Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » Considering Minimalist Footwear for Backpacking


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Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: west coast best coast
Re: Disagree with negative heel drop on 10/29/2012 17:05:30 MDT Print View

"Efficient runners don't heel strike, but efficient walks DO." Really? Where did you hear this? I have always read that the natural way to walk was front or mid foot striking. I wear 3mm vivobarefoots without the insole and I have always walked on front or midfoot striked unless taking long strides to step over something.

Michael Arambula
(marambula)
Gait Analysis on 10/30/2012 16:44:55 MDT Print View

Curious as to where: "I have always read that the natural way to walk was front or mid foot striking."

Here is a good place to do reading on the natural way to walk: http://courses.washington.edu/anatomy/KinesiologySyllabus/GaitPhasesKineticsKinematics.pdf

Keep in mind running is very different than walking. A book or article one may read about barefoot running would not translate well to walking and even less so to hiking and even less so to backpacking.

Andy Davison
(FurTech) - M
Twisted Ankles on 11/01/2012 05:14:50 MDT Print View

Mountain rescue statistics for the UK show that lower leg injuries are the most common. It seems to me that the lower the heel is to uneven ground the less leverage is available to twist the ankle. Conversely, high heels foster twisted ankles. Wide heels may also be bad. I suffered more twists in my old Salomon boots with a high well cushioned heel than in my inov8 fell shoes, despite the shoes having less ankle support. This could be for a number of reasons: The feel of the ground beneath my feet may improve my reaction time to the beginning of a twist; less cushioning may encourage me to place my feet more carefully; and wearing shoes may increase the strength of my ankles. I now risk running downhill in deep heather and fording rocky stream beds where I don't know what my foot is about to hit... so far without accident. However, running on rough terrain is very different to walking. It encourages a rapid transference of weight from one foot to the other, momentum carrying me along. On the other hand, walking tends to be from one stable foot placement to the next, fully loading each foot in turn and perhaps increasing the risks of a twist.
My conclusion: thick heels in boots or shoes increase the risk of ankle twist and sensitivity to the ground reduces the risk.
Obviously, other factors may also effect your choice.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Twisted ankles on 11/01/2012 10:28:21 MDT Print View

@Andy I agree with you 100%. That's one of my biggest motivations for going to lower profile shoes. Additionally, if you use less shoe on a regular basis, the soft tissues that support the ankle strengthen.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Twisted Ankles on 11/01/2012 16:12:00 MDT Print View

> My conclusion: thick heels in boots or shoes increase the risk of ankle twist and
> sensitivity to the ground reduces the risk.
+1

Cheers

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Ankles on 11/01/2012 16:36:06 MDT Print View

+2. I damaged one of my ankle many years ago (never go ice skating when drunk)and it seems to have been a bit weakened subsequently. Low profile shoes have been a great help to me. I do get some funny looks in New Zealand in my Inovs, as big boots are seen by most as essential to safe tramping here.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Safe Tramping & Big Boots on 11/03/2012 15:22:24 MDT Print View

The NZ culture of big boots for safe tramping is a funny one. There is a similar culture here in the Western US mountains during the winter when you're off trail, with or w/o snowshoes.

But this is a case where minimalist options are limited - a boot with a soft cuff that is high enough to mate well with a high gaiter, has an aggressive lugged tread for decent traction on steeper snow and mud and tundra, a waterproof liner, and of course all the little bits that make a nice "minimalist" shoe like a low heel, some cushion, big toe box, etc.

In our fall courses, where we trek over snow and in very wet/cold conditions on most of them, the overwhelming majority of shoes we see are the Inov-8 288 GTX's. There simply is no second place, and no other shoe comes to mind as a standout selection.

We've used and recommended this "boot" (and the previous Inov-8 GTX para boot which is no longer made) for this purpose and although it's not perfect for a wintry hiking shoe (it could use a little more insulation in the sole, a little more stiffness for sidehilling), it's darn close to an ideal minimalist winter shoe.

I bring this up to say that I think there is a lot of room for development in the minimalist waterproof "boot" market, and I think the Inov-8 288 GTX is the benchmark thus far, there's just too much unoccupied space between this and, say, the Cadion, which is a far cry from a "barefoot" approach.

