Forum Index » General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion » Foot "deadness." is it arches or cushioning?


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Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
Foot "deadness." is it arches or cushioning? on 04/08/2010 10:22:11 MDT Print View

I'm doing some training hikes these days ranging from 10-15 miles.

I'm new to the sport/activity and the last 10mi hike I did w/ full pack weigh really beat on my feet w/ trail runners.

Blisters/hotspots aside, the worst part of it was how "dead" my feet/legs felt at the end of the hike. It felt like my legs were wood. No spring in my step, nothing left.

The terrain was flat as a board and all pavement, we just wanted to crank out some miles. Granted pavement is harder than most any beaten path, but I'm wondering a few things:

1) Is this a question of my feet/legs just not being used to it? Will it improve in time or most likely not?

2) I have relatively flat feet. I always hear those with great arches have feet that are better prepared to handle shock...So would I be better served by arch supporting insoles or some very cushy to handle overall shock? Where is this deadness coming from?

I have a pair of these (http://www.spenco.com/pdf/rx/43-307-43-240.pdf) I will be trying on my 12mi training hike this wknd. They are slim to fit in with a minimal foam insole I already have in there.

James Dubendorf
(dubendorf) - M

Locale: CO, UT, MA, ME, NH, VT
Re: Foot "deadness." is it arches or cushioning? on 04/08/2010 12:00:14 MDT Print View

Hard to respond not knowing about your general level of conditioning and other details. A few thoughts:

* Pavement wasn't designed with feet in mind. Feet weren't designed with pavement in mind. Do your best to find other more forgiving, or at least more variable, surfaces to walk on.

* 'Full pack weight' can mean 10 lbs. or 50, depending on the website! You may want to add pack weight, miles, and intensity, more gradually. Be sure to incorporate plenty of rest to the routine, and don't be afraid to vary it up with biking, jogging, etc. If you aren't already incorporating UL practices in your hiking, you've already discovered one of the best reasons for doing so!

*If pavement is a must...Many different opinions on this, but from a post by Andrew Skurka: "If you are going to be on hard surfaces day-in-day-out, then I'd recommend either a GoLite shoe...or a lightweight trail runner or 'day hiker' with a forefoot plate. Basically, your goal is to stay away from an EVA mid-sole, which is collapse-prone and after that your 'cushioning' is gone. A growing number of people seem to be fans of minimalist shoes with no cushion, but I think this is impractical for hard-packed, cobblestone-laden trails while wearing a backpack -- your feet get eaten and eventually bruised."

*Adding extra insoles, arch support etc. (see Roger Caffin's convincing theory that arch support is a cynical marketing ploy by Nike) can make it more difficult to find the underlying issues of discomfort, and perhaps make them worse. Best to address other issues before taking this step, which leads to the next point...

* Your issues may have little to do with either arches or cushioning. Your feet are only part of a process which includes not only your overall physical state and gear choices, but also your training strategy. What are you training for- general fitness, a through hike, weekend family trips? Are extended training hikes with a loaded pack a safe, efficient, and effective use of time? Suffice to say that many approaches emphasizing general strength and conditioning will translate to hiking. My somewhat informed but still very much amateur opinion: regular sessions of long duration/ high repetition movement (especially under load) such as hiking with a pack will over time lead to adaptation, diminishing results, and eventually injury without a plan that incorporates 1)forms of mobility and, for lack of a better word, 2) stretching.

For an example of mobility movement, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFugm34H_IQ&feature=related.

For an example of "stretching" in the form of prasara yoga, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLB-yAYHs7A.

I am not affiliated with Scott Sonnon or any CST (Circular Strength Training) entity, but have used CST products with great success. Though much of the marketing is absurd, I appreciate the health first approach of CST. The content itself is very high quality, and will resonate with those who have had experience in yoga, tai chi, martial arts, and so on. Mobility work in particular can be easily incorporated into hiking and backpacking. I believe it goes a long way towards avoiding/reducing injury and increasing comfort, particularly on extended trips.

Whatever route you go, perhaps this is an opportunity to become more disciplined and deliberate in your physical practice. Be aware that many proponents of different products out there may be the result of the survivor effect- it worked for them, but this does not mean that it will work for you, because proponents are typically by definition the ones it worked for. People who see "results" may have incurred damage that will only reveal itself over time, and they may have succeeded despite rather than because of their training.

