Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Minimalist shoes and through hiking.
Display Avatars Sort By:
Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Minimalist shoes and through hiking. on 02/24/2012 19:25:15 MST Print View

Has anyone every through hiked in minimalist shoes? Or just really long, high mileage trips in general? I am wondering what the long terms effects would be compared to more supportive trail shoes.
By minimalist shoes, I mean vivobarefoot type shoes with 4mm-ish soles.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Minimalist shoes on the Colorado Trail on 02/24/2012 20:32:40 MST Print View

I met a guy on the Colorado Trail who'd gone from Durango to Breckenridge in New Balance Minimus shoes. He'd worn out one pair and picked up another pair in either Twin Lakes or Breckenridge, I can't remember which.

I tried a pair of La Sportiva X Countries which are pretty light but a bit more protective than some minimalist shoes. I used them for about 175 miles with relatively good results. I did experience some soreness but nothing horrible. When I had the chance I switched to a pair of New Balance 101s. It wasn't that the La Spoirtivas were horrible but I was concerned that I might build up to a long term injury since I was relatively new to such light shoes.

I think there will be two issues to deal with using minimalist shoes on a long hike.
1. Your foot muscles will have to adjust to lighter shoes. Even if you have a light pack and a fairly easy trail hiking long distances in minimalist shoes will work foot muscles differently than they are used too in other shoes. I felt this somewhat in the La Sportivas. I'm not a barefoof runner but I had been wearing light shoes all summer in the Texas Hill Country so my feet were a bit toughened up. My sister ran 5 miles in new Five Fingers because it felt so great. She couldn't walk right for a while afterwards.
2. Even if your muscles are ajusted you'll still have to deal with the issue of bruising your feet on sharp rocks. I could be wrong but I don't think any amount of training or toughening your feet is going to protect you if you land hard on a sharp rock. You can avoid some of this by not stepping on that sharp rock but this is easier in some areas and harder in others.

Diana Michaels
(DonnaL) - F

Locale: Australia
Only a very little bit! on 02/24/2012 20:58:00 MST Print View

Hi Justin

I just read a book called something like "Barefoot Sisters Southbound" about two sisters who hiked the Appalachian Trail largely in completely bare feet! (They used shoes when in snow.) It's a good read ... they were young women who had already done a lot of walking/hiking barefoot. They carried heavy loads (up to 70lb!!!). The issues they had were things like traumatic injuries (puncture wounds, stubbing on rocks) but nothing hike-ending. And they commented that they met people whose feet were badly injured by blisters from supportive footwear. So that's not sharing my own experience but can point you in their direction... maybe you could google them! Minimalist shoes I guess are just giving your feet a bit more traction and protection than bare feet but not actually support (?)

Personal opinion, based on 2 years rehab from foot injury - need to take a lot of time changing what you are doing with footwear. Especially if - like me - you are past Spring Chicken age and carrying a bit of weight without picking up a pack, so to speak! I started barefoot walking 15 minutes on an oval, and the beach, and built up from there. Need to really pay attention to where you place your feet (look at the ground the whole time, on trails!) which can get tiresome. But it feels great, sometimes!

The only minimalist type shoes I've hiked in with a light load on (9lbs) were Nike Free, and I only do it for short periods (an hour or so at a time) to give my feet a change and let them move and spread out a bit, and to just change the whole feel of hiking for a while. I used Nike Free on a Dayhike on the Panorama Trail in Yosemite (9 miles, steep and rocky in places) which felt a bit like hiking in slippers and I wouldn't do that again... traction not so great and the workout my feet got was a little too much, especially on rocks. I actually find even the Nike Free have a bit too much moulding/arch support underfoot for me.

So - my practice now is to introduce changes slowly and monitor the results carefully and not ignore niggles. Good luck!

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Minimalist shoes on the Colorado Trail on 02/24/2012 23:07:43 MST Print View

It's good to know that people have actually been able to do it. I kind of think of it as a nail in the coffin for the viability of minimalist footwear if even the most extreme hikers can stick with it.

I am not new at all to minimalist shoes. I have been doing it for a few years now but haven't hiked more than a few days at a time.

Edited by justin_baker on 02/25/2012 16:52:58 MST.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Minimalist shoes and through hiking. on 02/26/2012 14:05:28 MST Print View

I don't think anyone who has started a thru-hike of the PCT with minimalist shoes has ever finished one with minimalist shoes. I have been wearing minimalist shoes most of the time for several years but I do not think I could hike the PCT in them. I think it would be valuable to bring minimalist shoes and spend part of each day hiking in them, however.

I've been making my own shoes now for a couple of years and I've tried every permutation of things. When I've hiked in huarache sandals, they suck going down steep hills or on side-slopes. If my friends are hiking real fast in their trail shoes I have to run to keep up because I can't overstride and slam my heels down to keep up. Having to run all the time can be a big drag.

