Just Starting Out - Need Advice and Expectations

Discussion in 'Barefoot & Minimalist Hiking' started by hikerdana, Mar 7, 2016.

  1. hikerdana

    hikerdana
    Expand Collapse
    Administrator
    1. New Hampshire

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2016
    Messages:
    169
    Likes Received:
    243
    While I know a lot about hiking in general I would like some advice on how to toughen up the feet for hiking and what can I reasonable expect in how long the toughening up process will last and how reasonable it is for most people to hike completely barefoot almost all the time. I know that is a very broad question and I'm sure I'm going to get just as broad a range of answers.

    So far, I know if I go slow enough I might be able to hike on anything. I am not adverse to hiking slow, I just don't want to be all day at it either, I like to do 10-15 miles a day. My footwear experience was years ago in Limmer boots, which are custom made full leather. durable and very heavy hiking boots. Then I progressed to lighter footwear and have done some hiking in Teva sandals and now five fingers. In my five-fingers I have notice some fatigue since my foot is no longer supported by a nice platform when I step on the edges of rocks. I've never had a problem with my feet or ankles no matter what type of footwear I have worn. I've even have hiked barefoot, for short stretches, deep in the woods when no one was around and the likelihood of being seen was very low. Please, let's keep that last part about me hiking barefoot just between us.

    My current routine to tough up my feet is running 2 times a week and I'm working to slowly increase that to 3 times a week. I'm not planning on increasing my running mileage by more than 10% each week and I'm thinking every 4 weeks maybe take a step back and reduce my mileage for that week. I'm also going barefoot as much as possible. I do a fair amount of walking and when things work out I'll walk the 1 mile to and from work each day. Though currently I'm only walking 1/4 mile and it is not always barefoot since it is still cold up here in New Hampshire. I do plan to start hiking whenever possible barefoot and I'll bring some shoes with me to be safe.

    Thanks for your input, thoughts, advice, general encouragement, and friendship. I would have become a barefooter years ago if I realized it wasn't dangerous or illegal.

    Thanks,
     
    Collapse Signature Expand Signature
    Thea Gavin likes this.
  2. Barefoot TJ

    Barefoot TJ
    Expand Collapse
    Administrator
    1. Test Chapter
    2. Nomad
    3. Hidden...
    4. Hidden...

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2010
    Messages:
    19,747
    Likes Received:
    5,939
    Some people believe we shouldn't try to "toughen" up our soles but allow them to be sensitive so that they may teach us best, safest how to travel. I totally get that.

    Todd Ragsdale (God rest his soul) who set the first Guinness World Record for the Longest Barefoot Run (https://www.thebarefootrunners.org/...efoot-ultra-no-simple-feat.19113/#post-179228) and others have trained in a very short period of time to "condition" their soles by using gravel bucket training (https://www.thebarefootrunners.org/...t-runner-in-less-than-12-months.855/#post-892 and...

    ).​

    The most ardent barefoot hiker I know is Bob Neinast, a.k.a., Ahcuah (http://ahcuah.com/). Like you, he has traversed a lot of well-known territory and terrain. If he doesn't post in this thread, please message him through the site.

    I would recommend just allowing nature to take its course. You'll get there.
     
    Collapse Signature Expand Signature
    BareFootHeath and hikerdana like this.
  3. Gordon

    Gordon
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2015
    Messages:
    194
    Likes Received:
    198
    The soles of your feet will thicken pretty quickly, so foot strength will be the big issue. You'll likely be able to do barefoot 90% or more of what you can do in VFFs. Sharp pointy embedded rocks will probably be your sticking point. I carry a 4oz pair of huaraches in my pack when I hike, just in case.
     
    Clark and hikerdana like this.
  4. hikerdana

    hikerdana
    Expand Collapse
    Administrator
    1. New Hampshire

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2016
    Messages:
    169
    Likes Received:
    243
    Gordon, thanks for the encouragement. One thing I have noticed since switching to VFF when hiking is how often I used my shoes as platforms when I walk across an area with rocks that don't have flat surfaces on the top. I'll balance across the top of those rocks while others may choose to step down or around them. So I expect my hiking style may change a bit unless my feet can toughen up to take that type of beating. Along those same lines I see with hiking barefoot is not necessarily just toughening up the bottom of my feet as it is developing the needed muscles to support your body with less then your whole foot, much like a rock climber does with both their hands and feet.
     
