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Minimalist Footwear for Fall/Spring Backpacking
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Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
"Natural"? on 08/06/2011 03:30:24 MDT Print View

Where does "natural" fit into the classification scheme?

Yeah, Five Fingers allow toes to splay. You got to splay 'em to get'em in. Don't allow toes to un-splay!! They could probably justify their own category.

Many months to years? To go from where to where? Pretty much going cold turkey (About 5 weeks in) from Performance Neutral (an RRS classification) to "Minimalist"-- tail running, trail walking, road running and even minimalist for hacking about --check out the nerdy NB minimus casual). Close to the earth at all times! Starting to get back in shape after a significant back injury so mileage is low -- Mostly 5 miles runs 2000ft elev change. Bit more distance on the road. Would like to at least double that in a couple weeks:) Posture much better, thoracic spine feel much better in flat light shoe! Balanced and quick to react. Heel strike disappeared -- it hurts to do it :)

Postman came today with a few options...think I'm gonna like these

Edited by backpackerchick on 08/06/2011 17:07:07 MDT.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: "Barefoot" vs. "Minimalist" for backpackers on 08/06/2011 04:22:39 MDT Print View

>> It's beautiful.

AMEN! My Brother.

Damien's BPL article last Spring changed my life. Really. I owe you both - big time!

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Re: "Barefoot" vs. "Minimalist" for backpackers on 08/06/2011 08:01:08 MDT Print View

Another thought when transitioning...

You need to spend some time and effort on your gait. I recommend you begin by looking at anatomy drawings and pictures of the human foot. Learn the bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, etc. Know what is under your the sweaty skin of your feet. Look at the leg infrastructure, too. You can go to Google Books and find such information in Grey's Anatomy. The versions are decades old, but I believe our feet have not changed - but shoes sure have : )

Next, read about walking and running gait. What works for you? For me, what works is:
1. Upright, head up and eyes looking ahead
2. Forward lean from the ankles (during running it is like I'm falling forward - and I would fall if I weren't running)
3. Legs spinning like the Road Runner cartoon (not that fast yet - beep beep)
4. Feet land under hips - no over striding!
5. Foot strike mid foot - my target is a bit on outside part of foot - right behind the little toe
6. Experiment with going faster
7. Pay very close attention to any warnings your feet, legs, back, etc are giving you
8. Smile and enjoy the walk/run

Believe. You can do it. Some require more time than others to transition. But we can all do it. It's like our feet were designed to do this : )

Minimalist has been a very good thing for me. Thanks to BPL and articles like Damien's. GREAT VALUE!

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Start with "Born to Run" on 08/06/2011 12:23:57 MDT Print View

Or you can start with "Born to Run", an excellent read, and go from there. McDougall sites some great sources. Memorizing anatomical structures from a textbook is futile. Even if you have good skeleton models and cadavers to work with, I doubt such efforts will help your running much.

With a good surgeon and fastidious rehab later, patients have come back from severe crush injuries to the foot and ankle in less than 18 months to run long distances. To suggest that a fit walker can't get a bit closer to the earth and make a few tweaks that should feel natural in a relatively short period of time is absurd.

For those wearing Inov-8 190s, 200s or similar type shoes for "backpacking", are you using the stock liner or some other footbed...or neither? Any other mods?

Edited by backpackerchick on 08/06/2011 12:30:55 MDT.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Re Re "Minimalist" vs "Barefoot" for backpackers on 08/06/2011 12:49:57 MDT Print View

Ryan you make a good point but I'm curious about a few things.
First off it seems most of the "barefoot" crowd is forefoot striking when they run and hike, I certainly do when I use my Merrell Trail Gloves. Does this still work in a minimalist shoe like the Innov8 200 thats lighter but tight in the toes. If your toes have less room to spread around how much is that going to affect your stride? If it does change your stride from what a barefoot stride would be are you defeating the whole purpose of a minimalist or barefoot shoe.

I am stuck with really wide toes so its difficult for me to find shoes that aren't somewhat constricting on the toes. I used to use Adidas that were a bit snug there but I was also coming down hard on my heel and occasionally getting sore knees on longer hikes. Now I use Merrell Trail Gloves and New Balances 101s. I land gently on my heal but mostly my weight lands on my forefoot. Both of these shoes have wide toe boxes. I would love to try a pair of Innov8s or La Sportiva X-Countries but when I try them on even sizing up I just feel like my toes won't be able to move as much. Anyone have insight on this?

