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Minimalist Footwear for Summer Backpacking
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George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
minimalist footwear for summer backpacking - feedback on treks on 05/23/2011 18:30:48 MDT Print View


I'm going to try them on a multi-day trek going pretty much SUL. My feet, legs, body, and head are adjusting well to them.


I will also take my old O'Neill's just 'cause I can. : )


Richard Colfack
(richfax) - MLife

Merrell True Glove on 06/11/2011 21:49:56 MDT Print View

I've been wanting to try barefoot running shoes ever since I read "Born to Run" but I could never bring myself to wear the arguably hideous Vibram Finger's. Right after reading this article I went out and purchased Merrell's True Glove ($110 retail, 7.1 oz per manufacturer). I've been running and hiking in them for two and half months solid so I think it's time to give my thoughts on the matter.

The good: Very lightweight and comfortable, they actually fit like a glove. Not as ugly as the Cinqo Fingers. Large toe box, so no toe cramming on downhills. Forces midfoot strike due to lack of heel.

The not so good: Relatively expensive for what you get. The Vibram sole wears out quickly. The inner liner is tearing apart. I have severely bruised my feet from trail running on rocky trails. Runs on concrete surfaces are knee killers because there is absolutely no cushion.

I really enjoy using them to run on sandy trails and hike short distances. It gets ugly, however, when the trail turns rocky since these soles offer little to no protection. I believe these are a great training aid but I would never attempt a muti-week hike or marathon in them. Could I do it? Of course, and many people have. Here's the thing, some hardcore folks like to sleep without a pad or air mattress. I happen to like my Neo-Air. Could I go without it to save weight? Sure. Same goes with my hiking shoes. My regular shoes offer more protection, are fairly lightweight, last longer, I don't look silly in them, and they don't hurt my feet during endurance hikes/runs. Let face it, there's a small percentage of people that have sledgehammer feet and they will tell you that if they can do it, so can you. They believe that all humans can run like the Tarhumara Indians and the fact is that you probably can't. I've run 23 marathons and I don't kid myself that I can compete with the Ethiopians and Kenyans by doing anything similar to what they do.

Final thoughts: I believe the perfect trail shoe is both lightweight and offers good protection from whatever the trail throws at you. These shoes are not that. They are fine shoes for shorter activities, training, and wearing around the house, but not recommended for endurance activities. I know the cult-like believers of barefoot shoes will be enraged to hear this but it's my opinion, get over yourself.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Minimalist Footwear for Summer Backpacking" on 06/11/2011 23:18:39 MDT Print View


It's official, when I grow up, I want to have legs like George. With trunks like those do you even need footwear? You could probably backpacking in high heels!

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: "Minimalist Footwear for Summer Backpacking" on 07/29/2011 20:22:25 MDT Print View

Follow up:

Vibram FiveFinger Treks VFF (since April)
Merrill Trail Gloves TG (since June)

Started off walking with the VFF up to about two hours. Then after a few weeks, started running little over six miles on Sat and Sun mornings. Running with TG since got them, alternating with the VFF.

Last week, gave them both their first good backpacking test. Was with wife so did low miles, but my pack weight was 29 lb on day one. Trails included hard rocky, snow, muddy, soft dirt, loose gravel. Was in Yosemite. First day was travel and walked around Valley. Day 2 from Tioga Rd to site near Indian Rock. Day 3 was loop by North Dome and then down and back up near Tioga Rd via trail along Lehamite Creek then down to footbridge over Snow Creek and south along creek to site. Day 4 was back to trail and then back over footbridge and then descending down to Valley via Mirror Lake. Day 5 was walking around Valley. So three good days on trail, 5 miles TGs, 7 miles VFFs, and 5 miles TGs.

My feet and legs did better than they ever have. For me, and I can only speak for my own results, these shoes are both amazing. I did not use poles. Was really in tune with my steps. Was a whole lot of fun. I love these things!

TG snow


snow vff trek

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
-- on 08/13/2011 02:16:34 MDT Print View

wrong thread

Edited by backpackerchick on 08/13/2011 02:38:53 MDT.

Brian Russo
(Bigbluehi) - F
VFFs on 11/01/2011 15:08:08 MDT Print View

I love my VFFs, have the KSO's and leather Trek LS'. They are incredibly comfortable and when I have to wear my leather moc's or shoes like Vans for going out I definitely miss the free feeling (I'm pretty comfortable with myself, but not enough to wear VFFs to a club).

They do have some QC issues, but frankly so does just about every other shoe I've worn so while I can't praise them here, I can't say they're worse either.

Your feet will get wet. Here on Oahu the Koolau hikes tend to get very muddy. The flipside is at trailheads where rinsing is available I have 90% clean shoes in 5-10 minutes that dry out very quickly. Toss them in the washing machine when you get home (or wash in sink) and you're good to go (Only applicable for the mesh versions).

As for the sole being thin.. well that's the point. I grew up mostly barefoot so have well-developed feet. I can certainly understand how people that are accustomed to shoes "providing support" need to build up their feet or elect not to and stick with more modern shoes. But this isn't a flaw of the shoe, anymore than it is a flaw of an UL pack that it can't take a 60 pound load without the seams splitting.

I have literally sprinted down a crater to escape a brush fire with police helicopters yelling at me while wearing VFFs. I did suffer a bruised heel (that I didn't notice until later due to adrenaline), but I can't say I would have been able to move as easily in a conventional shoe. With VFFs you won't drag your toes nor trip over them because they can flex properly.

(cuzzettj) - MLife

Locale: NorCal - South Bay
RE: "VFF" on 11/01/2011 15:41:07 MDT Print View

I have had these for a little over a year now. I have the trekking version. I where them all of the time. 4 weeks ago I sprained my ankle and the top of the outer foot. My boss won't let me where the VFF to work, so I suffer in pain all day in a good pair of Brooks. When I put the VFF back on after work and wear them on the weekend it is fantastic. NO PAIN. From an elevated tennis shoe back to a natural foot position, this injury is almost unnoticable in the Vibram Five Fingers...

I have been walking about 5 miles a day the last few weeks. I am not a runner. I am too big of a guy and have had a knee injury I worry about. It is also a reaccuring injury. Though, since I started using the VFF - The knee doesn't hurt...

Ugly, maybe; did the guys at work put up pictures of a Silver back gorilla the first time they saw them all over my cube? YES. Does my wife think they are embarassing. Why, absolutely!!!

VFF Forever!!!


Lou Renner
(lourenner) - F
Try some of THESE on 11/02/2011 15:05:25 MDT Print View

Through the toesalad site, I got turned on to Invisible Shoes sandals. They're a version of the huaraches sandals. About a minimalist as you can get, and weigh 3 ounces each. They were a great addition to my pack, perfect for when I didn't want to get my boots wet, and I ended up wearing them for much more of my hiking than I expected. I got really into how you can totally feel the ground when you wear them.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
cheap option on 11/06/2011 02:29:57 MST Print View

I have been interested in minimal footwear for a while now, but I didn't want to bang up my feet with the ultra thin stuff. I found a good middle ground that I have been using. I take a pair of van's sneakers, rip out the in/midsole (not easy because it is all glued) and put in a very thin insole.
It ends up with a somewhat thicker sole than some "barefoot" shoes, but it has been working for me. I don't feel the ground in the bad painful way, but the soles flex and allow to walk naturally.
When my current ones wear out, I am going to try the converse as coast sneaker (lighter and thinner than the regular chucks).