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Multi-day hiking w/backpack in minimalist shoes?

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  • Multi-day hiking w/backpack in minimalist shoes?

    Has anyone done any serious (multi-day) hiking with a semi-heavy (15-20kg) backpack in minimalist shoes like VFFs or similar?

    I'm curious, because I normally wear traditional hiking boots or trekking shoes (depending on terrain) for these kind of trips, but say you were hiking in a terrain that would be doable in sneakers on a day hike (i.e. without the backpack or with a lighter pack), would it also be doable with a heavier load in minimalist shoes?

    I've done some one-day hikes (6-7h) in thin-soled shoes (like Asics Pirhana SP3 or Converse Chuck Taylor's) with a lighter backpack (8-10kg), and some 2-3h hikes in flip-flops/sandals, but my main problem with this type of footwear is that I tend to hurt my feet on sharp rocks (i.e. rocks that hurt through the sole when you step on them the wrong way) and bump my toes into stuff, which also hurts.

    I'm not so much worried about ankle support or calf exhaustion as actually hurting my feet. I can imagine a multi-day hike becoming rather unpleasant as soon as you break a toe or cut the sole of your foot. Is it just a matter of looking where you step and "feeling" the ground with your feet? I'd imagine the pressure/pain from stepping on "unfriendly" rocks is also magnified with the extra weight of the backpack on your step.

    So, anyone have any input on this? Is it worth doing (with some training), or just not a good idea?
    Norak's Primal Journal:
    2010-07-23: ~255lbs, ~40.0"
    2011-11-03: ~230lbs, ~35.5"
    2011-12-07: ~220lbs, ~34.0"

  • #2
    How did the day hikes feel a year and a half ago when you were carrying 35 pounds on your body? Great progress!

    I have not done any backpacking with minimalist shoes. You might look at the Inov8 line as they have some more substantial boots that have little heel lift. Also, russell moccasin company makes a minimalist hunting boot that may suit. These are custom and pricey but look very well made.

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    • #3
      I'm also curious about any replies. There's a local trail, 58 km's long, that I've done in hiking boots but I have got it in my mind to try to do it in far less than the typical 2.5 days while wearing minimalist shoes. With that said, after stubbing my pinky toe nicely on the stroller wheel while walking the baby last week, I'm starting to think that a multi-day hike wouldn't be wise in FF's....mostly due to the fact that when you get tired from backpacking with 40-50 lbs on your back, you get lazy and less mindful (or is it more mindless) about foot placement. Not sure if I broke my toe, but the entire toe and part of my foot turned some awfully funky looking colors (along with the swelling).

      Jon

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      • #4
        I am a big backpacker. I would never and I repeat never hike into camp with minimalist shoes. I stow them in the pack and take them out when I get to camp. Two things you don't skimp on when backpacking; foot wear and shelter. You screw your feet up out in the wilderness somewhere you are f-cked. Wearing a 50lb + pack is hard enough of the legs and feet, no need to hurt your feet more. Busting a toe because you kick a rock because your legs are too tired to lift you feet is not fun. Save the minimalist shoes for day hikes and a day pack.
        I Kettlebell therefore I am.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by TorMag View Post
          I am a big backpacker. I would never and I repeat never hike into camp with minimalist shoes. I stow them in the pack and take them out when I get to camp. Two things you don't skimp on when backpacking; foot wear and shelter. You screw your feet up out in the wilderness somewhere you are f-cked. Wearing a 50lb + pack is hard enough of the legs and feet, no need to hurt your feet more. Busting a toe because you kick a rock because your legs are too tired to lift you feet is not fun. Save the minimalist shoes for day hikes and a day pack.
          Totally agree with this. Minimalist shoes like the Merrel Trail Glove or (my favorite) New Balance Minimus MT10 weigh next to nothing, take up little room, and would be perfect as "in camp" shoes.

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          • #6
            Hiking in vff's has led to some pretty obnoxious big toe blisters both times I have attempted. However, I have had success hiking and hunting in a pair of Vivobarefoot Aquaeos that I got on ebay.

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            • #7
              i suspect once your feet get used to going barefoot there really is a lot less problem with sharp terrain and rocks. i mean how did our ancestors make it all those years without hiking boots?

              i wear merrell trail gloves when im hiking and i do notice sharp rocks and pointy sticks, but i cant say my feet are very tough by barefoot standards at all. I think the only way to get your feet ready for that type of terrain is to actually go barefoot
              Primal Chaos
              37yo 6'5"
              6-19-2011 393lbs 60" waist
              current 338lbs 49" waist
              goal 240lbs 35" waist

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              • #8
                I would wear merrell trail gloves or other minimal full shoe and put the VFF's on the pack for destination day hikes.
                Integrity is what we do when nobody's watching.

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                • #9
                  BTW, I used to wear the first VFF's once I got to camp...... Nija Tabi's

                  I Kettlebell therefore I am.

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                  • #10
                    I've done many multi-day hikes in Chaco sandals, including segments of the John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, even in the snow. They kind of don't work very well for snow, but they are far better than any boots I've ever hiked in. I'll never do boots again. Recently I got some Altra Lone Peaks which are sort of hybrid minimalist shoes. They're awesome! I would totally hike the entire PCT in them. I've got some VFFs but I don't think I like them well enough to wear them on a long hike. Just for your consideration, my gear is around 10lbs before food and water is included and I like to hike 15-30 miles a day.
                    Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.

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                    • #11
                      One summer I hiked a long way (~1000 miles including the entirety of the JMT) in light running shoes, on Ray Jardine's recommendation. I kept my pack light (5kg before food and water). About 1000 miles in I developed chronic pain just medial to the insertion of the achilles tendon into the calcaneous. Pain with every step. But this was after ~2 months of 20-30 miles per day with only occasional rest days. I would say: Be careful! Work up to it. Go light! Go way lighter than you think. 15-20 kg is probably too much for your pack, try to get it lighter than that. I brought no tent, only a tarp, very light bag, minimal pad. Minimal clothes. I would wake up every morning shivering, so I would get up at first light and hike until it was warm enough to eat breakfast. In retrospect, I might choose differently.

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                      • #12
                        Sounds like you hiked the PCT up to about South Lake Tahoe? I think there is something about the PCT and all those daily miles for months on end that hurt your feet no matter what you wear. That trail is a repetitive motion injury machine.
                        Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.

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                        • #13
                          Mexico to Sonora Pass, yes. Considering a hike of only a few days the concerns are likely quite different. My heel was definitely a repetitive stress injury, also on the same ankle that I had broken only a few years before and was still weaker than the other one. Still I would say be careful about minimal footwear, it works if you go really light but I wouldn't want to do it with a heavier pack. Working up to it is important also.

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                          • #14
                            BTW my heel hurt for like a year after that. It was no fun. I think some kind of fasciitis? Idunno never saw a doc for it.

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                            • #15
                              Just thought I would chime in here, I have Merell Trail Gloves and Tough Gloves, and I would choose the Tough Gloves over the Trail for any application not involving water.

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