Winter Feet
Ultralight Backpacking Boot Camp, October 30, 2012, Anaconda-Pintlar Wilderness, Montana

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: west coast best coast
Re: Safe Tramping & Big Boots on 11/03/2012 17:00:30 MDT Print View

I would really like to see some manufactures come out with synthetic, mukluk style boots for winter. A very soft sole with a loose upper that is secured with cord. You could you layer in as many socks or liners as you wanted and if it was a little loose, you aren't going to have a rock hard toe box smashing your toes with every step.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Safe Tramping and Boots on 11/03/2012 18:06:43 MDT Print View

Looks like the Innov8 288 still has the narrow toe box. That could be a deal breaker for wide footed people like me. Last time I did serious hiking in snow I just used waterproof socks in my trail runners. It wasn't perfect but better then shoes that don't fit.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re Safe Tramping and Boots on 11/04/2012 00:23:56 MDT Print View

> It wasn't perfect but better then shoes that don't fit.
+1!

You have never experienced real agony until you have experienced frozen feet in under-sized shoes in the snow.

Cheers

Alex Eriksson
(aeriksson) - M

Locale: Austin, TX
Re: Safe Tramping & Big Boots on 11/04/2012 01:53:27 MDT Print View

Has anyone played around in the Vivobarefoot Off Road High? It looks like it would knock off a few of the wintry requirements while blending a minimalist's ethos. Considering it's all leather, waterproof, with an ample toe box, I'd say it would be a pretty decent upgrade over a trail runner. If it offers a little extra support by virtue of the hightop that would certainly be nice as well.

I think the only thing that would turn me off is the thickness, or rather the lack of, in the sole. I dig zero-drop and flexibility but the soles on the Vivobarefoots could be pushing it for a heavier guy like myself.

Anyhow, link..... http://www.vivobarefoot.com/us/mens/off-road-hi-mens-13.html

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: west coast best coast
Re: Re: Safe Tramping & Big Boots on 11/04/2012 02:38:50 MST Print View

I have never used the off roads, but I have been wearing my aquas hiking for a while now. If the off roads are similar to the aquas, I would say they are on the minimal end of minimalist shoes. You are going to brutalize your feet in them if you aren't used to minimalist shoes. They aren't like sneakers, they are more like traditional moccasins.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: west coast best coast
Re: Re: Safe Tramping & Big Boots on 11/04/2012 02:38:50 MST Print View

.

Edited by justin_baker on 11/04/2012 02:39:29 MST.

John Carolan
(Teletrekker)
Lone Peal on 11/04/2012 19:59:54 MST Print View

I've been running in the Altra Instincs for about 6 mons. I feel stronger and more efficient. I did have some calf fatigue the first couple weeks but as I got used to the new stride and got stronger the fatigue went away. I find the Instinct extremely comfortable. In the past, I've always cranked on the laces of my running shoes to get them as tight as possible. I leave the instincts loose and with the wide toe box my feet can stretch out and breath. I was a heel striker and these shoes have forced me to balance my body over my core, shorten my stride and land on a bent knee. As a result I feel like a stronger runner and can run longer distances with considerably less knee pain (even with ACL reconstruction in April 2011).

In fact I liked the Instinct so much, I thought I'd try the Lone Peaks for the trail and was not disappointed. I had been a full leather boot hiker since I started hiking in high school so I was pessimistic. I was concerned with foot fatigue from the softer sole. I was concerned with the lack of ankle support. I was nervous about the fact that they were not water proof (even though my feet would end up moist or wet due to sweat or small leaks in my leather hikers).

My first hike in the Lone Peaks was an over night in NH's Whites in June with a fairly heavy pack (28ish lbs). All of my concerns were for not. I loved the weight of these shoes and could easy feel the difference compared to my leathers. The lack of ankle support and zero drop forced me to shorten my stride and concentrate on each foot strike which I believe made me a more careful and efficient hiker. The oversized foot box kept my feet feeling comfortable and not crammed and tight. This was especially noticeable on the downhills. When the shoe got wet they seemed to dry quickly simply from the heat of my feet and the airy boot. The sole is grippy and aggressive.

