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Minimalist Footwear for Fall/Spring Backpacking
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George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: "High" mileage with minimalist shoes on 08/08/2011 18:30:37 MDT Print View


Another vote for 'doable' if going lighter.

>>30 lbs (12 + 15 + water)

I carried 29 lb on first day of a recent hike using VFF. My feet were fine. However, I did not do 25 mile days. Average was less than six miles per day with pack + a little running without pack.

Soon I will be doing higher mileage but with SUL base pack wt, and not more than 3 days of food (total 5 + 4.5 = about 10 lb)

IMO, as we age, if we want to hike more mileage then we need to really lighten our packs. My gut feel is that 25 mile days with close to 30 lb might be pushing the limits unless you are superman : )

Scott S
(sschloss1) - F

Locale: New England
small shoes - the science? on 08/08/2011 18:37:47 MDT Print View

I want to ask a more general question about minimalist shoes: is there any science behind using these shoes for hiking?

I'm a runner, and I've read a lot about the benefits of minimal running shoes. There's even some science to back up the claims of barefoot-type runners. But running is very different from hiking. So, can anyone point me to actual scientific studies of minimal hiking shoes?

FWIW, I'm extremely skeptical about minimal hiking shoes. I thru-hiked the PCT in very cushy NB trail runners (with custom orthotics) and had ZERO foot problems except for a few blisters. Why switch?

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: small shoes - the science? on 08/08/2011 19:50:06 MDT Print View

Science? My guess is that there is none.

So, why switch?

A combination of insanity and pure joy.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Re: small shoes - the science? on 08/08/2011 20:19:50 MDT Print View

No pain, no gain.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Running vs. Walking on 08/08/2011 22:10:54 MDT Print View


My question exactly. There has been a fair bit of analysis of the barefoot runner. A number of conclusions have been drawn regarding the natural running motion. Numerous books have been devoted to the subject, some of which are excellent reads. However, is walking different? And how? Are the footwear needs of walkers different? And how?

I walk and run. The motion is not the same. Does it matter in terms of footwear? I don't know.

Re: the hype about splay. How much do YOUR toes splay? Have a look.

Edited by backpackerchick on 08/08/2011 22:28:07 MDT.

Henk Smees
(theflyingdutchman) - MLife

Locale: Spanish Mountains
@George - "High" mileage on 08/09/2011 02:40:24 MDT Print View

Hi George,

>> IMO, as we age, if we want to hike more mileage then we need to really lighten our packs <<

Indeed, the older we get, the more complicated it becomes to do high mileage with heavy packs (‘heavy’ meant -in early days- a total weight of over 25 kgs - 55 lbs). Then the time came my body -especially my knees- was telling me I had to either (1) give up walking or (2) get the pack weight down or (3) do very low mileage. I wasn’t willing to do either 1 or 3, so that’s why I started reading about going UL. As I said before, I’ve managed so far to go as low as 11 - 13 lbs, but I’m convinced I’ll get it down to 8 - 9 lbs (hopefully even less). As most of us, I’ve created a spreadsheet with my gear list but, taking it a step further, I also created a spreadsheet with my menu. It isn’t completely finished yet but the idea is being able to alter the ‘ingredients’ of my menu and instantly getting back the changes in calories (this part is ready), as well as the protein, carbs and fat proportions. So far, this has enabled me to get about 3000 cal out of 700 gr (1.5 lbs) of food per day and I’m trying to get the same calories at an even lower weight, with a ‘perfect’ balance of Prot/Carb/Fat proportions.

>> My gut feel is that 25 mile days with close to 30 lb might be pushing the limits unless you are superman :) <<

I’m certainly not superman and have been doing high mileage with the initial 30 lbs on my back [first days: lower miles; towards the end (less food), higher miles] with the mentioned sandals. And I was fine. That’s why I wanted to know whether it would be possible to do the same -eventually, after the required training period- with the minimalist shoes.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
"One pound on the foot equals 5 pounds on the back." on 08/09/2011 03:08:24 MDT Print View

I'm not sure this has been subject to rigorous testing.

Flyingdutchman, if you subscribe to this old adage, one should ultimately be able to go FURTHER in lighter shoes than in heavier shoes. What do you think?

