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Walking Technique?
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Anthony Rosen
(xpress411) - F

Locale: Washington, DC
Walking Technique? on 03/18/2011 12:07:58 MDT Print View

I've been starting to get into the barefoot revolution and ultra running. It seems there is a growing sense of awareness that running injuries are caused from either bad technique or improper footwear. I was wondering if the same would apply to backpacking?

I hike in trail runners and my feet get sore after about 15 miles, plus I get blisters. I can deal with the blisters, but around 20 miles I start walking on the outer edges of my feet to avoid pain.

I learned in climbing classes to use your toes on foot holds for better balance and the ability to pivot. Beginners always use the middle of their feet. When I'm hiking, I'm usually going over rocks with the middle of my foot. So I was thinking next time I hike I'm going to get some zero-heel shoes and place a much greater emphasis on how and where I place my foot.

Next I learned about the importance of posture from chi running. How does the pack effect your posture? Maybe the aarn packs are on to something?

So my question is once you get your weight down, what's the most efficient way to walk? How do you use your poles? What's the most efficient way to get up/down hills? What's the best posture? Should you be using zero-sole heels? What's the best stride? If the BPL community put as much emphasis on technique as it did gear, would 20+ mile days be easy for everyone?

Kenneth Cowan
(zeros) - F

Locale: California
re: downhill on 03/18/2011 15:05:58 MDT Print View

Before planting your right foot, dampen the impact by planting your right pole. Same on left side. Do it diligently, and your feet will hurt a lot less after 20+ miles days!

Edited by zeros on 03/18/2011 15:16:16 MDT.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Walking Technique? on 03/19/2011 12:36:30 MDT Print View

The other resource for walking technique is alexander technique.

I think walking technique can make a big difference. My personal experience is that the combination of shorter (but high cadence) steps, more balanced posture, and minimalist shoes addressed my foot, knee, and hip pain once the muscles were sufficiently strengthened. The Merrel video is similar to what I learned.

As to zero-sole heels, my personal experience is somewhat minimalist (to zero) heel is important, but that's not the whole store. My current theory is that sole flexibility seems to be more important. I can happily switch between inov-8 295/310/390 which aren't zero heel, and vivobarefoot/VFF which are zero heel, but when I tried some NB 101 which are more minimalist than the inov-8 shoes in every way but flexibility I found that I started to have hip pains after using them a few days.

As to poles... I used to swear by them, but now they ride in my pack except when I need extra stability for river crossing and to set up my shelter. I found that using the poles tends to through off my balance.


Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Walking Technique? on 03/19/2011 12:52:18 MDT Print View

This does not apply to flat land, but for steep downhills.

When trekking in Nepal, many of the other trekkers were getting "sahib's knee." It seemed to be very painful and most of the knees were swollen. Typical impatient Americans were trying to walk downhill too fast with their knees fully extended at the time of heel impact. As a result, the impact force was transmitted directly through the knee joint.

The Sherpa mountain guides showed them how to "walk like a Sherpa" to ease the situation. First, you have to lower your center of gravity slightly by flexing your knees. Second, you walk slightly bowlegged. That spreads your weight out to the sides more so that you don't fall. Third, you take shorter and quicker strides. The result is that there is less impact force through the knee joint, and instead the force is carried by your quadriceps muscles. You have to practice it a bit in advance. Once you get good at it, you can vary the intensity of this stride and use it comfortably.