Hope this helps.

Best,
James

Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
More info on 04/08/2010 12:42:41 MDT Print View

I'm 31 yrs old, 5-9 and 190lbs, athletic build, former college soccer & rugby player. My knees are shot (major motorcycle accident with crushed knee cap, ACL, MCL, and Meniscus repair/replacement in one knee). I realize I have limitations, but I definitely need some more training and I'm hoping that extends my comfort over time.

My base weight is <10lbs and then add in food and water.

I am hoping this wknd's hike on a trail will treat me better than the pavement. That plus better conditioning through weightlifting 3x a week and these wknd hikes, may help me out over time. This is my whole body workout concentrating on multi-joint movements:
http://builtblog.wikidbody.com/2007/08/03/basic-whole-body-workout/

I am training for this 40mi hike on mostly flat terrain:
http://www.zsny.org/cranberry50/index.html

I will look into the stretching and mobility stuff I can perhaps do at home and see how this wknds hike goes.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Foot "deadness." is it arches or cushioning? on 04/08/2010 15:44:37 MDT Print View

Hi Bryce

> Blisters/hotspots aside, the worst part of it was how "dead" my feet/legs felt
> at the end of the hike. It felt like my legs were wood. No spring in my step, nothing left.
Sorry, but imho that is pure and simple lack of physical fitness. You may be 'strong' enough, but fitness includes endurance, and few training regimes give you that unless they feature long miles. Fortunately the solution is simple: keep going!

> flat feet. I always hear those with great arches have feet that are
> better prepared to handle shock
Avoid ALL forms of arch support. Killer damage to your feet. Flats or light joggers would be better: learn to use your muscles for suspension rather than marketing gimmicks which don't work. Plenty of documentation around about that problem - but not from the sports shoe companies selling 'arch support'.

Really sore feet are a different matter: go up half a size in footwear, and make sure the shoes you have are wide enough. Discard any which are not (cost notwithstanding).

Cheers

Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
Walmart Trip on 04/08/2010 18:43:22 MDT Print View

Went to Walmart to fart around... ironically the foot care section had this big display and computer from Dr. Scholls that advised you on what type of insole you needed based off your weight displacement on the pad. They said I had low arches (right on!) and recommended a $50 pair of arch supports.

Anyway, looked around some more and ended up buying these for a $9 experiment:

http://www.drscholls.com/includes/images/products/large/Insoles/MassGel_mens_030507_l.png

I wanted to see if a little extra cushion would help as opposed to go w/ full on arch supports. These gave some cushion and were pretty much flat w/ no arch support. I am going to play around this wknd on my 12mi hike and see if these gel inserts plus or minus the Spenco arch supports I have, help one way or another. I think being off the pavement will be the biggest difference, then we'll see. Thanks for everyone's advice.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: WNC
Re: Walmart Trip on 04/08/2010 18:53:33 MDT Print View

FWIW, I agree with Roger. You need to strengthen the muscles in your feet so they can support themselves. This will never happen if you use "arch support" inserts.

Nate Davis
(Knaight) - F

Locale: Western Massachusetts
Nutrition? on 04/09/2010 18:01:55 MDT Print View

How did you feed and hydrate yourself on this hike? When I go for big miles and don't take enough or the right type of food, I have a much harder time both with the hike and with recovery. Make sure you've got plenty of calories, fats, and proteins. Also make sure you're replenishing your electrolytes. Finally, stay hydrated!

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
feet and legs feel dead? on 04/09/2010 18:43:56 MDT Print View

What do you mean by dead? Do you mean your feet and legs were tired and you couldn't go on? Then you just need to build up your fitness.

Do you mean they were numb? That sounds really serious.

I've never had legs go numb, but I've had parts of my feet go numb. Usually the problem has to do with shoes. Shoes have all kinds of bad stuff about them. They are curved unnaturally so your toes might be forced to point way up in the sky. This can make parts of your foot go numb. Or the shoes might be curved in such a way you are smashing your metatarsal heads over and over. That, too, can make part of your foot go numb.

