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Minimalist Footwear for Fall/Spring Backpacking
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Henk Smees
(theflyingdutchman) - MLife

Locale: Spanish Mountains
Which soles for DIY minimalist sandals? on 08/19/2011 07:43:19 MDT Print View

Hi Damien,

Sorry for not coming back to you earlier.

>> Since you already are a sandal user, maybe you could continue in the vein, but with trail sandals instead? You could experiment with Huaraches (Luna makes some out of varying thicknesses and cushioning) and you may also want to try out the Teva Zilch as well. <<

Since I really like my Columbia sandals (except for the debris coming in), I had decided to either have a more open sandal (where the debris could escape from as fast as it comes in), in which case something like the Teva Zilch could be appropriate or, as I said before, have something like the Tech Amphibians (which would completely avoid any debris coming in), but these wouldn't be minimalst.

As a matter of fact, I’ve been working on some home-made (open) sandals. I call these my TFD-sandals (TheFlyingDutchman). When I first started (a few month’ ago) I wanted these to be really sturdy (bullet-proof) and I also wanted to the sole to be thick (and rigid) enough so that me feet wouldn’t feel anything protruding from the ground. That’s why I decided to make the sandals out of heavy genuine leather (upper sole and straps) and I wanted to use a car tire to make a rubber outer sole (the one in contact with the ground). I would be using acetal side release buckles to secure the straps. This is what I had made so far (stopped when I read your first article about minimalist shoes):

My TFD sandals (not finished yet):
TFD sandals 1

TFD sandals 2

TFD sandals 3 (car-tire sole)

For “qualifying” my TFD sandals (MYOG) as a minimalist shoe, I would think it has many things in favor: 0mm heel lift, no arch support at all, no toe-box (therefore unrestricted spread/splay), no cushioning but...... even though there is no cushioning, as you can see, the outer sole (last picture) is quite thick (and it’s VERY rigid too), so...... no ground feel AT ALL. This, I think, would make my sandals NOT appropriate as a minimalist sandal. Because of this sole these sandalas are also quite heavy.

OK. To the point: To make my “creature” into a minimalist sandal, I’ve been thinking of forgetting about my “car tire”-sole and buy a ready-made (maybe Vibram) sole. This one should, of course, be very thin and very flexible, so this is my question: Which sole would you recommend?

Just one more clarification: As you’ve seen in my previous interventions, my goal is long-distance, multi-day (non supported & no-resupply) hikes (25-30 miles/day for 1-2 weeks) with an initial load of 25-30lbs (including ALL the consumables for the whole trip). Do I go for the thin, flexible sole or might I be better off with the (better?) protection of my “car-tire”-sole?

Sorry for being a nuisance, but I don’t know how to proceed. Many thanks in advance.

Damien Tougas
(dtougas) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Gaspé Peninsula
Re: Which soles for DIY minimalist sandals? on 08/19/2011 08:41:51 MDT Print View

Henk, that is a very cool project you are working on. I think that a sole you would be very interested in trying is the new one made by Invisible Shoes. They just released a special purpose-built rubber sandal sole for their huarache kits, they are available in 4mm (Connect kit) and 6mm (Contact kit) thicknesses. I think these would be an idea candidate. You can buy them here:

You might also be interested in this thread on my Toe Salad site where one of the forum members is considering using that sole for her custom sandal project. That thread can be found here:

Keep me in the loop on your project, I would love to see where this goes.

Steven Sashen
( - F
Re: Re: Which soles for DIY minimalist sandals? on 08/19/2011 10:56:42 MDT Print View

One of the misconceptions I see in the minimalist footwear world at the moment is when people think the technology (or lack thereof) is, inherently, the answer. It's not.

It's a combination of YOU, and your style of walking/hiking/running AND the technology.

For example, some people LOVE wearing our 4mm Connects when they hike, because the sensation is just like being barefoot... if they covered your trail in 4mm of flexible, comfortable rubber (4mm is not a lot, mind you, but it takes the edge off).

Others like the 6mm Contact because they have slightly less ground-feel.

And other people want a big, thick, inflexible sole, because feeling the ground is the LAST thing they want when they're on a trail (a sentiment echoed by a few ultra-trail runners I know).

The opportunity that minimalist/barefoot products provide is to use the feelings/sensations you have (that is, pain), to help you learn to change your gait to one that doesn't cause pain... and in doing so, move in a more what might be a more efficient, healthier manner.

Plus, feeling the world is a lot of fun for some of us. ;-)

So, sadly, there's no way to say "Oh, you want to walk the across the country in a week with a 200-lb pack balanced on your head? Here's the shoe for that!" The answer depends on your STYLE and preferences rather than your goal.

I hope that's helpful in some way.

Henk Smees
(theflyingdutchman) - MLife

Locale: Spanish Mountains
Invisible soles (Contact) on 08/19/2011 12:55:10 MDT Print View

Hi Damien,

After a few e-mails between Steven (Invisible Shoes) and me, I decided to go for the Contact Soles DIY Kit. This gives me the opportunity to start making the Huaraches and use these as they are. I'll take my time to, little by little, transition into the minimalist style.

If it won't work out because I don't like to "feel the world" or the total load on my feet gets too much (220 -myself- + 30 -initial packweight-), especially for the type of hikes I do, I can always take the Huaraches apart and use the sole to glue this to my leather inner soles.

I'll tackle the matter with a positive attitude and I'm convinced it'll work out.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Minimalist Footwear for Fall/Spring Backpacking on 09/17/2011 16:33:58 MDT Print View

Shoe reviews at Natural Running Center

Edited by jshann on 09/17/2011 16:34:30 MDT.

Damien Tougas
(dtougas) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Gaspé Peninsula
Re: Re: Minimalist Footwear for Fall/Spring Backpacking on 09/17/2011 18:38:59 MDT Print View

Yes, and on my website as well:

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: "Minimalist Footwear for Fall/Spring Backpacking" on 09/29/2011 00:25:06 MDT Print View

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.

Okay, George... I couldn't resist




Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: Minimalist Footwear for Fall/Spring Backpacking on 09/29/2011 01:40:39 MDT Print View

@Ken, about the Chuck Taylors.
Those kind of shoes work fine. My absolute favorite shoes to hike in are the regular canvas van classics. I have been wearing them for years and have probably worn out close to a dozen of them. They are everything I need in a shoe, just stupid simple. Chucks work very well too, the low rise ones are very similar in cocept. Not the most durable but they break in very easily. I can't say I have done any long expedition trips with them, but I have put in some long days, a few days a trip at most, and I had no complaints. I wear them sockless.
I know there are probably "better" light shoes out there, but I just can't deviate from classic vans or converse.
I have been desperately looking for a shoe just like classic vans, but possibly in leather for more durabilty and water resistance. I end up with actual holes in the canvas, only ditching them when the insoles wear out.
Anyways, if we are talking about minimal shoes, less tech is not a bad thing. I wouldn't think twice about attempting some extended treks with them. I am actually going to try out the converse "coast" sneaker, an even more minimal version of converse. Hopefully these don't fall apart on me though... Another option are the old school pro keds. Similar to converse, probably much better quality.

Edited by justin_baker on 09/29/2011 01:53:31 MDT.