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Light weight shoes and my knee injury
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Einstein X
(EinsteinX) - F

Locale: The Netherlands
Light weight shoes and my knee injury on 11/07/2007 12:15:59 MST Print View

Last month I went on my big hike for this year. The plan was to hike for two weeks through the Slovenian Alps along the Planinska Pot, unfortunately I had to stop after only one week due to a knee problem.

The first six days hiking were in pre-Alps on easy to moderate, well maintained paths and trails over rolling hills and mountains up to about 5000ft and through more autumn woods than I could dream of. On these trails my Garmont Venture Air, low cut hiking shoes were very adequate and very comfortable.

However, the last two days the hiking went over more serious, alpine terain. I had to descent 4600ft than the next day climb 4600ft and descent about 1000ft and the last day there was another 3300ft of descent. I found that I was quite unsteady on my shoes and during that last descent my knee started to hurt, badly. So I decided not to make things worse and very reluctantly had to stop my hike.

It is very clear to me that my knee injury was caused by wearing shoes that were too light. Additionally I normaly always walk with trekking poles, but my 3-way adjustable poles were corroded or sth and were stuck in an unusable position and so I hiked the whole week without them.

I now have a dillema. For about 80 miles my shoes were fine, perfect even for hiking, but the last 20 miles they were too light.

Can anyone shed a light on what went wrong; what I can do to prevent; what you do yourself, specificaly why do light shoes work for you and not for me; etc.

I really prefer to walk in lightweight shoes, but I nauraly don't want knee injuries, so please help,


Andrew Lush
(lushy) - MLife

Locale: Lake Mungo, Mutawintji NPs
Lightweight Shoes? on 11/07/2007 21:06:36 MST Print View

Gday Eins,

>It is very clear to me that my knee injury was caused by wearing shoes that >were too light.

Why do you think that your shoes were too light? I can't see how by just being lightweight your shoes could have caused you a knee injury.

Maybe there was something else wrong with them (like their design which put stress on your knee). Maybe you were just carrying an injury that wasn't particularly bad and only manifested itself when you got into some steep climbs and descents. Hard to say really. But I don't think you can blame your footware for being too light.

Trekking poles make a big difference especially if you are carrying an injury.

Anyway, sorry to hear that you had to pull out of your hike early. it sounded like a very interesting place to walk (got any photos?). I hope your knee gets better real quick.


Edited by lushy on 11/08/2007 04:36:25 MST.

R Yee
(lighter) - F
Lightweight shoes? on 11/08/2007 02:13:22 MST Print View

I agree with Andrew above & wonder what led to your conclusion that it was the shoes? As a general rule, lighter footwear will have much better cushioning & actually give your knees less of a hammering than stiff heavy boots. That's especially moreso the case with your lighter packweight.

I had knee pains in my early hiking years which were due entirely to poor biomechanics & lack of conditioning & flexibility. 17 years later at age 50, there's been no pain (touch wood) since I fixed those 2 areas. I recently did a 2100m ascent & descent in 2½ days, carrying a double packweight of 18kg on the descent (from an injured party member who ironically had a knee problem). Apart from some fatigue, there was no knee pain at all. Poles were used & they make a big difference especially for us old guys.

I'm not a qualified physiotherapist at all, but the following suggestions to prevent future knee pain does come from them:
- stretch calves, quads, hip flexors, abductors & hamstrings regularly & especially after training or long hikes.
- strengthen your inner quads - VMO's - which are the ones that get tired when descending. An imbalance with those can lead to patello-femoral misalignment (your kneecap grinds on your femur)
- train on rough uneven ground to strengthen knees & ankles.
- wear supportive trail shoes that suit your walking gait (pronating or suprinating). You may need to be checked out by a podiatrist to determine this. They may then advise using arch supports or orthotics to correct your gait.

All of the above will have the effect of improving your biomechanics which are likely the cause of your knee pain. Once well conditioned, you can hike in just about any reasonable footwear without knee pain. I've used Montrail Hardrock wides for 1000's of km with Superfeet arch supports & they're perfect for me (but not everyone.)