This past October I took them out again for a three night trip also in NH with a slightly heavier pack. On the morning of day 2 we woke up to a half inch of snow. I thought for sure I made a mistake at shoe choice. I decided to wear a pair of Smart Wool heavy hikers figuring they would be warmer for the unexpected low temps. The Lone Peaks were wet before we left the campsite and, although the temps hovered around 30 and the shoes were wet, my feet were warm and comfy all day. 8 miles and 3 peaks later back at the campsite I put the shoes next to the campfire and they were dry in an hour. I had no issues with footing or lack of ankle support.

Now if I were do it again I would bring my leathers. That's too close of a call for me and i would rather be wearing boots and not sneakers if it's going to be cold and wet. But the Lone Stars performed great and only increased my confidence in them.

There is no doubt in my mind that different people find different shoe types work for them due to differences in foot types, gait, body type, etc. Although it's still fairly early (less than 100 miles) I think that I have found my 3 season hiker.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Safe Tramping & Big Boots on 11/06/2012 13:02:39 MST Print View

Hey Ryan or anyone else-

Do the Inov-8 288's handle standard crampons? Like a pair of BD Contours.

Alex Eriksson
(aeriksson) - M

Locale: Austin, TX
A case for Lone Peaks on 11/06/2012 21:18:58 MST Print View

For anyone interested, the Altra Lone Peaks passed my initial inspection and scientific dog-walk-evaluation with the Rocky Goretex socks I just purchased. Of note, the incredibly roomy toe box on the LP's leave room for the "cut for tighter more traditional toe box" GTX socks. Once on the socks have a bit of a "floppy end" of about 1.5" on my foot, but this is of no concern since the extra space in the shoe accommodates it without even bunching up.

The shoe's rather stretchy body also did well to deal with the increased overall volume of the setup I'll be testing out: Rocky GTX socks (obviously), over an REI midweight merino hiker for lots of warmth, over an REI merino liner. So even with essentially 3 socks on the shoe didn't feel overly taxed and had plenty of room for adjustment to taste.

We'll see how they do in the wilds beyond the grounds of Chateau Eriksson (aka my apartment complex).

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Inov8 288's + Crampons on 11/06/2012 22:37:37 MST Print View

Tad --

Standard crampons seem too burly for the relatively soft 288's.

Some snowshoe bindings are fine with them.

As are Kahtoola's. I especially think that Kahtoola Microspikes and the 288's are a great match, and are my pick for icy trails, steep snow hikes, and the occasional glacier crossing as needed.

jason quick
(jase)

Locale: A tent in my backyard - Melbourne
Re: Re: Re Safe Tramping and Boots on 11/07/2012 15:47:32 MST Print View

>You have never experienced real agony until you have experienced frozen feet in under-sized shoes in the snow

Very much +1 there Roger.

Edited by jase on 11/07/2012 15:48:18 MST.

Lars Laird Eriksen
(larslaird) - M
Inov8 288 on 11/12/2012 00:25:55 MST Print View

Interesting to see the return of the 288! It was my first step towards the lightweight backpacking world, the shiny promise of "the lightest waterproof boots in the world!" lured me into buying a pair. That was before I started hanging out here on BPL, and I have always felt that the consensus here would poo-poo a mid-height GTX shoe/boot. As I am a weak soul, always ready to be convinced by the internet, I am now dreaming of something lower, which drains water well. I´ve also started walking around in vivobarefoot Ra in town, and running in minimalist shoes (slowly and not very far - but it still feels great!) . I´m looking forward to the inov8 trailroc 150s! Then I shall have a new favourite shoe to drool over until cash comes my way.

Still, I can´t afford to change something that works decently, so I still wear the 288s. They tread well, they feel light (they ARE light for a boot!), and they hold up well - only a slight fraying after three years of use so far. On the down side, they do get clammy with the GTX barrier, and the toe box is narrow. I won´t take them out into cold weather (below -5C, sorry for being a celcian).

Ryan, or anyone else, I would be interested to hear more about why mid-heights with a GTX barrier should be reconsidered.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Inov8 288's on 11/12/2012 06:45:28 MST Print View

Lars: I recommend something waterproof, with a high gaiter, for snow and cold/wet trekking, so the 288's are my choice. I'm not a fan of GTX shoes for the majority of 3 season conditions.