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Minimalist Footwear for Fall/Spring Backpacking on 08/06/2011 13:44:56 MDT Print View

I am a big fan of classic vans or chucks. More their style though, they are not very durable the days and can cause occasional hot spots. But I have hiked so far and for so long in just classic vans. They are perfect for me.
These are my dream shoes:

Rick Donnelly
(rdonnelly) - MLife

Locale: New Mexico
Nike SFB Mid Boot also a good candidate on 08/06/2011 22:09:55 MDT Print View

I've been running up and down the Sandias and in the Grand Canyon in a pair of Nike SFB Mid Boots. My feet run towards narrow but I've had no problems with them. They're not as durable as I had hoped, and since Nike has discontinued the Mid size I'm in the hunt for another pair rather than moving up to their full size boot. But they were comfy right out of the box, and surprisingly faithful to the barefoot comfort I've grown used to in my KSOs and Merrill Tough Gloves. What sets the SFB's apart for me are how well they handle rocky trails. They've been as protective of my feet as my Salomon Fastpackers but more comfortable and a lot more anatomically correct. I cannot measure the heel lift in them, if they have it, but subjectively the last seems a lot flatter than regular hiking boots I've worn. I really like them, but wish Nike would make them in civilian rather than military khaki color and actually stock them. They're not in the least bit stylish but the comfort more than makes up for it.

Everett Vinzant
(wn7ant) - MLife

Locale: CDT
Vibram 5 Fingers on 08/07/2011 07:37:55 MDT Print View

I've been 5k training in a pair of Vibram 5 Fingers Bikila's. I decided to go with the KSO Trek for 3 season backpacking. This worked for me because I had done training in the Bikila's. When I first went to this style of shoe, I ran in them for a couple miles. This was a huge mistake. My calves cramped so badly that I couldn't walk up or down a flight of stairs for a week (couldn't run either). Morale of the story is that if you are going to transition, do so slowly so that your body has time to adjust. I chose these shoes because I had problems with my knees, hips, and lower back. By running on the front 1/3 (approx) of my foot, I turned the muscles of my foot, ankle, and calves into another shock absorber "system" in my leg (added to the rest of the leg). I'm beginning 10k training next week, and marathon training 8 to 10 weeks after that.

I'm going to try climbing in these shoes too. I've done some bouldering with outstanding results. I manipulate my toes like I would my fingers to wrap around small grips. I can also transfer most of my weight to my big toe (and the toe next to it) when I need a "point." I know there are lots of climbers that do it barefoot, so I don't imagine this is a terrible idea.

As for pain with these shoes, I've had none (aside from the first two mile experience). No blisters, no foot injuries, no pain in knees, or lower back, etc. In fact, this has strengthened my ankles, and I no longer have problems with rolling them.

What I didn't like about the shoes: I haven't found the answer to that question yet. They're light and comfortable (approx 12 oz size 45 (U.S. 10)). I wish they made an "aqua sock" version for swimming.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Minimalist Footwear for Fall/Spring Backpacking" on 08/07/2011 10:24:45 MDT Print View

New Balance is releasing the new MT110 in the fall, they've improved the traction significantly on the outsole in comparison to its' predecessor the MT101, they're also claiming a "broader" width in the toebox but not ridiculously wide as to compromise performance and protection. The rubber compound on the outsole is supposedly going to be "tackier" and more supple than the 101's for better traction on rock surface. The stack height in heel is 18mm and 14mm in the toebox, so they've reduced the 10mm heel/toe drop found in the older MT101 down to a nice 4mm drop in the upcoming model.

The stiff rock plate found in the forefoot of the MT101 has been toned down some for the new model, and the heel counter on the upper which seemed to give some people blister issues has been eliminated.

Concerning the upper, Anton Krupicka, mountain running god, who has developed the shoe from its infancy years ago alongside NB stated he got over 500+ miles of trail running in the CO mountains without nearly a wink of breakdown in the MT110's upper, many of those miles were in winter with Kahtoola spikes. That's pretty dang good considering the shoe is quite a bit less expensive than most of the other "minimalist" shoes out there which are in the $100+ range.

I'm pretty excited about this shoe.

The Saucony Peregrine is a shoe that should have been included in this article, these are proving to be most excellent in my experience so far.

Edited by Eugeneius on 08/07/2011 10:27:32 MDT.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Since someone mentioned Vibram Five Fingers on 08/07/2011 12:29:29 MDT Print View

Rehabbing a back injury, I thought it would be a great time to experiment with more minimalist shoes as I'm not doing much mileage anyway. I really like the flatness of some of these shoes -- I am convinced they enable to me to maintain the normal curves of the spine a bit easier. They are not so kind to heel strikers so I am quickly breaking the habit.

Transitioning from typical "performance neutral" shoes to NB Minimus and Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 and others is not turning out to be much of a transition. A bit less cushioning perhaps. However, I am stumped by the Five Fingers Bikala (Women's 37). Running errands in these and simply walking a few minutes on a treadmill is a chore. Just to get it on, I must manually splay my toes much further than they would naturally splay while weight bearing in any situation. Once in, they are effectively locked in this position (like the toe separator they put between your toes when you get a pedicure). I tried on a couple of the KSO models and they seemed to pull the toes still further apart. What must be my dorsal metatarsal ligaments get quite sore from this pulling. Is this a desired effect?

