow, and orange, this hike makes a strong case as the most beautiful in the region. A modest, 1-mile trail start from Mount Riga Road in Massachusetts and gently climbs through scrub oak to the summit of 2,289-foot Round Mountain before continuing to the top of Mount Frissell. Unlike most hikes, however, you’ll get the best views beyond the summit. Passing into Connecticut, hikers come across the highest point in Connecticut at 2,380 feet on the south slopes of Mount Frissell—keep going! At 0.5 miles past the highpoint pin is the Connecticut-New York-Massachusetts tri-point marker, and roughly another mile past that are the panoramic views of rolling farmland and distant Appalachian mountains from 2,311-foot Brace Mountain. Return the way you came for excellent views of neighboring mountain domes to the north.
Peak One, Colorado
At 12,933 feet, Peak One is more than 1,400 feet lower than Colorado’s highest peak, but what it lacks in elevation it makes up for in unmatched views. Access is easy, with the trailhead located right off highway I-70. Hikers climb past the ruins of an old mining town before breaking treeline. A class-2+ ridgewalk reveals the depth and beauty of Colorado’s high country. Dillon Reservoir sits at the foot of the peak to the east, where the mighty Front Range 14ers stand in the distance. The northern views are dominated by the mysterious and challenging Gore Range, while far-off Sawatch Range mountains decorate the western horizon. A fun, brief scramble ascends the summit. Turn around at that point for an 8-mile out-and-back with more than 3,000 feet of elevation gain—or keep traversing along the Tenmile Range to Tenmile Mountain and beyond. Hiking from Peak One to Peak Ten is one of Colorado’s big point-to-point testpiece adventures.
Humphreys Peak, Arizona
The highest point in Arizona, 12,633-foot Humphreys Peak is an ambitious peak to bag, with an impressive history to ponder as you conquer it. Geologists speculate this strato-volcano once stood much higher until it experienced a Mount St. Helens-style eruption that resulted in its trademark bowl and diminished height. The Arizona Snowbowl ski area is set on the flanks of the peaks San Francisco Peaks, of which Humphreys is the tallest. A hike to the top travels through pine forests and out of treeline along a well-maintained trail through chunky volcanic rock. Admire the power that shook the land as you take the final steps to the airy summit, where views span out into the lowlands that transform into far-off deserts and canyons. It’s about nine miles round-trip, with 3,000 feet of elevation from the standard route on the Humphreys Peak Trail.
Greenstone Ridge Trail, Isle Royale National Park
Located on an island in Lake Superior that’s 45 miles long and just nine miles wide, this national park is so remote you’ll have to take a ferry or seaplane to access it. But once you do, you’ll have your pick of 165 miles of hiking trails that cover spectacular terrain, including the ruins of an old copper mine and a lighthouse that dates back to the late 1800s. Many hikers flock to the Greenstone Ridge Trail, which runs along the spine of the island, but the Minong Trail is a 52-mile trek that’s slightly harder, but with far fewer people and just as stunning views, wildflowers, and up-and-close wildlife viewing. Choose from several out-and-back routes, or make it a point-to-point overnight trip (there are 36 first-come, first-serve campgrounds) and you just might catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
All injuries are quite literally a pain, but with most knocks and niggles you can at least avoid some of that pain by taking the load off the part of the body that’s suffering. It might mean avoiding the gym for a couple of weeks or sticking your arm in a sling, but at least you won’t be suffering so much on a day-to-day basis.
This is not something that’s usually an option with foot pain. Unless you’re able to stay in bed until the issue goes away you are going to be using your feet every day, which means the pain is always there with you. And that’s no fun at all, so it makes sense to do your best to avoid foot injuries.
The best way to do that is to identity any minor existing or potential foot issues early and take action to ensure that they don’t become major problems. This guide to identifying and fixing the ten most common foot problems will help.
Research by the College of Podiatry shows that 90% of foot pain is caused by footwear, and the second most common reason to seek help for feet is blisters. The single best way to prevent the friction between shoe and foot that causes blistering is to make sure shoes fit properly – meaning they are not so narrow they squeeze the foot and that you have a good, clear 1cm between your longest toe and the tip of the shoe.
Repairs: Use Vaseline or foot balm to protect your skin from chafing. Try a specialist product like Eucerin Dry Skin Intensive Foot Cream (£8.80) or a fragranced one, such as Burt’s Bees peppermint foot lotion (£12.35), which stops them whiffing as well. If you do get a blister, never pop it. Cover it in a plaster and if it bursts, apply antiseptic.