Edited by backpackerchick on 08/09/2011 03:11:38 MDT.

Henk Smees
(theflyingdutchman) - MLife

Locale: Spanish Mountains
Re: One pound on the foot equals 5 pounds on the back on 08/09/2011 06:34:30 MDT Print View

I have heard about this adage and I’m pretty sure there will be some truth in same. Having said so, I don’t know whether this works for everybody or not. I can only talk for myself, but I must say that I’ve never had any problems with my legs, not even after very long days (up to 40 – 45 miles; the longest distance I’ve walked in a day was 56 miles, but that was without a pack and I was 35 years younger then). I’m convinced that the combination of both training and genetics (probably the latter is more important), has been the reason why my body has developed such strong leg muscles and that’s why they never let me down. Whenever I’ve had to give up, or slow down, it has always been because my lungs couldn’t deliver the oxygen required for the exercise or my feet couldn’t cope with being confined in those heavy boots.

What I’m trying to explain is that I don’t see myself being able to walk a lot more by just bringing down the weight of the shoes from about 13 oz. (each of my actual Columbia Titanium Torrent, size 46EU ≈ 12.5USA) to -how much- 8oz.?? 6oz.?? for some minimalist shoes. Don’t know how much these would weigh, but I can’t see it makes that much of a difference whilst my legs seem to be able to cope, without any problems, with a lot more weight. As a matter of fact, they even do well with my extremely heavy weight, double, winter mountaineering boots [I use a pair of Salomon Prothermic, which at size 47EU ≈ 14USA weigh in at 2640+543(innerboots) = 3183gr ≈ 7lbs].

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: @George - "High" mileage on 08/09/2011 12:14:41 MDT Print View


My gut feel was for minimalist shoes. Not what you've been doing.

Maybe you claim not to be superman with your sandals, but we will call you Clark Kent then. : )

Backpacking with minimalist shoes will have limits, however, I do not believe enough backpackers have hiked enough miles to establish a relevant range. Maybe 25 lb pack and 20 mile days, or maybe 15 lb pack and 25 mile days. Who knows.

I think those like us here, young and old, will be the ones who venture into this fringe to find out. Next August, my bet is that we all will know alot more about our limits.

Starting with strong feet/legs is a big plus during the transition to minimalist shoes. Beginning without carrying a pack seems like a good strategy. Follow with day hikes and 1-3 nighters with a light pack. Then maybe go week+ long where food will increase weight near 30 lb. For example I know I can hike about six miles a day with that weight for a few days. But could I go a week or more?

Soon I will let you know what I can do with about 10 lb pack.

Sorry, rather than answering your question, I asked more questions. : )

Henk Smees
(theflyingdutchman) - MLife

Locale: Spanish Mountains
Probably better of with another pair of sandals. on 08/09/2011 14:24:22 MDT Print View

Superman or Clark Kent??? ... Just TFD ... LOL ... Although...... The ‘Flying’ part of this acronym is a reminiscence of earlier, long forgotten years. I think I should find another nick ‘cause I can’t live up to this one anymore. What a pity - getting older. Having said so... NOT getting older is worse, isn’t it?? :)

- Sorry for the OFF TOPIC -

I think I’ll go ahead with the Salomon Tech Amphibian and maybe get some VFF as well. This way I can do some testing and find out for myself. Still interested in finding out what one -you- can do with a 10 lb pack.

Edited by theflyingdutchman on 08/09/2011 14:29:27 MDT.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Gore-tex socks and Crampons on 08/11/2011 01:24:15 MDT Print View

Both were mentioned in the article.

Can someone elaborate a bit.

Waterproof socks: I have tried socks by sealskinz (the US licensee, Looks like the UK site as an entire line of more technical socks for various uses) and Serius. Bummers! The are not formfitting. They might work if you sized your shoe up a full size but they would still be baggy and wrinkly.

Crampons? I am at a total loss. In the last few weeks, I have tried several of the lighter trail runners. For example, Inov-8 Bare Grip is one I like -- probably more for running than walking. You put crampos on this shoe? Which ones? Where do you go with this arrangement -- what type of terrain. How do you feel? And how does the shoe hold up after a few days?