Allowing the toes to splay sounds reasonable. But shouldn't the toes be allowed to return to their relaxedl un-splayed state during the non weight bearing phases so they can splay again on the next impact? Perhaps not? I am afraid Five Fingers are going back to REI. Am I giving up to easily?

Edited by backpackerchick on 08/07/2011 12:48:59 MDT.

tommy d
(vinovampire) - F
Re: "Barefoot" vs. "Minimalist" for backpackers on 08/07/2011 14:00:32 MDT Print View

George - Great suggestions for people looking to transition to minimalist footwear. My suspicion is that many people who "bruise" their feet in minimalist footwear are actually straining their arches, and not actually "bruising." It seems like an issue with their gait, not the ground or the footwear. So, your suggestions should be very useful.

As I've made the transition, I found that it's all about modifying your gait - body upright, bent knees, feet under hips, and faster cadence steps. Also, a mid-foot strike just as you describe, right behind the little toe. But, don't walk on your toes. Bending your ankles and stepping down lightly is especially important over miles of sharp, loose rock.


Also, I've found that minimalist shoes excel on steep rock. My TrekSports really allow me to get my toes into cracks, while having just enough support in the sole.


I've worn these TrekSprots on snow and ice. The biggest issue in those conditions, really is insulation. I need to play around with it some more this Fall. I've been thinking about combining them with a Forty Below overboot, like the Light Energy.

Edited by vinovampire on 08/07/2011 14:01:22 MDT.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Re: "Barefoot" vs. "Minimalist" for backpackers on 08/07/2011 19:24:51 MDT Print View


Looks like we are figuring this stuff out : ). Agree with you about people straining their arches. Our feet are amazing devices, but just like everything else in life, we need to learn how to use them properly if we minimize our shoes. Gaining an understanding about our anatomy and analysis of our gait is not for everyone. I'm four months into my transition and am quite delighted with my progress. I'm only transitioning because it is making my life better. I can run now 6+ miles and enjoy it. Years ago I'd given up on running because it was like suffering to me and I'd hurt all over afterwards.

I backpacked recently on a lot of hard rock, loose stuff, a little snow, a bit of mud, etc. I did low miles because I was with my wife, but carried some decent weight. I did ankle stretching when I first woke in the morning before I got up - dorsiflexion and plantarflexion. Also, got to put the feet in very, cold water (snow melt) at least once a day. I had enough in my feet/legs to run a couple of miles without my pack after we were done hiking for the day.

Over the next couple of months, I going to hike some 1-3 nighters. Will have a very light pack and try to get up to about 20 or so miles per day. No pressure on myself. I will stop sooner if my feet tell they've had enough.

Don't know about insulation. Have not been able to find much about that. I will look at the Light Energy.

Let's keep learning and doing and sharing!

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: Since someone mentioned Vibram Five Fingers on 08/07/2011 21:43:33 MDT Print View

Hartley, I had the same problems. I don't think I have the right shaped toes for VFFs. Could be b/c they're short, so the angles between them are greater when the shoe is on than they would be for someone with longer toes. In any case, I found them really uncomfortable.

tommy d
(vinovampire) - F
Re: Re: Re: "Barefoot" vs. "Minimalist" for backpackers on 08/07/2011 21:51:14 MDT Print View

George - Yup, I agree. We're on our way to figuring it out. ;-)

I've been thinking more and more about the idea that (generally) the human body is not an inherently flawed "design" that needs to be "fixed." Instead, we need to "start from zero" AKA a naked human body and then build from that point as needs present themselves. To ween myself from footwear, I've been hiking barefoot and using minimalist footwear this year. All of my trips have been in northern New England, from nice flat trails to across the ridge of the Presidential Range, through mud and snow melt, across roots and rocks.


Unfortunately, I'm stuck in town until September, while I finish my degree. But, beginning in September, I'll be back to my regular levels of hiking and backpacking and running. As I learn more, I'll be sure to share it here.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
If your feet look like FIve Fingers... on 08/07/2011 22:39:29 MDT Print View

Spelt --

Yeah, that's the scoop -- they're hit or miss. If your feet look like the Five Fingers, that is If your feet are that wide across the ball of the foot and your toes approximate the size and shape of Vibram toes (short and stubby), perhaps they're a hit. I have long thin toes.

