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what's better for your knees: stiff soles or, well, less stiff soles
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Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Foot strike while hiking on 04/22/2013 20:12:55 MDT Print View

I wear very flexible shoes (vivobarefoots). When walking on a flat and clear surface I strike near my midfoot/heels. My midfoot and heels tend to strike at about the same exact time.

When do I step on my forefoot?: When walking up or down hill, I strike forefoot. When walking on lots of small rocks (like in a stream or scree field) I step somewhat carefully on my forefoot so that I don't smash my heel against something. When I hike off trail and I am stepping on lots of fallen branches, I step on my forefoot. When walking around actual barefoot, which the skin on my feet isn't tough enough to do comfortably (i just do it around camp), I step on my forefoot because it's more comfortable walking on pokey leaves and branches that way. If I putting my foot down in between some bushes and I can't see exactly what I am stepping on, I go forefoot.

Basically, the more damage stepping on the ground will cause to foot (from tiny rocks or sharp branches), the more my foot naturally steps on the forefoot.

People don't naturally always step on their forefoot on flat ground. That's a myth that has been popularized by barefoot running shoes manufactures to push their products into casual use. However when running, it's always forefoot. Go watch Cody Lundin, a survival instructor who walks around the desert barefoot, and you will see him heel striking.

Also when I first started using very minimalist shoes I did more forefoot stepping on flat trails. Now I seem to walk more on my heels, probably because they are tougher now.

knee issues on 04/22/2013 21:09:51 MDT Print View

I've recently been going to a podiatrist alot because I'm having knee problems when training for a hike. Was labeled a "hyper" pronator with the tightest achilles he's ever seen. His take was that my feet needed stiff (but not too stiff) shoes.

Anyone else been told a similar thing by their dr?

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: knee issues on 04/22/2013 21:31:33 MDT Print View

AW why are you a hyper pronator? This is the biggest question...many people over pronate because they are weak in the side of the hips: stand on one leg and do a squat in front of a mirror. Does your knee collapse inward? Or can you easily keep it straight in line with your foot?

If your knee collapses inward, that means every single time you take a step - especially going down stairs or downhill - your poor knee is twisting like that. Your foot can sometimes be the cause, but more often than not it is just going along for the ride and twisting as well. Try it: stand on one leg barefoot, do the squat, and watch your arch collapse as your lower leg twists...because your knee is falling in...

Anyway...if you work on strengthening your butt and hip muscles to not allow your femur to twist like that (and put a great deal of stress on your ITB, kneecap, medial meniscus, etc) then you can usually get away with neutral shoes and no more knee pain.

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: Re: knee issues on 04/22/2013 23:50:07 MDT Print View

I agree with Jennifer. I used to have some really severe knee problems which any traditional doctor would have said I'll be in pain for the rest of my life and to use as much supportive gear (shoes, knee braces, etc) as possible to "protect" my joints.

Luckily I went to a doc who's a team doc for several of the local professional sports franchises in AZ. He said "if you were a pro athlete with a million dollar contract and a season on the line, sure we'd do some minimally invasive surgery. But you're not, take the time and just PT the crap out of your legs and you'll be fine."

I did some independent research as well and pretty much he was spot on. I still have occasional knee problems but it's almost always caused by me being less than diligent in squats and then taking on high mileage days with a ton of sustained elevation gain.

Basically work on over all fitness (legs in particular for walking/running sports like backpacking). Muscle imbalances are probably the number one source of joint pain in people. I know for sure that if any of my joints hurt or I'm losing flexibility it's almost always because muscles on one side or the other of the joint are weak. As soon as I work the antagonist muscles, the joint stabilizes and the pain disappears.

Find a good sports doctor, I'm convinced they're better than any specialist since their goal is to get you playing sports again rather than just telling you "stop doing that if it hurts you." They realize two things, first quality of life is more important than pain management, and second that the human body is physically a lot more resilient than given credit. We've just forgotten how to let it do it's own thing.

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"what's better for your knees: stiff soles or, well, less stiff soles on 04/23/2013 10:03:55 MDT Print View

True about strengthening muscles to help with knee issues. I've done a pretty good regimen and it's really helped. You have to keep it up though! That said, my left knee hasn't had any issues until the new boots. I think that greater foot mobility has taken my knee along, as Jennifer writes.

My right leg does pretty well on the single leg squat test. My left leg/ankle wobble and collapse inward on this test, but that's because I have no arch (long story)--there's just not a stable platform. This, after years of single leg balance exercises on this foot that have really improved things. What's odd is that it's my right knee that has issues, not my left--until the new boots!

Anyway, the search continues. What's difficult is that, in going for something new (lighter) I can't tell in-store what the longer term results might be. And frankly I hate to take advantage of REI by returning boots after wearing them for a month. But I might.