Hope this info helps & happy hiking in future.

Edited by lighter on 11/08/2007 02:14:40 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Light weight shoes and my knee injury on 11/08/2007 02:34:17 MST Print View

Hi EinsteinX

> It is very clear to me that my knee injury was caused by wearing shoes that were too light.
Sorry, but I simply don't believe that this is so. Remember - a lot of the world's population walk barefoot. Shoes are a very recent invention in the scheme of things.
Rather, I suspect you were pushing too hard for the state of fitness of your knees. Being unsteady on your feet (not your shoes) means your muscles were very tired, and getting sore.

> Additionally I normally always walk with trekking poles,
These are even newer than footwear. Very new in fact. People walked the Alps for hundreds of years without them. Few in Australia (my country) bother with them today.

This may sound harsh, but I think you are blaming your gear too much. I don't think your gear is to blame at all.


Einstein X
(EinsteinX) - F

Locale: The Netherlands
Re: Lightweight Shoes? on 11/08/2007 04:22:09 MST Print View

Good input so far, I'll reply with more info later tonight or probably tomorrow, cause I do't have much time on my lunchbreak.

>Anyway, sorry to hear that you had to pull out of your
>hike early. it sounded like a very interesting place to
>walk (got any photos?).

Well I now have some free days left for christmass and I had a very pleasant two day enjoying urban Slovenia. I have about 700 pictures, which were made every 100 meters or so. I'm planning to make a movie out of these and post them on my youtube channel, but first I need to get a better computer. In the meanwhile I have two small movies posted on my youtube channel if you're interested:


Donovan Sarka
(dsarka) - F

Locale: Sierra Nevada
knee pain on 11/09/2007 07:48:42 MST Print View

I find that if I am too lazy, busy, to stretch then I will have knee pain. It seems especially important to stretch the IT band, stretch quads deeply, (try to stretch where you can feel it around your knees), and stretch your hams. Finally if I do not weight train my lower body I find I have pain. If you leg muscles are really developed then they will be taking some of the stress off of the knees. In one of Andrew Skurka's pod casts, he discusses stretching, he does it throughout his hiking day.

Matthew Swierkowski
(Berserker) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Light weight shoes and my knee injury on 11/09/2007 11:28:54 MST Print View

As others have already pointed out, I think it may potentially be a conditioning problem. I doubt your footwear had anything to do with it. I wear boots (Asolo Fugitives at the moment) when I hike, but train in low top day hikers or even tennis shoes. The only difference I notice in going on the trails in these different types of footwear is different levels of fatigue on my feet.

As for the knee thing, I have had lots of nagging issues with my knees. After several trips to the doctor and a stint or two in physical therapy, I was still having some issues. Only recently have they cleared up. I think it is because I now stretch before exercise, I weight train my legs a couple of times a week, and I train by hiking in a local park with about a 20 lb pack on.

Jaiden .
(jaiden) - F
knee pain - superfeet worked for me on 11/09/2007 11:49:26 MST Print View

I don't have big mile experience, so YMMV, but I had a sore knee until I noticed that I was over pronating. I have dress shoes that have a line down the middle (parallel to my foot) and noticed that when I put weight on my feet (especially the right one) the line moves to the left as my ankle rolls inward. This clued me into my over pronation problem. I got a pair of superfeet and put them in the same shoes and it went away. I put the soles in my hiking shoes and had no knee pain at all the next few hikes.

Unfortunately, wearing them every day started to aggravate my plantar fascitis, as it hits my arch in a bad spot, so I went back to regular insoles for day to day use. I think if I went on anything longer than 3 days I'd need to bring both insoles and alternate as needed.

Also, I noticed that when I had knee pain, if I stepped carefully and "led with my pinky toe" each time I put my foot down, it helped a lot. This kept the weight on my outstep and aligned my foot/knee better.

So, my advice would be to see if you overpronate (or oversupinate) and consider insoles to help correct it. Hiking poles helped a lot in taking the load off, especially when going down a steep hill.

