Saturday, June 6, 2009

You don't need big boots for hiking.....

Several times I have pointed to studies indicating that simple footwear is better than more complex, cushioned shoes. Our feet and our gait are disturbed by heavy shoes. People are using Vibram Five Fingers for example to try to get the advantages of being barefoot while also gaining some protection. (you can even play golf in them!)

One of my favourite outdoor writers is Chris Townsend. Thinking of all this minimal footwear approach he has a good interview explaining his preference for light, flexible shoes over stiff heavy boots for backpacking. Here is an extract:

Q: One thing that you talk and write about is “the ankle-support myth”. That is very strongly put. Could you explain what you mean by this?

Chris: One of the main arguments for heavy, stiff footwear is that you need it for ankle-support when carrying a heavy pack or hiking on rough terrain. This is not true.

To begin with most walking boots offer very little ankle support since their soft cuffs give easily under pressure. My plastic telemark boots give good ankle-support, but I can hardly walk in them. Stiff-ankled boots and natural foot movement do not go together.

What actually holds your ankle in place over the sole of a shoe is a rigid heel counter, found in good quality running shoes as well as trail shoes. And I’ve now done enough walking in sandals that I’m not convinced that any support at all is needed if you have strong ankles.


Jeff said...

Hey Chris,

Great post and thanks for the link love. I like to go barefoot as much as possible these days and wear the Vibrams when I can't. Hiking in them is especially fun.


Anonymous said...

I gotta say that Vibrams are the best "shoe" that I've ever worn, bar none.

Methuselah said...

When my Flows arrive I will be hiking the Lake District from end to end in them (when I can find the time!) I shall report on the experience.

Petro said...

I've been wearing them here in Baghdad for walking to and from work about half the time, and for a little running (I hope to do more running if time permits).

I wore them a lot back in the states, and they are comfortable once your achilles tendon gets stretched back out.