BPL has a lot of good articles. But sometime things aren't clarified very well. "I like this shoe because I can put crampons on it." Yeah, and where do you go with this set up and does the shoe survive? Do you feel secure?

Edited by backpackerchick on 08/11/2011 01:41:37 MDT.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Re: One pound on the foot equals 5 pounds on the back on 08/11/2011 01:38:53 MDT Print View

Now, taking a pound off your feet so you can add five pounds to your back doesn't really intrigue me! There seem to be a number of posts here about lightening footwear to increase pack weight. I think there is something to be said for this old wisdom but why not just enjoy the weight savings?

Martin RJ Carpenter
(MartinCarpenter) - F
Walking on 08/11/2011 06:35:21 MDT Print View

Thats got me interested too. Flexible/light very much has effects when walking, but I'm far less sure if cushioning does.

Uphill (steep) I certainly don't use my heels at all even in cushioned running shoes, downhill you just want secure really and do you ever heel strike very much when walking?

Cushioning not missed on peat of course, but certainly nice when you run into extensive bits of made vehicle tracks, tarmac etc. Although I'd almost get as worried by how the grippy sole units on some of these would just get worn to dust by that sort of stuff....

I'd guess the peregines might be too cushioned to count?!

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Peregrines not minimalist but... on 08/11/2011 09:03:20 MDT Print View

Just got some. Gonna wait a day for a 1/2 size larger before taking them out on the trail. They are pretty beasty overall --rigid shoes with serious tread. Wouldn't want to run in them -- way too stiff. One thing they have going for them IMO is that they are relatively flat heel-toe! They have some firm cushion. They certainly are not barefoot/minimalist. I think a lot people are going to like them...for walking. I am happy with more minimalist trail running shoes for trail running. I am not convinced that the principles of barefoot running are completely applicable to backpacking.

Edited by backpackerchick on 08/11/2011 09:15:08 MDT.

Henk Smees
(theflyingdutchman) - MLife

Locale: Spanish Mountains
Lightening footwear to increase pack weight??? ----- NO WAY!!! Enjoy weight savings??? YES!!! on 08/11/2011 09:39:11 MDT Print View

Hello Hartley,

>> Now, taking a pound off your feet so you can add five pounds to your back doesn't really intrigue me! There seem to be a number of posts here about lightening footwear to increase pack weight. I think there is something to be said for this old wisdom but why not just enjoy the weight savings? <<

Totally agree. As I said, I know the adage but I never ever thought of using weight reduction of shoes to increase pack weight (and I don’t think anyone in the UL-community will). As a matter of fact, I think it’s just the other way around: If you don’t reduce pack weight you won’t be able to reduce the weight of the shoes and that’s the reason of my question (will I be able to use minimalist shoes if my initial pack weight is around 30 lbs?).

If I can’t do that, the solution is easy: (1) I’ll have to forget about minimalist shoes; or (2) I’ll have to get the pack weight down; or (3) get more re-supply points. (Mind you: I’m not talking about ‘increasing’ pack weight!) To address point (3) first: If I can get away for 10 days in the mountains, I want to be able to walk wherever I want to -- I don’t want to having to walk from one re-supply point to another, so I’ll have to take ALL my food (for 10 days) as from day one. At 1.5 lb per day, that means 15 lbs of food. So, even after shaving off every ounce of my base weight and bringing it down to 8 pounds, I’m still left with an initial pack weight of 25 lbs (I only count 1 liter of water and I haven’t added the rest of the consumables, so it's likely to be more). And that was the reason of my initial question: Is this doable in minimalist shoes?

According to the answers from other posters this seems difficult, so that’s why I’ve decided -more or less:)- to stick with sandals for the time being. I’ll probably buy some VFF too, to try to make an effort to transition -very slowly- into wearing minimalist shoes so I can find out for myself.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Lightening footwear to increase pack weight??? and walk vs run on 08/11/2011 10:56:58 MDT Print View

Increased weight! - that is like kryptonite to TFD. I agree NO WAY.


walk vs run form - it depends...

Consider a continuum. Walking slowing on one end, running fast on the other.


I would agree that walking and running are quite different at the opposite ends. Slowly walking versus sprinting. However, someone like me who walks fast and runs slow, the only difference is cadence.