Einstein X
(EinsteinX) - F

Locale: The Netherlands
Re: Light weight shoes and my knee injury on 11/11/2007 04:45:11 MST Print View

Agian thanks for everyones input so far and I think you probably hit the spot that I wasn't conditione enough.

The problem is that I live in the Netherlands and although I recently did some weekend hikes in very beautifull areas I didn't know were there, mostly I don't like to hike in my country. This firstly is due to my country being as flat as a pancake, so I could strap on the pack and go walking, but this hardly is training for a hike in the mountains. Secondly I live in the most densely populated area of the Netherland (there are about 17k peolpe per sq. mile here) which means that all the paths in the area are paved and that makes for very uncomfortable wlaking. Basically I started untrained on my hike and indeed this is probably the main cause for my injury.

However I also posted this question on another forum and peolpe over there came with some good arguments for sturdier boots. Besides in the Alpine countries there are boot makers whom haven been making sturdy boots for about a century or two and many many people walk on these boots, which makes me wonder that there must be a good reason why most people that I see hiking in the mountains do so on boots?

One of the repliers on that other forum came with this quote:
"I just spent 20 days straight hiking the AT in the state of Maine, using Vasque Velocity trail running shoes (my wife used Brooks Cascadias). Our packs weighed about 20-25 lbs each.

We survived OK, but had to be very careful on steep declines and slippery roots, rocks, and bog logs. We both fell fairly often (almost every day).

I disagree that 50% of AT hikers use trail hikers. I would say maybe 20% (of the thru hikers I met in Maine). Boots provide a lot more safety and security on steep rocky declines. I summitted Katahdin with a thru hiker wearing good leather hiking boots, and he was much faster at descending than I was. I had to go extremely slowly and watch my footing, whereas he could just blast his way down, landing securely even when jumping several feet down from boulders.

For flat easy hiking (none of that in Maine!) trail runners are fine (with a light pack under 25 lbs).

For anything slippery, rocky, technical, or with a heavier pack, I will in the future use sturdy leather hiking boots.

I would add that its best to avoid Goretex boots/shoes in wet climates because they will get totally soaked and then take much longer (like three days) to dry out, compared to breatheable boots/shoes. And they tend to mold and smell to high heaven.

Again, trail runner shoes would be fine for hiking in easy areas although I think it's pretty easy to get over your head now and then, like I did on Katahdin. I would use them on certain sections of the PCT, which tend to be nicely graded for horses, but not on the grueling northern part of the AT."

This is almost the same thing that I experienced, so it made me wonder....

The way I look at sturdy boots is that since they lock your ankles your knees have to work harder and so are more prone to injuries, but someone came with the argument that since your ankles are more sipported in these sturdy boots they can't make move that much and that will help your knees from also not having to make extreme movements, that seems to make sense as well.....

Some people here have suggested strength training my muscles. For the last couple of years I regurarly go to the gym and so my legs get quite some training although for the last year or so I haven't trained my legs, but after I give my knees a bit more rest I'll start training my legs again.

Also people have advised orthodics or even a visit to the podiatrist. I already walk with superfeet, which are great and I sold hiking shoes and boots for a couple of years, so I think I bought the best shoes I could find for my feet. Further I am a bit sceptic about podiatrists, since this is not a protected title in NL and anybody can call him/herself podiatrist, but it porbably can't hurt going to see one.

There were also quite some advises for streching, but I'm also sceptis about this. Studies have shown that streching didn't do anything. In fact, these studie have shown that streching is actually more likely to cause injuries if it is done incorrectly. The only benificial thing these studies could find anout streching was that it was a retual peole did before doing there exercises and that the streching just put them in a sporting state-of-mind. (I can't refer to any source other than Mens Health). But I'm willing to try anything to keep me hiking so I'll try streching as well on my next hike.

Bottom line seems to be that I need to train more, particularly on rough ground, which is difficult in my area, but for the next hike in May I'll go with a friend and we have plans to do training hikes. I'll start working on my leg muscles and next time use trekking poles again. Ultimatly, I'm planning on moving to a country with mountains; anyone have a job for me abroad?