2. Fungal infections
According to research from the National Institute of Health 25% of people have a fungal infection of the foot at any given time. These can be intensely itchy and cause white, soggy skin or dry, cracked skin between the toes, or reddening and blistering on the rest of the foot. Fungal infections can also spread to the toenails causing the nail to thicken and yellow.
Repairs: Wash feet daily with warm-to-hot water and dry them carefully using a different towel from the rest of your body. Apply anti-fungal talc or cream. The warm, dark and sweaty environment of shoes is the ideal breeding ground for the fungus, so avoid airless trainers and choose a sock that keeps them as dry as possible, such as those that combine cotton or wool with Coolmax fibres. There’s no point sorting your feet out and then reinfecting them in damp shoes so alternate footwear daily (they take 24-48 hours to dry completely). Airing your feet is really important and when they are a bit more sweaty than usual after a run or workout and you want speed up the drying process, spray them with surgical spirit.
3. Corns and calluses
Corns are concentrated areas of hard, dead skin, which arise as a result of pressure usually over a toe joint. Calluses are areas of dead skin on the sole of the foot.
Repairs: Keep them at bay by sloughing off hard skin using a pumice stone gently in the bath, and by wearing properly fitted footwear with extra room in the toe area. Steer away from corn removing solutions and medicated pads and never cut away dead skin with a knife as this can sometimes increase irritation and discomfort. Favour doughnut-shaped pads for corns on the top of the foot. A mini-sander for feet, such as the MicroPediMan, is great for removing dry skin and getting rid of corns and calluses. It creates a snowstorm of skin as it buffs the old skin off, so don’t get carried away with your sanding.
4. Heel pain
There are many causes of heel pain. You may have a heel spur, which is a bony growth on the heel, or it could be that one of the tendons that connects to the heel is inflamed due to overuse – known as achilles tendinopathy, and something that’s common in runners. The discomfort can be gradual or flare up after a tough exercise session.
Repairs: In the first instance treat by icing, applying a compression bandage and keeping it elevated. If the pain persists, see a podiatrist. When it comes to achilles tendinopathy in particular the latest recommendations from physiotherapists advise against complete rest. In fact exercising the tendon makes it stronger so it can handle the load of your exercise. You can do this through calf exercises like the calf raise.
5. Back pain
Back pain affects 40% of the population. A 2013 US study revealed that Americans with flat feet are 50% more likely than those with normal or high arches to develop low back pain. Not all back pain is down to foot problems, but even a short amount of time in the wrong shoes can cause stress and pain to your vertebrae and the soft tissues that support them. Walking the wrong way can cause sciatica, bulging discs and other degenerative spine disorders.
Repairs: The shoe heroes here are properly supportive ones, such as a well-fitting trainer with insoles, and failure to get your shoes fitted properly can lead to months of pain and days lost at work.
6. Broken toe
A broken toe is one of the most common fractures. They can occur due to dropping heavy objects on them or being stubbed.
Repairs: Only go to A&E if your toes are cold and numb, turn blue, or the toe is bent at an angle or has an open wound. If pain and swelling doesn’t clear up after a week or so, consult a doctor and he may send you for an X-ray, but the pain and the treatment are pretty much the same whether the toe is broken or not. Keep the injured foot elevated as much as you can; if it is the little toe, strap it to the next one to create a natural splint. All footwear is painful with a broken toe, but a shoe with a stiff sole, such as a walking or hiking boot, will help your mobility.
7. Damaged metatarsals
The metatarsals are the five long bones of the mid-foot and even though, unlike your toes, they are fixed and encased in your foot they are still prone to acute fracture (due to sudden impact) and more prone to stress fracture (due to repeated strain during sports or activity). Metatarsalgia is the most common reason for the wearing of the moon boot and particularly common in runners and footballers.
Repairs: Overpronation, or excessive flattening of the foot, can lead to stress fracture and this can be avoided by making sure that you are fitted by a specialist with the right sports shoe both for your foot and your chosen activity. Orthotics and shock-absorbing insoles can also help prevent pronation and stress fractures.
8. Arch pain
The plantar fascia is the ligament that connects your heel bone to your toes and supports the arch of your foot. If it is over-stretched this can cause inflammation and pain in the arch of your foot. This is a very common injury in runners and a waking nightmare that causes you to feel pain with every step.
Repairs: Flip-flops, sandals, Crocs and canvas plimsolls have little or no arch support, and wearing shoes like these all the time can lead to arch pain, so alternate your footwear. The pain is often extreme in the morning when you first get out of bed, so try doing some foot exercises before putting foot to ground.