I also find that walking on level ground hurts more than walking up and down hills. There's a lot of repetitive pounding and if your stride isn't optimized well, you'll beat any imperfections you have into your body.

Whatever the problem is, I've found relief in moving over time from more support to less. If I do use any insoles, they are just for cushioning, no arch support.

Recently I went backpacking wearing Feelmax Osmas, which are basically moccasins that resemble running shoes, no cushioning at all. Only a couple millimeters of sole. My feet got very tired because they are weak. But I was surprised how little I need so much cushioning or support. My feet are perfectly capable of walking all by themselves. It's a wonderful thing to know that. But I do see now that I don't really walk properly. Shoes have made it too easy to come crashing down on my heels. I have to work on my stride to be gentler on my body.

Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
More info on 04/09/2010 18:48:29 MDT Print View

I ate 3 cliff bars (240 cal / bar I think) and a liter of water over the 10mi.

My legs/feet were dead as in, no spring left in my step, achy and sore, but no numbness.

I basically figure the reason for my troubles were:

-1st training hike. Never done 10mi in my life.

-I did it on pavement, 'nuff said.

-I can improve on my insoles ability to absorb shock to a certain extent. Still debating on whether or not arch supports are for me though.

Nate Davis
(Knaight) - F

Locale: Western Massachusetts
Re: More info on 04/09/2010 20:44:54 MDT Print View

Okay, your nutrition and hydration were more than adequate. It's a clear case if simply needing to work up to the miles. That doesn't mean you can't go and do 10-15 miles right now, but you should expect to suffer a bit when you do. I'd suggest getting in more hikes in the 3-5 mile range. Do two or three of these a week for a month and you'll be able to knock out a ten mile hike without a problem.

Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
Oh well on 04/09/2010 21:26:44 MDT Print View

This Sunday is a 11.6 mi hike (on hard trail, NOT pavement) w/ a little more elevation w/ full pack weight. Unfortunately w/ work schedule I cannot hike after work, just get in some weightlifting.

This is all to prepare for 40mi, 3-day trip at end of month. I know I'll be sore for sure, but oh well, doing the best I can :p

Nate Davis
(Knaight) - F

Locale: Western Massachusetts
Re: Oh well on 04/10/2010 05:45:43 MDT Print View

I generally hike and trail run before work. I do have a huge advantage in that the mountain is literally right behind my house, but I still have to go before work in order to squeeze anything in.

I usually manage to get in three or four runs/hikes per week on workdays, and then one or two more on my days off. Most of these are in the 3-5 mile range since I can run that in under an hour. On my days off, I've been trying to do 20 miles or more lately. I managed 35 in less than 12 hours on Monday, but that's something I've been working up to for months.

I think you'll be fine on your trip, but you should be very deliberate in the way you prepare for it. If you're willing to suffer through them, the 10+ mile training hikes will be helpful. Be careful, though. If you do too many of these before you're ready, you could injure yourself and make the trip impossible.

Do everything you can to get 4 aerobic sessions in per week, including your big hikes. Aim for a half hour to an hour, and if you can run for that long, do it. Running puts more strain on the joints and muscles, so it'll prepare them for longer miles better. Again, make sure to take rest days here and there.

Based on my own experience, I'd actually recommend against insoles at this point. I doubt that has much to do with it. Most likely, you just need to toughen up your feet. Do you have a good fit on your trail runners?

Edit: Also, how heavy is your fully loaded pack? That could be a big part of the issue. I do all of my hikes with 15-16 lbs, because that's roughly how much I start out with for a two day trip. I realize you may not be able to spend much money on gear before your trip, but we may be able to give you some tips to shave a few pounds off your gear if you post a list.

Edited by Knaight on 04/10/2010 05:59:18 MDT.

Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
Pack weight w/out food & water on 04/10/2010 07:39:17 MDT Print View

Pack weight w/out food & water. On training trips I have full, 2l of water, but then throw in the food I just need for that day's training hike:

http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AtSJq6zGSEzhdFZPYTVVdEdkaU1KLVBNRG53anF1Y3c&hl=en

I am open to suggestions. I fully expect my base weight to be under 10lbs, but of course I'd love to (comfortably) go lower!