Thanx for everyones help so far, any more insights people like to share?


Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Light weight shoes and my knee injury on 11/11/2007 06:16:13 MST Print View

Hey Eins,
I noticed your post both on this forum and on hiking-site.
My experience with trail runners is quite the opposite of what was posted on hiking-site. Since I started to use trailrunners for multiday trips last year, I've done a trip in the Pyrenees, partly along the HRP, and another one in the Picos de Europa. Both trips contained numerous steep ascents and descents over very rough terrain, often with short scrambling sections. In the Pyrenees I didn't use my walking poles (although I carried them on my backpack). The shoes I used were Inov-8 Roclite 315s.
My experience:
90 to 95% of the time these shoes prooved more than adequate. Trailfeel was much better than with my old Meindl's; it was much easier to anticipate possible unstable trail sections and prevent twisting of ankles. I wouldn't say they haven't got any weaker points but in general I'm very satisfied.
If I would make a guess for the cause of your problems: insufficient training and a too ambitious build-up of your trips.
I know the Netherlands are particularly flat but I can imagine that there are still a few spots where nice hiking can take place. How long would it take you to travel to the Hoge Veluwe? Most of my hiking takes place in the Ardennes and it sometimes takes me 3 to 4 hours just to get the start of my hike.

Einstein X
(EinsteinX) - F

Locale: The Netherlands
Re: Re: Light weight shoes and my knee injury on 11/11/2007 06:45:17 MST Print View

Hey Tom, always nice to get your input.

And I agree with you that so far I haven't walked more comfortably than on my low cut hiking shoes (I won't call mine trailrunner cause I wouldn't run in these). That's why I posted my question on both forums to try and figure out what I did wrong; I'd hate to go bach to my B/C shoes. Even climbing up to the Savinsjko pass I felt very at home in my shoes.

The concensus seems to be that I simply have to train more and I definitatly agree.

The Veluwe is about an hour from where I live and eventhough it's above sea level instead of below and therefore we call it 'high' it hardly has rough terain to train on, let alone being able to tarin for 1500m ascents and descents, but I guess that simply making some miles would help.

I'm a bit surprised it takes you 3 to 4 hours to get to the Ardennes. It takes me about the same amount of time and you live half way between me and the Ardennes, I guess you take public transport? You're also correct that I am ambitious when it comes to daily mileage. In true fastpacking style I like to hike as many miles as day light will allow me, firtsly because in the little time I have I want to see as much as possible, secondly I already spend about 12 hours a day under my tarp and I don't really feel like spending more time there.

Anyway, I'm planning for another major two-week hike next May and I'm gonna try to do training hikes in the Ardennes/Eifel on a monthly basis. On the next hike I will need to cover about 18 mi (30 km) a day, which I plan to devide in three blocks: hike 6 mi in three hours, than rest for an hour, hike another 6 mi in three hours, rest one hour and hike another 6 mi, than make camp. That should be doable especially concidering the high mileage some other forum members here make, right?


PS, maybe we could do a weekend hike together once?

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Re: Light weight shoes and my knee injury on 11/11/2007 07:42:25 MST Print View

Hey Eins,
I think it's pretty impossible to get decent training for 1500 to 3000 feet ascents near where we live. OTOH, I personally feel that day hikes in the valleys of de Maas, Ourthe, Semois, ... can be almost as intense with ascents which are perhaps quite short but sometimes very steep.
As you guessed correct, I tend to take public transport and sometimes I need to take several trains and busses just to get where I want. I've sometimes spend more time on a bus or train than walking. But hey, I enjoyed the walk and that's what matters.
I wonder, don't you have the opportunity to walk in the dunes? Walking all day on a beach can be quite hard and makes the tendons and muscles in your feet work. It's perhaps the best training ground close by.

And about those shoes, after having used a pair of B/Cs for years and having used trainrunners last two years, I can tell you that a lot has to happen before I would go back to my Meindls. There's just no comparison in comfort possible.