My gait in both has the same: form, midfoot, lean from ankles, head up, and upright posture. Just faster steps when running. And both feet off the ground between strides when running versus one foot on ground between strides when walking.

Carrying a pack while walking fast all day with minimalist shoes is unknown territory for me.

I've tried low miles (6 mpd) with no problems carrying about 30 lb. No problems.

My theory is that minimalist shoes will work better the lighter your pack is if you want to hike at a good pace all day long (20+ mile days). I believe <20 lb for +20 miles or somewhere +/- few lbs and miles.

Here's what I want to test: minimalist shoes work for lightweight backpackers who hike all day.

I will get back with you later next week with the results of my first test.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Running not just fast walking on 08/11/2011 11:21:55 MDT Print View

I do not subscribe to the idea of a "continuum" with speed being the differentiating factor between walking and running. No. The mechanics are not the same. The first few slides of the powerpoint presentation clearly outline the fundamental differences between walking and running: If you have access to MEDLINE, you will find a large body of literature devoted to the subject.

Edited by backpackerchick on 08/11/2011 11:54:17 MDT.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: Running not just fast walking on 08/11/2011 12:48:25 MDT Print View

Agreed. If running were fast walking, there'd be no reason to hate running as much as I do! Walking good. Running not so much. Although, having adjusted my stride makes it, if not enjoyable, at least no longer painful.

John Harper
(johnnyh88) - MLife

Locale: The SouthWest
Re: Also not convinced on 08/11/2011 13:14:14 MDT Print View

I'm also not convinced that minimalist shoes are ideal for backpacking. Your bones are a porous solid and they will remodel when exposed to continuous, increased stress levels (where stress is force per unit area). Basically, your bone density increases giving it more material to handle the increased force. The rest of your tissue/muscle does something similar but more complex (it grows in size and remodels). If you give your bones enough time to respond, they can remodel themselves to a point where they can handle the new increased stress that will be applied to them by minimalist shoes. However, the new stress level could be greater than what your bones can physically remodel to. What this limit is depends on your age, your weight, your pack weight, mileage, terrain, stride, etc.

My point is that even with a gradual transition (which is necessary for most people) and a new stride, minimalist shoes may not work for backpacking for every body. I think that a small amount of cushioning could be very beneficial for when heel striking on level, hard ground.

I've been using the Peregrines for about a month now and really like them. I love the grip and the amount of protection I get for their weight. I really wish Saucony made a more minimal version of the Peregrine, but they don't, so I'm going to give the new NB MT 20s a try soon and see how they work out. I'm hoping they will be the perfect combination of protection, comfort, and minimalism that I'm looking for.

(I'm a mechanical engineer developing a new program to simulate growth and remodeling in the body for my master's thesis, so this kind of stuff is constantly on my mind)

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
NB MT Minimus 20 vs. Peregrine -- Different Categories on 08/11/2011 14:03:06 MDT Print View

In the last couple weeks I have tried about 30 shoes. I order them from places that guarantee your purchase -- RRS, REI, Several of the Inov-8 models I had to order from Zappos which isn't one of those places with a liberal return policy although they do have free shipping both ways. Some I try on, take off and and pack up immediately, some make it to the treadmill and then the one's with potential go to the trail. I am shopping for trail running shoes and backpacking shoes -- separate categories as far as I'm concerned.

I think Peregrine is going to be a popular backpacking shoe for a lot of people!

I took a couple runs on on the trail in the MT Trail Minimus, a little slipper that will stop heel striking immediately -- negative feedback. The Minimus 20 is less snug than the first Trail Minimus with a wide forefoot and the same sole material as the Trail Minimus -- a seemingly decorative pattern that is slightly sticky. It appears quite delicate overall. It did not make it as far as the treadmill. I would not consider Minumus 20 and Peregrine in the same category. Peregrine is somewhat Salomon-like without the high "ramp angle".

BTW, running in minimal shoes wasn't much of a transition for me. For road runners I am using NB Road Minimus (I have the NB Minimus Life too -- oh so nerdy!) -- highly recommend. Nothing radical just flat and light. If anything, I think such shoes are a good way to improve your running. Walking on the other hand...

Edited by backpackerchick on 08/11/2011 15:35:16 MDT.