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serious hiking in VFFs

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  • serious hiking in VFFs

    I love my VFFs, was wearing them even before I went primal. I do a lot of hiking. Much of it is relatively well worn paths, for which I wear VFFs or other similar types of shoes (e.g., Vivo Barefoot).

    Has anyone done serious hiking (not well worn paths) in shoes that offer little or no ankle support or tread? I'm a little worried about hiking and blowing out an ankle. I wear unstructured shoes like VFFs or Vivo Barefoots all the time, so it's not an issue of building up slowly and strengthening the ankles, I'm there. I'm just used to hiking in boots and worry about ankle stability on serious hikes.


  • #2
    I hiked this trail in my VFF's (KSO's) and they were amazing. It is a pretty steep trail and I had such traction. In places there was soft gravel over hard granite and I never slipped. I had good balance too. No problems with ankles either.
    Attached Files


    • #3
      I have done some pretty serious hiking in my VFF KSO's and they have been great. Actually well worn paths are worse with them; those little rocks will eventually start to hurt.

      Most of my outings with them have been along the Blue Ridge Mountains. I have been used them for steep terrain, creek beds, bushwhacking, rail road tracks (ouch, sharp stones) and along the AT. The AT was well worn and got painful after a few miles because of that area of the trail seemed to be entirely small well worn stones that eventually bruised my feet.

      I felt more sure footed than in more traditional footwear, but I have been a light/UL backpacker for a while now and ditched the heavy boots long ago. So for me that means more sure footed than in trail runners.

      They worked well climbing a tree as well after a miscalculation got my bear bag setup lodged in a trees crotch about 20 ft up.

      My fiance has worn hers, on some of the same trips with positive results as well.

      Conclusion: The "shoes" are perfectly capable of the task, but the bigger question is making sure your body is. If you are just transitioning to barefoot/un-supportive footwear, then I would suggest taking it easy and testing the waters slowly.


      • #4
        I've been doing the unsupportive footwear thing for some time (about 6 months or so, wearing nothing but). I'm more concerned about being miles from nowhere and twisting an ankle.


        • #5
          Boots have "ankle support" because when you are stomping through the bush you can't feel movement under your feet through the inch and a half soles. With the VFF I find it is more of a tip toe through the bush. You can feel your balance a lot better and adjust quicker when you can feel what you are stepping on. I find I am more nimble with the VFF than hiking boots.
          Don't be a paleotard...


          • #6
            Originally posted by chima_p View Post
            Boots have "ankle support" because when you are stomping through the bush you can't feel movement under your feet through the inch and a half soles. With the VFF I find it is more of a tip toe through the bush. You can feel your balance a lot better and adjust quicker when you can feel what you are stepping on. I find I am more nimble with the VFF than hiking boots.
            That, and when you step on something uneven your whole foot doesn't twist sideways like it does in shoes/boots. Even just normal walking I can tell that shoes make my ankle twist in ways it won't in VFF.
            I didn't like the rules you gave me, so I made some of my own.

            Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general. - Mark Rippetoe


            • #7
              I would think the amount you plan to carry would be a big consideration as well and I would be more worried about bruising the bottom of my foot than ankle twists.

              Now I am wondering about my logic here. Let's say I weight 150 pounds and want to contemplate carrying a 50 pound pack wearing VFFs. In some ways that would be like me weighing 200 pounds and not carrying a pack. I think as long as my arches had enough strength (by working up to that weight) I would not worry about it.

              I have hiked about 5 miles in VFFS with a squirming 30 pounds of toddler on my back with no problems. Terrain wasn't rugged, but included gravel road with unavoidable stones for some of it.

              One Delta Ten Tango


              • #8
                I'd be less worried about an ankle than wear and tear on the foot. If you're used to wearing them and you never get blisters because the bottoms of your feet are harder than the granite you're walking on, you should be fine.

                And with frequent use, your ankles get a lot stronger. I feel more stable in my VFFs than in regular shoes. Just be honest with yourself about whether you have worn them long enough and often enough to take them on rough, uneven terrain.
                Primal Personal Trainer


                • #9
                  After transitioning several months ago to barefoot running and running with VFF's I have done hiking with my Nike Frees. They work great except the lack of traction when it is really wet out.


                  • #10
                    I went on a hike with my VFF's on what was supposed to be a dirt road (this was part of an event on the reservation near where I live). Someone chose to improve it and had just laid down a huge amount of 2" and larger gravel with pointy edges. Needless to say, after a mile my feet were toast. I bailed and found a less obnoxious (for my feet) trail. Fortunately, because my feet are used to going barefoot, recovery time from the sharp rocks was 1-2 days.

                    "Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, Guinness in one hand, steak in the other, yell 'Holy Sh**, What a Ride!" - You bet, I stole it!

                    Date: 9/14/11
                    Current Weight: 151.2
                    Inches: 360.25
                    Body Fat %: 32.7


                    • #11
                      I've backpacked through Yosemite back country several times in my VFFs. Foot and ankle proprioception are vastly improved when barefoot, or when wearing minimalist shoes.


                      "Compared to barefoot data (position error 1.97 degrees), foot position error was 107.5% poorer with athletic footwear when untaped (absolute position error 4.11 degrees), and 58.1% worse when taped (position error 3.13 degrees). This suggests that ankle taping partly corrects impaired proprioception caused by modern athletic footwear and exercise. Footwear could be optimized to reduce the incidence of these injuries."

                      Your ankles are far safer in VFFs than hiking boots.


                      • #12
                        I'm also in the school that would be so much more worried about the bottom of my feet then my ankles. I hike mountains in sneakers. I never worry about ankle support as I do so much barefoot anyway, that my ankles are highly flexible and strong.
                        Wag more, bark less


                        • #13
                          Grok did can too. Just step gingerly if you cannot see where your foot will land. Watch out for sharp beasties.


                          • #14
                            9 hour hike in VFFs (up 4000+ ft and down again in NM) lead to some soreness from the stones that were imbedded in the trail (couldn't shift under my foot), but no other troubles. general traction and stability were excellent. felt fabulous to imbed my feet (in the bikilas) in snow banks or mountain streams to soothe the soreness only mildy sore the next day

                            we did bushwhack part of the way: marshy areas, rivers, etc were superior in the VFFs vs boots b/c they could get wet no problem

                            I'd recommend going for a 3-4 hour hike in similar terrain and have a hiking buddy in case *anything* happens...have fun!