I've decided that shoes or sandals that don't cramp my toes, don't have raised heels and have about 1/4 of padding so I can hike fast are about perfect for me.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Minimalist shoes and through hiking. on 02/26/2012 14:55:41 MST Print View

For me, when I've tried high-mileage days in light shoes (running shoes, for instance), my feet get beat up by the pointy rocks and roots that Luke mentioned.

For 15-20 miles in a day, anything works for me. But 30-40-50 miles/day (or less with a pack), and I need a little stiffness in the sole. It can still be a low-cut, ideally as light as possible. But I bend and twist the shoes in the store and if they are as floppy as a running shoe, I pass - I've found it just doesn't work for me.

YMMV. -David

Seth Brewer
(Whistler) - MLife

Minimalist shoes - A.T Thru-Hike on NB MT 101's on 03/01/2012 10:06:36 MST Print View

I know a friend I hiked with for a while on the A.T last year wore New Balance MT101's. GA-> ME in them , multiple pairs but don't know how many pairs he used for the whole trail (I think 5). He liked them - but he also hiked with a sub 20 lb pack and mostly cuben gear. I plan on doing the New England trail (>200 miles) in them in about 3 weeks if the weather will allow (no high pack snow). Been using them on short <5 mile trails runs and while walking around during the day to help my feet adjust to them. I personally used a more traditional Salomon XA Pro Mesh trail running shoe (4 pairs) for my A.T thru-hike -- but looking back would have liked to try them during my ultra-lightweight summer hiking from NY to NH.

Also ran into about 5 different people who all had already done over 500 miles in FiveFingers. Hardcore! I'd break a toe for sure.

Edited by Whistler on 03/01/2012 10:07:31 MST.

Nancy Charlier
(ncharlier) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Minimalist shoes on 03/02/2012 09:53:45 MST Print View

I did 200 miles in Maine this past summer, and much of it was in fivefingers. I started out just wearing them for river fording, was too impatient to change back to trail runners, found out they were the best shoes I've ever had for traction on wet rocks, which are everywhere in Maine. I couldn't go as fast in them, but they were great for the numerous bogs as well. My feet hurt a lot all the time, not just when hiking, but this is age and arthritis, I think, and I would take traction any day for the price of a slight increase in footache. I will try (again!) to do an AT thru in 2013, and will start out with fivefingers, maybe the neoprene ones if it's quite cold at the time, and stay with them unless something bad happens that requires standard trail runners.

clint gorbett
(ClintG) - F
F195 on 03/03/2012 22:22:04 MST Print View

Has anyone tried out the f195 by inov8 or any of their line? I'm hiking the pct this summer and trying to decide between a minimalist shoe and chacos.

Robert Kelly
(QiWiz) - MLife

Locale: UL gear @
Re: Minimalist shoes and through hiking. on 03/05/2012 11:17:21 MST Print View

On the AT last year (Springer to Hot Springs) I encountered a few people in Five Fingers who were happy hikers over that distance (280 miles, so I doubt they would change farther up the trail) and one Australian gal ("Possum") hiking in NB Minimus who was packing very light and doing high mileages and loved them. She picked them up just a few weeks before she got on trail.
I got some NB Minimus to try myself and found that with my current feet and weight (body, not pack), I could do 7-8 mile days OK, but would get bruised feet at higher mileages. So they would not work for me on a long-distance hike.
On the other hand, my favorite shoes for longer mileage hiking, bar none, are the NB MT876 (thanks to Roger Caffin of BPL for his shoe reviews; I have to say I agree with him every time). These are quite light, even for my 11.5 4E feet, and I have now got 2 spare pairs stockpiled (since NB always goes for new designs rather than keeping the old favorites available).

John Zahorian
(johnzahorian) - F
New Balance MT110 on 03/05/2012 15:36:59 MST Print View

I'm planning on using New Balance MT110 in 2E for the PCT this year. I've found when hiking in my Vivobarefoot Neo's on rough terrain that I just get too fatigued at the end of a long day. They do make a great training tool, though. Based on what I've read on the MT110 and Anton Krupicka's (ultramarathoner and barefoot runner) thoughts on the shoe, the NB MT110 seems like a great choice for a minimalist-shoe-minded thru-hiker. It has very little heel-toe drop, a wide toebox, dries super fast, and has an appropriate amount of cushion that is not too much and not too little.

Susan Papuga
(veganaloha) - M

Locale: USA
Minimalist shoes on 03/07/2012 16:30:44 MST Print View

Depending on what you consider minimalist, the answer can be quite different. Vibram five-fingers alone have several dozen models and add to that the barefoot runners, and UL running shoes thAt are really like old school racing flats. Whatever you choose, just make sure that you are well-adapted to using the shoe for long periods of time and distance and with pack weight. Otherwise you risk serious injury to your feet, legs and low back from the change in body mechanics alone, never mind trail conditions.

Rob Vandiver

Locale: So Cal
Re: New Balance MT110 on 03/07/2012 16:50:49 MST Print View

You might want to take a look at this thread (scroll down for Craigs post on the 110s):

Craig Wisner had issues with the middle lugs wearing out after just 200 miles. I was considering picking up a pair of these, but this definately gave me pause.

