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Minimalist Footwear Recommendations for Hiking
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Ken Charpie
(kencharpie) - MLife

Locale: Western Oregon
Minimalist Footwear Recommendations for Hiking on 05/29/2010 02:55:47 MDT Print View

I have searched through the forums and there are several posts about barefoot hiking, vibram fivefingers, minimalist footwear etc... but it is very scattered and filled with debate about the barefoot movement.

I have decided that I want to move towards a "more barefoot" lifestyle and am going to purchase a pair of shoes that would be more minimal than my running shoes.

I would appreciate feedback from members that use minimalist/barefoot-ish footwear during their hikes.(I am not really interested in opinions on whether or not barefoot/minimalist is healthy or desirable; just personal experience with and recommendations for minimalist footwear.)

I am considering purchasing a pair of Vibram's new Bikilas or the Flow model.

I hike in western Oregon: lots of rain and cool weather has me leaning towards a pair of Vibram Flows, but I am interested in any similar footwear. Innov-8 and Terra Plana seem to have some interesting models. I have two friends that wear Vibrams (with nothing but good things to say), so that is the brand most familiar to me.

Thanks in advance for sharing your experiences and recommendations!

Ken Charpie
(kencharpie) - MLife

Locale: Western Oregon
A Side-Thought on Tom's Shoes on 05/29/2010 02:59:24 MDT Print View

One more thought - I wear Tom's shoes quite a bit around town and at work... I've briefly considered hiking in them. Has anyone else hiked in Tom's? They are fairly minimal as far as the sole goes, but I imagine that the canvas would become irritating and cause blisters....

Brian Ahlers
(bahlers7) - F

Locale: Idaho
Re: Minimalist Footwear Recommendations for Hiking on 05/29/2010 03:07:22 MDT Print View

I hiked 30 miles through Hells Canyon on a 3 night trip in my Vibram Five Treks. So not a whole lot of distance. But, my feet felt good, a little tender (nothing unbearable by any means). Plus this was early this month and they were the only shoes I took with me. I'm definitely going to continue wearing them because they are so versatile, but trust me, you NEED to spend a lot of time in them if you don't have a pair already before you start backpacking in them. Your feet will definitely need some conditioning in these shoes.

Here's a little inspiration :)


Sean Walashek
(caraz) - F

Locale: bay area
don't get the flows on 05/29/2010 03:53:55 MDT Print View

The flows are too hot almost always (based on friends personal experience) Unless you are going to always be in cold wet weather your feet will sweat more then you want. I prefer the classic's for most things because they fit me well (you do get small stuff down the sides often). I have had a hard time getting the kso's to fit me well because of my instep but they are what most friends wear always. I will say the the bikilas look like more shoe when examining the sole so you might find you like them more. I personally enjoy having less between my feet and the ground so appreciate the more simple sole of the classics/kso's. If you feel like cold will be an issue with the kso's you can also wear the injini socks.

Ken Charpie
(kencharpie) - MLife

Locale: Western Oregon
Flows too hot on 05/29/2010 04:44:23 MDT Print View

I appreciate the feedback on the Flows... my main concern was that they would be too hot in the summer. My feet already sweat copiously and don't need the help...

I've been wanting to get out to Hell's Canyon :)

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Minimalist Footwear Recommendations for Hiking on 05/29/2010 05:19:58 MDT Print View

Have you seen this?

Elizabeth Freitas
(betabeth) - F

Locale: Sonoma County
Chacos on 05/29/2010 05:59:19 MDT Print View

Maybe they're not minimalist enough for you, but I love my Chacos. I lived in these one summer through rivers, mountains, and heavy packs. They have a little weight in the sturdy sole, but they are comfortable, have excellent traction, dry quickly, and hold feet flexibly but securely. They also have a generous toe bed which protects against stubbed toes.

Ken Charpie
(kencharpie) - MLife

Locale: Western Oregon
Adventure in Progress site on 05/29/2010 06:50:13 MDT Print View

Jason - I had seen Damien's minimalist footwear articles, they are excellent! His site was one of the first ones I read through while researching the barefoot movement. I always appreciate a site with well-thought out reasonable ideas. Some barefoot sites out there come off as downright fanatical (fox walking comes to mind...)

Elizabeth - I have considered Chacos... one of my hiking buddies swears by them. I guess I'm just not a fan of dirty feet :) I always seem to have rocks and dirt trapped under my feet, no matter the sandal. It drives me nuts! But I wish I could get past those things, because when I'm not hiking I'm either barefoot or in sandals...

Edited by kencharpie on 05/29/2010 06:50:49 MDT.


Locale: Pacific Northwet
Re: A Side-Thought on Tom's Shoes on 05/29/2010 08:27:15 MDT Print View

I gotta get some of those Tom's, they are pretty stylish!!Tom's shoes

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Minimalist Footwear Recommendations for Hiking on 05/29/2010 08:32:54 MDT Print View

I have both a pair of KSOs and a pair of New Balance MT100s. I find the MT100s to feel more minimalist than the KSOs, and also be more comfortable. And they're lighter. FWIW.


Locale: Pacific Northwet
Re: A Side-Thought on Tom's Shoes on 05/29/2010 08:48:58 MDT Print View

Hey Ken,
How is the fit on the Tom's? Are they more or less true to size? I have wide feet and need a large toe box. How do you think these would fit?

I would not be using them for hiking, just around town use.


Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Minimalist Footwear Recommendations for Hiking" on 05/29/2010 09:11:15 MDT Print View

"I have both a pair of KSOs and a pair of New Balance MT100s. I find the MT100s to feel more minimalist than the KSOs, and also be more comfortable. And they're lighter. FWIW."