The trip will be 40mi over 3 days in Cranberry Lake, NY. For the dates we're going expected temps:

Hi 53°F
Lo 31°F

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: More info on 04/10/2010 13:38:33 MDT Print View

> My legs/feet were dead as in, no spring left in my step, achy and sore, but no numbness.

Oh well, that's to be expected. 10 miles is a long distance at first. When I was hiking the PCT, for the last 10 miles of each day I usually had no spring in my step, my feet were achy and sore and I was practically limping. But I would wake up, the spring would be back and I'd be all ready to go and do it again.

So just keep hiking and it'll get easier. You don't need special insoles for this. It's normal to feel tired, sore and achy when you push your limits.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Re: Foot "deadness." is it arches or cushioning? on 04/12/2010 07:48:06 MDT Print View

"Avoid ALL forms of arch support. Killer damage to your feet." Where is that documentation?

I find this hard to believe. Both from my personal experience (will pass 10,000 miles this year probably) and from that fact that a vast body of medical science supports the idea. I'm generally not a conspiracy theorist either.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Your Hike was Too Flat on 04/12/2010 08:57:09 MDT Print View

"The terrain was flat as a board and all pavement"

pretty much everyone knows how bad pavement can be for your legs.

but an absolutely flat walk presents its own kind of problems. while it seems flat should be easy, every step, every movement being exactly the same mile after mile can trash your legs worse than a hilly hike.

variation in stride, step, foot plant, give your legs and feet lots of opportunity to regenerate themselves along the hike.

Forget pavement
but also forget Flat.

if you're new, then gently rolling hills on dirt are best.

Edited by asandh on 04/12/2010 09:06:23 MDT.

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Hmmmm on 04/12/2010 09:06:11 MDT Print View

"Avoid ALL forms of arch support. Killer damage to your feet."

Well, that claim does strike me as a tad excessive. However, I can say that my feet feel a lot better since I've switched to the arch-supportless Vibram Five Fingers KSO's. Really, the muscles in your feet are designed to work without arch support, and the Vibrams fit the bill and also provide some front-of-foot and a lot of bottom-of-the-foot protection.

Also, I get no blisters because there's nothing for the feet or toes to rub against (including each other). The shoes totally encase your foot.

You'll use foot muscles you never even knew you had (including the ones in your arch area), and that does involve a bit of foot fatigue at first. However, your foot begins to do what human foot evolution designed your foot to do in the first place.

Stargazer

Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
Figuring it out... on 04/12/2010 11:18:12 MDT Print View

So I went on a 10mi hike this past wknd to train some more w/ full base weight + 2l water and snacks. Here are the pics:

Hiking Pics

What I learned about my feet:

-Pavement was the devil. In terms of soreness, my feet did well with varied terrain, elevation, and relatively soft trail.

-Arch supports were not needed. I think the Dr. Scholls gel (flat) insoles helped a little bit, but hard to tell since I changed so many variables.

-Moleskin doesn't do squat w/ sweaty feet. Nice big blister on one of my heels. W/ a friend's recommendation I'll be trying these: Advanced Healing Blister patches

Edited by bster13 on 04/12/2010 11:21:26 MDT.

James Dubendorf
(dubendorf) - M

Locale: CO, UT, MA, ME, NH, VT
Re: Figuring it out... on 04/12/2010 13:15:47 MDT Print View

Great to hear! There are so many variables acting on feet while hiking- socks, shoes, terrain, heat, moisture, pack weight, gait, distance traveled, etc.- and day hikes are a great way to dial in and experiment with your system without ruining a whole trip if things don't work as hoped. As for the blisters, check out this thread on a product called Leukotape:

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=19179&disable_pagination=1

Even better than treating blisters, of course, is preventing them. Resting and airing out feet every few hours, changing socks (never hurts to experiment with different thicknesses and materials), making sure shoes are free of dirt and debris, are all things that can help. Look inside your shoe and see whether there is any obvious source of the irritation. Sometimes blisters just happen, but it may ultimately be a problem with the shoe itself. While some feet like a supportive heel cup, I tend to prefer a lot of space back there.

James

Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
To add on... on 04/12/2010 13:22:35 MDT Print View

Sock liners (cheap nylon dress socks) didn't seem to make any difference one way or another. My feet were still very damp.