That being said, a lot people are modifying them in various ways. There are forums devoted to this. I like the concept and they're cute and fun but I can't be bothered with mods at this point. If a model comes out that appears to better approximate the dimensions of my feet, perhaps I'll give them another go :)

Edited by backpackerchick on 08/07/2011 22:42:20 MDT.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Minimalist Footwear for Fall/Spring Backpacking" on 08/07/2011 22:58:46 MDT Print View

For VFF to make a "shoe" that assumes the anatomical makeup of everyones foot is homogenous is a joke IMO, the evolving closet of near barefoot and minimalist shoes that forego the gimmicky toe pockets of the VFF in favor of a broader toebox are proving you don't really need them.... the toe condoms that is.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Other Options on 08/08/2011 01:29:32 MDT Print View

I'm over it :) FFs attract way too much attention anyway. The brief period I tried them, I was like wearing a conversation piece even here in Pasadena. Can you imagine tramping in them abroad! So just as well I'm not of FF dimensions :) In the last couple weeks, I've tried so many "minimalist" offerings. I have a large stack for UPS tomorrow! I like that so many of these are flat -- same height forefoot and heel or just a slight stack height.

Edited by backpackerchick on 08/08/2011 01:36:52 MDT.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: "Minimalist Footwear for Fall/Spring Backpacking" on 08/08/2011 06:55:19 MDT Print View


LOL - toe condoms - still LOL : )


Good luck. You will find your golden shoe! I had trouble when I first got my VFF. Now they slip right on. My little toe took a bit longer than my other little piggies, but now goes wee-wee-wee all the way home when I put them on.


I also like Trail Gloves. But they look like clown shoes if you really look down at them. When you think more about this subject, our feet are pretty funny looking, too. Study your naked feet for a few minutes when you need a good laugh. I don't think anyone ever texts pictures of their feet to their sweethearts.

Henk Smees
(theflyingdutchman) - MLife

Locale: Spanish Mountains
"High" mileage with minimalist shoes on 08/08/2011 11:42:24 MDT Print View

Hi all.

I have a -for me- important question about minimalist shoes...... But, let’s explain my situation first: Over the last few years, I’ve been transitioning into lighter packs, although I haven’t been able to get the base weight into the UL-figures -yet :)-. At the moment, for three season use, it’s in between 5 and 6 kgs (11 – 13 lbs.) but I’m confident I’ll be able to get it into the single digits with a few more MYOG alterations I have in mind (I’m hoping to achieve an 8 or 9 lbs. base weight).

At the same time I’ve changed my shoes as well. All my life (I’m nearly sixty now) I’ve been walking in sturdy, heavy, semi-rigid mountain boots, because that’s what you were supposed to do when venturing into the mountains; at the moment (except in mid-winter) I do exactly the same as I did before, but use sandals (Columbia Titanium Torrent) instead of the fore-mentioned boots. I have to admit this has taken quite a while: I started with some mid height trekking boots, then went to lower boots, changed into XC Trainers and my last acquisition (over 1 year ago) was the pair of before mentioned water sandals.

With every change my feet became happier and now, with the sandals, they are delighted. Where before, with the heavy boots they felt miserable and in pain at the end of the day, now they seem to be able to keep on walking and walking and walking. Only once a blister was developed and that, I think, was because I really went too quick (was in a haste to get to the end of a trail at an agreed time). At my age I don’t run anymore -I don’t even walk at a quick pace-, but I do walk from dawn till dusk which means I’m getting about 20 to 30 miles out of each day (depending on elevation gain) and that’s what my question is about:

Since my actual Columbia Torrent' are -nearly- ready for retirement, I was thinking of getting the Tech Amphibian (Salomon); these are still sandals but they have a mesh covering to help keep debrish out (quite an advantage over 'normal' sandals). Now, after reading this very informative article, I wouldn't mind undertaking another change in my walking-habits, but...... What about doing the kind of mileage explained before in minimalist or barefoot shoes? When answering this question it’s important to bear in mind that my “adventures” in the backcountry normally last about 1 to 2 weeks; this means, on a “normal” hike (1 week to 10 days), I carry ALL my food (10 days = around 15 lbs.) for the whole trip in my pack from the beginning (if the trip is 2 weeks, I’d organize same in such a way I’ll have a re-supply point somewhere half way). All this means that my initial starting weight (base weight + consumables + water) -at this moment- for a 10-day trip gets up to a considerable 30 lbs (12 + 15 + water). Even WHEN I get the base weight down to 8 or 9 lbs. (note I didn’t say IF, because I’m sure I’ll be able to), the total initial weight will not be less than 25 lbs (8 + 15 + water). Once again, is this “doable” with minimalist or barefoot shoes?

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
small shoes, big miles on 08/08/2011 12:04:00 MDT Print View

"Once again, is this “doable” with minimalist or barefoot shoes?"

Yes, with the sort of mindful transition mentioned above. IMO the speed of that transition depends a lot on individual variation. Listen to your body and you should be fine.

A sort of step down shoe might be a good idea. Something like a Sportiva Crossleather or Fireblade or Salmon Speedcross, light but with some rigidity.