November 27, 2017

Bare feet (pt 1/4)

Or, How To Choose The Best Hiking Footwear For You

Earlier this year I wanted to start with trail running, but a (mild) knee injury put a stop to those plans and made me realise that my body is a bit too broken to hold up for running any more. However, getting those trail running shoes planted the seed of hiking with light footwear and this is what I will be writing about in the coming blog posts. After all, one kilo at your feet is five kilos on your back, so you have a lot to win by taking a close look at your footwear!

Some people preach for using trail running shoes for hikes. When you start reading about running shoes, you’ll find that most of the studies are financed by shoe manufacturers and unsurprisingly, the results usually prove that their latest shoe is the best. As far as I can see, after reading some articles and a lot of discussion threads in different forums, the best shoe is the one that works for you! In other words, you can read all you can find about insoles and cushioning and drop* and barefoot running, but there is nothing that can reliably say that one option is better than the other. Everything depends on your body and your preference!

When it comes to hiking footwear, there’s virtually no research available, while there are more factors thrown in the mix, like ankle support and sole stiffness. Applying the running science to hiking does not work 1-on-1, but I think a lot of the information is useful for hiking as well and I’ve certainly found a lot of food for thought. It all really comes down to personal experience, and your mileage may vary – just take a look at e.g. this discussion thread and you’ll find that everybody has their own preference, and it works for them.

In the coming posts, I will first talk about the significance of the sole of the footwear. That leads to a topic which is mostly relevant for runners, but also interesting from the minimalist perspective and useful to keep in mind while training. The last post is dedicated to choosing the hiking footwear.

Disclosure: Before you read on, keep in mind that I’m not an expert. I’m just a nerd who likes to read a lot about topics that interest me, and hiking is definitely one of them. So I will commit the cardinal sin and not specify any sources, I will just present my thoughts about the things I’ve read and leave it up to you to do your own research if you want the science. Here are some pages that provided material for me:

* drop: The height difference between the heel and the toe. Normal running shoes have a drop of some kind, while barefoot shoes by definition have zero drop.

This is what it’s about – being able to tackle even the most technical trails with confidence. Picture from Romsdalseggen. The woman who is sitting on top had weak ankles and kept rolling her foot constantly, but she said she was used to it, and persevered!

Part 1 – Introduction
Part 2 – Soles and the minimalist concept
Part 3 – Striking the ground
Part 4 – Choosing the right hiking boot

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