Foot stretches can keep the achilles tendons and the plantar fascia from getting too tight and relieve some of the pain, so we’ve put together five stretches that can help with plantar fasciitis. Rolling a spiky massage ball under the arch of your foot is also a treatment worth trying.
Verrucas are warts that spring up on the bottom of the feet and around the toes. They are pretty harmless but can be painful. Verrucas are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is highly contagious and thrives in damp places such as changing room floors and communal showers.
Repairs: You could catch a verruca just by walking across the same floor as someone who has one, so always wear flip-flops or plastic shoes when changing after the gym or swimming. If you get one, wear special protective verruca socks when you swim. Folkloric types recommend cleaning with vinegar then applying duct tape for several days to drive them out.
10. Ingrown toenails
This happens if a toenail cuts into the flesh of the toe, which then becomes swollen, painful and can become infected.
Repairs: Avoid them by cutting nails straight across and never cutting them too low at the edge or down the side of the nail. You will need to wear open-toed shoes or sandals while it heals. If pain and swelling continue, see a podiatrist who will remove the spike of nail and cover the wound with an antiseptic dressing.
Ask Aspen local Tony Vagneur what he remembers most about skiing in the old days, and he answers immediately: “the cold.”
Circa 1949, when Gore-Tex was a long way off, layering wool was the only way to attempt to ward off the frigid temperatures. Factor in an hour-long lift line and a 30-minute ride up what was then the world’s longest chairlift—with single seats—and idle time adds up to freezing digits.
“By the end of the day, my hands would be numb and as they warmed up the pain was a killer,” Vagneur, still active on the slopes at 71, recalls. “But that was part of the game. Skiing was so much fun. We didn’t care if we were cold.”
If there’s anywhere in America that showcases how skiing has evolved from its humble origins, it’s Aspen. In 1950, it was a sleepy ranching and mining town when it hosted the first worldwide skiing competition held in the United States. Today, the four resorts that make up Aspen-Snowmass have a combined 41 lifts serving 5,500 acres of terrain.
But there’s a lot more about skiing that has changed, in Aspen and across the world, than just the size of the resorts. Here, a look back at the olden (and some might say golden) days of skiing—and how things are different now, from incredible improvements in gear and technology to the not-so-incredible price hikes, and everything in between.
On Dec. 15, Snowmass will celebrate its 50th anniversary with $6.50 lift tickets, honoring the price from 1967. Resort officials were reportedly shocked when they sold some 12,000 of them by early November, and subsequent sales required a lodging purchase.
The popularity might be in part because lift tickets in peak season can top $150 here. Of course, nothing is as cheap as it was in 1967, but the cost to hit the slopes at big resorts has risen astronomically. Nowadays, a family ski trip can easily run into the thousands of dollars (though, by choosing more old-school resorts, you can help your budget a bit; more on that below).
In the old days, breaking an ankle or fracturing a leg was almost a rite of passage for skiers. That injury rate was due in part because of the gear: Skis were long, skinny, and fast, and didn’t release during a crash—which happened a lot, because they were not ideal for turning, especially in deep Colorado powder. Over the years, boots got stiffer, bindings safer, and skis shorter and wider.
At first, Vagneur and his old-timer friends considered these newfangled models skis to be cheating. “Then we skied on them and said, ‘Oh God, this is great.’”
But like many skiing innovations, there’s a downside to making it easier and more fun to ski powder. The hill gets tracked out quicker, including the trees, which used to be too dangerous for sloppy-turning skis.
“Because of these skis, everyone can ski powder pretty much, so all the good stuff gets used up in a hurry and people go looking for it out in the trees,” says Vagneur. “It’s pretty damn hard to find a stash. I’ve got one place up there nobody seems to be able to find and I’m not talking about it.”
In the old days—in this case, before everyone had a cell phone in their pocket and a GoPro on their helmet—skiing offered a way to disconnect. If someone needed to find you while you were on the slopes, too bad for them, but good for you—you were essentially off the grid until the lift lines closed.
These days, even when the weather is so cold fingers turn blue trying to activate an app, the lift ride has shifted from quiet introspection among the trees or chatting with your fellow rider to nonstop connectivity: taking pictures, uploading shots of that epic powder to Facebook or Instagram, trying to track down friends (or even checking work e-mail if you’re taking a “sick” day.)