Which is an interesting observation, considering the KSO's are meant to mimic and aid the wearer in a natural "barefoot" experience. The MT100's, though not extremely durable for technical and rocky trail conditions, are IMO, one of the better minimalist trail shoe options available right now for the UL hiker, period.

dennis davitt
(dennyinsequim) - F

Locale: Olympic Peninsula
my limited experience on 05/29/2010 09:54:23 MDT Print View

I've used my treks for a few day hikes with the longest being 11 miles. I was carrying 20 plus pounds and so far it's been great.

The routes have involved steady climbing and descending and varied terrain. At snowline I pulled a pair of xxl NRS neoprene socks over my vff's and then microspikes with attached gaiters over that. It worked fine and with a piece of foam between the ms's and neo socks my feet stayed warm.

I plan to use them for multiday hikes this season.

Robert Cowman
(rcowman) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Toms on 05/29/2010 10:34:30 MDT Print View

they're pretty true to size. walking along the river banks in town though I found the soles are not really grippy and they fill up with dirt and debris. the canvas doesn't bother me though. Also toms are badass shoes, everyone always asks about mine.(kinda like ninja shoes)

Robert Devereux
(robdev) - F

Locale: Pittsburgh, PA
Re: Minimalist Footwear Recommendations for Hiking on 05/29/2010 10:47:42 MDT Print View

The most thorough roundup of minimalist options that I've seen is at

Unfortunately, my feet are difficult to fit into most shoes, so I can't try many of the options. I've tried FiveFingers and they don't work for my feet. I like Inov-8, but they aren't nearly as minimal as the other options. They seem more like transitional shoes, something you use to work your way down from cushioning to minimal shoes.

If normal sizing worked for me, I'd try the Feiyue Wushu Shoes or perhaps water shoes. But with my feet, my plan is to get a sewing machine and trying to make my own.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Minimalist Footwear Recommendations for Hiking on 05/29/2010 11:51:11 MDT Print View

I have tried a variety of "barefoot shoes" including vivobarefoot, five fingers, classic leather mocs, shower slippers, etc. Each has their place, but for most back country trips I stick with a pair of inov-8 310 flyroc. For me, the flexible sole is good. I like as minimal of a sole as possible... to be as close to the ground as possible. BUT... I have found that I also want TRACTION over a wide variety of conditions. Inov-8 310 are the most minimalist shoes I have found that fit me and provide the sort of traction I want.


Jeffs Eleven
(WoodenWizard) - F

Locale: Greater Mt Tabor
Re: Minimalist Footwear Recommendations for Hiking on 05/29/2010 14:30:38 MDT Print View

no experience w/ them, but have you looked at the END shoes? They are very pliable and minimal. Obv a VFF is more minimal (more minimal... sounds funny) but for a 'whole shoe' they are pretty minimal.

(and light!)

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

KSO's on 05/29/2010 14:38:42 MDT Print View

I've got a pair of VFF KSO's but I don't wear them very often because on a technical trail I have to constantly be staring at my feet so I don't stub my toes. This decreases my enjoyment of the hike, so now I only use them on quite well developed trails.

So for me, a really light shoe like the New Balance MT100's would probably make more sense.

Edited by dandydan on 05/29/2010 14:39:19 MDT.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Minimalist Footwear Recommendations for Hiking on 05/29/2010 14:45:51 MDT Print View

END shoes are pretty light, but the sole, especially in the heel, is still pretty substantial (thick). I've carried their water shoes as camp shoes before. I hiked in their Stumptown, nice shoe. But not really minimalist in the context of this discussion.

As far as I know, they don't even make END shoes anymore. Last I heard they were bought out by LaCrosse footwear last year, and shortly thereafter LaCrosse announced they'd discontinue the brand and meld the concepts (environmentally neutral design, whence the name sprang from) into their own shoes. Might have changed since then.

Ken Charpie
(kencharpie) - MLife

Locale: Western Oregon
Tons of food for thought! on 05/29/2010 17:41:20 MDT Print View

Wow! I'm so glad I posted about this; you have all given me a ton to think about.

Daniel - "How is the fit on the Tom's? Are they more or less true to size? I have wide feet and need a large toe box. How do you think these would fit?"

I would say that the Tom's that I've tried on tend to be a little bit narrow. I have slightly wide feet and the Tom's are right at the limit of what I can handle in terms of width. The canvas stretches somewhat (and I bought a laced pair that allows a little more flexibility as far as roominess goes), so they fit me like a glove. But any narrower and I probably couldn't wear them. You should give them a try, though. If you can find a retailer in your area you might find a model that fits. They are great shoes. (I love the pic!)

Eugene, Dan - I'm taking a good look at the MT100s, looks like I can get a pair at a decent price, which is great! These shoes look very appealing to me.

Robert - thanks for the wushu mention, those look fantastically comfortable and I'd never heard of them. For the price, I might have to try a pair! The dshack post is excellent, thanks for sharing it. I'm looking at Huaraches again after reading through some of the footwear listed there.

Mark - Traction is also one of my big concerns, so your feedback is helpful. Innov-8 seem like a little more than I want in terms of shoe, but I need to try a pair on... there's a retailer in my town, so I'm gonna check them out asap.

(edit)This is what I love about BPL - there are a ton of members willing to share feedback on some oddball stuff like this. At work on my breaks I'll update my gear list, weigh stuff (I work in a medical laboratory), and peruse the forum. My co-workers think I'm crazy when the see the stuff I'm talking about or looking at... vibram shoes, barefoot ted, cuben fiber tarps...

Edited by kencharpie on 05/29/2010 17:45:38 MDT.