Clint Hewitt
(WalkSoftly33) - F

Locale: New England
Vibrams on 03/07/2012 17:33:41 MST Print View

I made it to the White Mountains on the AT from GA in Five Fingers in 2010.

My biggest suggestion would be to carry something else to wear while in town(crocs). I did not do this. The trails were not a problem.Down right enjoyable in minimalist shoes on some sections (pine needles) but walking on flat hard pavement was an absolute bear!

There was a reason I eventually switched, it was ether keep the five fingers on or make it to Katahdin in time. I choose to make it to Katahdin. I really wanted to do the whole trail in them but It got to the point where it did not make any sense anymore. I am thankful for the experinces.

It took me longer each day to hike the same miles every one in my group would hike. Mentally I feel it is more fatigue as well focusing on every single step. I noticed an increase in my speed and comfort and a decrease in my need to pay attention when I switched to Addidas adizero XT's in the whites.

You might not run in to some of those issues using minimal regular shoes, but something cushy for town might still be a good idea.

Edited by WalkSoftly33 on 03/07/2012 17:59:15 MST.

John Zahorian
(johnzahorian) - F
Re: Re: New Balance MT110 on 03/07/2012 23:14:30 MST Print View

Yes I have actually been trying out the MT110's and have noticed this wear. Since the rest of the lugs are still going so strong and the rest of the features of the shoe are so perfectly what I want, I've looked past it.

Nathan Pipenberg
(Thoreau-going) - F

Locale: Central PA
trail gloves on 03/10/2012 21:54:19 MST Print View

I wore Merrell trail gloves for about 650 miles on the AT last year. I really liked the feel but had trouble keeping my pace up on days over 15 miles. Eventually I switched out due to bruised feet and numb toes. I'm glad I gave them a shot but ultimately was glad I switched out to a pair of Asics,even though those weren't ideal either. I feel like mt101's with the rock plate would have been perfect but they don't fit my feet well.

Michael Baker

Locale: Minnesota
why shoes? on 03/26/2012 04:10:54 MDT Print View

I wore NB minimus trail shoes through the winter while in town. I think they are pretty good shoes but they use different leg and ankle muscles so I was sore for a few days. They gave me a decent idea of what it is like being barefoot but I don't plan on wearing them for awhile.

Since March 1st I have not worn any type of footwear for 99% of the time. The only real problem I have encountered was a blister on the ball of my right foot but I poked a hole in it and drained the liquid and kept walking barefoot. I put pressure on it as much as I could and it fixed itself in 3 days. The blister was a result of pushing off with that foot so I stopped doing that.

I hike between 5 and 10 miles a day on varied terrain. I still notice the rocks and other objects when I am walking but most of it is no big deal. I really enjoy the different sensations being barefoot gives me. You don't get to experience those things wearing 'barefoot' shoes and cheat yourself out of the full beauty of nature.

It has been found that shoes are not healthy. They weaken the foot and mess up our joints and back. Our overall health is better when we are barefoot as opposed to wearing shoes. We do not need all that cushioning and support, that are in shoes, to get around comfortably and safely. It isn't good for us.

Humans are the only species that feel it is necessary to 'protect' their feet. Our feet are amazing and when set free they can allow us to do and go everywhere/thing that those in shoes can go/do. Plus it is fun!!

I'll let you know how through hiking is in October.

Edited by mcpacker on 03/26/2012 04:12:41 MDT.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: why shoes? on 03/26/2012 07:42:11 MDT Print View

That is a bunch of BS.

"It has been found that shoes are not healthy. They weaken the foot and mess up our joints and back. Our overall health is better when we are barefoot as opposed to wearing shoes. We do not need all that cushioning and support, that are in shoes, to get around comfortably and safely. It isn't good for us."

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Minimalist shoes and through hiking. on 03/26/2012 08:08:43 MDT Print View

I don't want to sound like I'm criticizing or in any way "dissing" minimalist footwear users, especially because I myself have not tried them,

But I'm sort of getting a certain stubborn vibe from minimalists, as in I'm going to use them no matter how much slower they make me go and how much they hurt my feet, simply because I want to be a minimal shoe wearer.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Minimalist shoes and through hiking. on 03/26/2012 08:21:44 MDT Print View

"...I'm going to use them no matter how much slower they make me go and how much they hurt my feet, simply because I want to be a minimal shoe wearer."

You're right Art. But there are also plenty of people out there saying the same thing about overbuilt shoes and giant boots on the trail, people that simply can not or do not believe it is possible to safely walk in the mountains without a Vibram lug-soled high top.

The pendulum has already swung so far in the direction of overbuilt, high-tech shoes that it only makes sense for it to swing equally far in the direction of going barefoot or wearing minimal shoes.

As usual the answer, for most people, is likely somewhere in the middle.

All I know is that I've personally had greater foot health and no running injuries since switching to a combination of barefoot sessions as well as minimal, low cushion, and low drop shoes. That's all that matters to me.