Sure, there’s an upside to all this access: You can instantly get the snow report, check what others are posting about conditions, or upload a lift selfie or GoPro video of your powder run. But something is unquestionably missing—that feeling that it’s just you and the mountain. If you lost your friends, you knew you’d meet up again for après at the bar, where an in-person account of that epic line you hit beats an Instagram post any day.
As for another noteworthy technological innovation, the automatic pass scanner, you’re not likely to find many skiers or lift attendants pining for the old days of punching tickets.
In the old days, nobody dared to ski Highlands Bowl. “It was almost a sure bet you’d die if you went up there,” Vagneur says. “We had a lot more respect for avalanches in the old days.”
Today, it’s the crown jewel of extreme terrain of the Aspen Highlands resort, reached only by hiking, double-diamond terrain that has been called the most intense skiing in Colorado. There’s a monument to three patrollers killed in a 1984 avalanche up there.
Wider skis and adrenaline junkies chasing more extreme terrain have led many resorts to allow access to this sort of avalanche-prone terrain above timberline, the slide risk mitigated by modern avalanche control techniques.
You won’t find many skiers who lament the opening of more terrain, but Vagneur does believe it has changed the culture of skiing as the race to fresh pow becomes ever-more intense. “A lot of it is just competition—who gets the first tracks, who does the first 100,000 vertical feet,” he says. “To me, who cares? You just go up there and have fun.”
Just as depicted in the classic ski film Aspen Extreme, every winter a new cycle of would-be ski bums arrives in town. The cars have changed—now it’s more likely to be a Subaru stuffed with worldly possessions instead of an old Ford van—but Vagneur still sees the same types year after year: the guy with a PhD washing dishes in a restaurant by night, trust-funders living in a fantasy world, A-listers who come to Aspen to see and be seen.
(One thing he hasn’t seen much of over the years, however: clothing-optional skiing. Vagneur recalls one spring day when an attractive woman decided to ski topless, to his and his friends’ delight. With the proliferation of cell phones, stunts like this are much less common.)
The days are gone when they all knew each other or recognized each other at the bar from riding the lift together. The resorts are too big; the population too transient. And fast-moving lifts mean a conversation that might have taken 20 minutes is over in five—and that’s if you even manage to chat with someone who’s tapping away at their phone the whole way up.
But the more things change, one thing has remained for Vagneur: a love of skiing, of being out in the mountains, in the snow and crisp air, surrounded by amazing views. “When I was a kid, I’d go out there with my buddies and we skied most days in the winter,” he says. “We [still] laugh a lot and have a good time. We find runs we like. We’re in our 70s and still ski bumps.”
5 Spots Where You Can Get a Throwback Experience on the Slopes
Craving an old-school ski experience? Here are five ski resorts and towns where you can travel back in time for a nostalgic day on the slopes.
A true Colorado “locals” hill just down the road from the mega-resorts of Keystone and Breckenridge, A-Basin has free parking a short walk from the lifts, affordable tickets, and a fun, festive atmosphere. They also have the longest ski season in North America, usually from October to June (and sometimes July!)
Bridger Bowl, Montana
If you live in Bozeman and see the blue light atop the Baxter Hotel flashing, it might be time to take a “sick” day—because that means this nearby ski area has fresh snow. Locals are the bulk of those on the slopes, since most visitors opt for snazzier resorts in the northern Rockies, like Jackson Hole. But that’s all the more reason to book a trip, since Bozeman is mostly a summer tourist town and rooms are cheaper in winter.
Mad River Glen, Vermont
“Ski it if you can” is the well-known slogan for this rustic ski area, which has the gnarliest terrain in New England. It’s also skier-owned, which means you don’t buy a pass but a share in ownership that gives you a voice in how the area is managed. It also has one of only two still-operating single-seat chair lifts in the United States.
Homewood Mountain Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
You don’t have to drop a fortune to ski California’s crown jewel at this family-friendly resort at the west shore of Lake Tahoe. Enjoy jaw-dropping views like other Tahoe resorts—the lifts begin almost at the shores of the lake—without the steep prices of other areas. So many modern ski resorts focus on real estate as much as the skiing, but you won’t find a slopeside condo here—just lots of wide runs, a laid-back vibe, and excellent skiing.
Wolf Creek Ski Area, Colorado
You won’t find many ski areas whose owner is up the ridges with a snorkel, dropping avalanche bombs. This southern Colorado resort is known for its rustic vibe and deep powder, and with 450 inches a year, they claim to have the most snow in Colorado—130 inches more than Snowmass, for a lift ticket ($70) that’s less than half the price. Lines are unusual, and powder lingers for days for those willing to hike a bit.