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Re: Light weight shoes and my knee injury on 11/11/2007 07:56:22 MST Print View

About those 30km hikes/day you plan, it all depends on the terrain. With a lot of climbing and descending, it can be quite hard but certainly doable. My average speed is 5-5,5 km/h so 30 kms takes me around 6 hours. Most of the time, I stop one or two times for 15 minutes and on a single occasion, I walk all day without any stops. For me, finding my natural rhytm is the key. I feel there's a certain speed on which I can just keep on walking.

PS: doing a trip together? I'm gonna keep that in mind. it all depends on the available time and other plans.

Chris Chastain
(Thangfish) - F

Locale: S. Central NC, USA
Very light shoes on 11/11/2007 21:29:25 MST Print View

I used to have severe knee pain on long descents. Proper conditioning (and possibly trekking poles) has made me knee pain a thing of the past.

I've been gradually lightning my footwear, and have moved away from leather hikers.
I started using lighter trail runners at home on my daily 2 mi hike/run while carrying a 16lb pack, ankle weights and wrist weights. When I got used to my Nike Free 7.0 I figured I was ready to choose whatever I wanted.

I am now using Inov-8 Roclite 285's (men's sz 9.5 275g) and I just love these things. Besides the fact that my feet hardly sweat at all now, they dry fast and don't get "sloshy" in the rain.

To top it all off, these shoes have the best traction of anything I've ever owned. Absolutely sticky on rocks, wet or dry, and deep enough lugs to hold on wet clay. After I gained a little confidence in them, I was actually running downhill on and around large wet rocks. Many steep ascents and descents, 3 days of rain, no falls.

...and I'm really happy that my knees no longer give me problems.

Edited by Thangfish on 11/11/2007 21:31:52 MST.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Light weight shoes... on 11/12/2007 03:01:03 MST Print View


Edited by skopeo on 04/24/2015 00:06:03 MDT.

Jozef _____
(DerJosef) - F

Locale: The southern border of Holland
Re skopeo on 11/12/2007 08:53:04 MST Print View

IMO according to his story it's a bit of both. When switching to light shoes, you are demanding a bit more of your leg muscles to compensate for instability especially over rough terrain. If you're not used to this, and have not trained then 1+1=2.

Einstein, even when you're not able to train for ascending/descending properly you still can do most of the work "dry". Try to train your legs more to support your knees, especially the inner quadriceps. I have a knee injury myself and I know how it feels. A lot of heavy duty cycling and / or stairwalking will help as well. Walking stairs on your toes will help train lower leg muscles used to support stability when going over rough terrain with lighter shoes.

Chad Miller

Locale: Duluth, Minnesota
Knee pain on decents on 11/12/2007 09:11:53 MST Print View

To the OP;

Well it sounds like you are suffering from a strength imbalance in your quads. Basically you need to do more training to elevate your knee pain. I believe the knee pain your experiencing has nothing to do with your footwear. In fact I believe you would have experienced knee pain even if you had on sturdy hiking boots.

The knee pain you're describing sounds like a strength imbalance in your VO muscle in your quadriceps. The VO muscle is the teardrop shaped muscle located in the center of your quad. When you hike your hamstrings and outer quads get worked extensively while your VO dose not. This can become an issue because your VO muscle attaches to your knee and helps keep it in place. The VO muscle is the weakest muscle in your leg and is primarily used when descending / going down hill. As you hike your hamstrings and outer quads will pull your kneecap off track causing an inflammation of one of the lubricating films under your knee. Typically this inflation produces pain in the knee when descending steep hills or stairs.

In order to treat this strength imbalance you need to do exercise that target the VO muscle specifically. Doing leg extension or squats do not isolate the VO muscle. In fact doing these exercise will actually make the strength imbalance worse as your larger leg muscles will take over causing a greater strength imbalance. There are several types of exercises you can do at a gym that will strengthen your VO. Do a web search or go to a orthopedic doctor for some Physical Therapy.

It took me about a year of training my VO muscle to get it in shape so that I wouldn’t have knee pain when hiking. I continue to do the VO exercises twice a week now to keep my legs in shape and my knees pain free.