    Collapse Signature Expand Signature
    Gordon likes this.
  5. Tristan

    Tristan
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters
    1. Ohio

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2011
    Messages:
    1,840
    Likes Received:
    2,720
    You hike in the Whites? Beautiful mountains up there and I have done many of them when I was younger. Sadly my last trip to the Whites was in '96 I believe. I just got back into hiking a few years ago, and focus on my stompin' grounds in the Adirondacks. I want to finish out my 46 high peaks, then go back over the ones I did in shoes to do all 46 barefoot. Hopefully I'll make it up there for a couple hikes this summer.

    Anyhow, I didn't do anything special to toughen the feet other than just start using them barefoot. It did take a while. First the sole sensitivity was a problem, I was a very shod person prior and my soles where very sensitive. This goes away fairly quickly, maybe the first couple months of steady barefoot runs (especially on the chip seal roads around here). The harsher the surface, the more conditioning you'll receive. Just be careful not to do too much too quick. And then there is the strengthening of the foot muscles, tendons, etc. That will take a little longer, at least it did for me. Realize we are biological creatures that are all different and will progress at different rates. 1 year of being mostly barefoot I did a hike in VFF and my feet were pretty beat up at the end of the day. I didn't think I could do barefoot on the rocky trails then, but my progression is slower than most. It took me 2 years until I was confident on rough trails in the mountains, and even then I put on the sandals for a portion. Now, after several years I think I can handle just about anything, at hiking speeds (I still can't run on rough trail though).

    You also mention about different hiking style - like how in tough boots you'd go right on the rocks. With tough enough feet maybe some do this too but I find hiking barefoot I do pick a different path. When dealing with larger rocks I look for the flat ones or try to go between them. But I also don't worry about going straight into mud or deep water which I would avoid in boots, soggy waterproof boots are the worse! So a different 'strategy' if you will. I find though barefoot I actually have better traction and my feet can conform to odd surfaces, your toes and claw over and edge, etc. Plus balance is better and your not apt to trip with heavy boots with thick soles (like stilts). Hiking light is a nice advantage too... I had mostly all old cheap gear which worked fine on a budget. But I started replacing 5 lb sleeping bags with 1 lb ones, 6 lb tent with 2 lb, a whole mess kit and gas stove with a 1 ounce alcohol stove and 1 ultralight pot, etc, etc. Of course that only applies to multi-day hikes where you're carrying lots of gear, and it does cost a pretty penny.

    Good luck! Just take your time and don't rush it. Hiking is great and I think it is more important to enjoy the experience so don't go breaking a metatarsal on a rough rock or straining a ligament or tendon just because you force yourself to do it barefoot before you were ready for the conditions. Build up your confidence first. How long it takes is very subjective.
     
    Collapse Signature Expand Signature
    Gordon and hikerdana like this.
  6. hikerdana

    hikerdana
    Expand Collapse
    Administrator
    1. New Hampshire

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2016
    Messages:
    169
    Likes Received:
    243
    Tristan,

    That is really good advice. I forgot sometimes my choice was limited due to mud or water, it will be a bit easier to just walk on through those areas now. And then where a few options close a few more may open since you are now barefoot. It will definitely change my hiking style.

    So far I've gone on a few small hikes with my VFF and have done okay. I could tell my feet were being put to the test and I would switch out. Maybe I'll consider the terrain and switch out and try to switch out as needed.

    Last fall while on vacation I ran too much (in minimalist shoes) and got one of those over use injuries and was out of the game for a few months, so don't want that to happen with this transition. I'm doing mostly walking as much as I can, but always have my minimalist shoes with me (except on my runs). TJ mentioned taking it easy and pointed out a few places that also encouraged taking it easy and I'm following I believe it is a plan by Jason, to slowing start running the miles barefoot.

    I have no idea how long it will take me. So I'll just go out and see, and have a backup plan or two. I'm thinking I might bring some of my lightweight hiking boots and my VFF on some of the more serious hikes. And always try to remember pride goes before destruction.

    It means a lot to me to know that other non superhuman people are hiking barefoot and that a normal hike will evolve eventually. Knowing it can take a few years is extremely helpful as well.

    Thank you very much for taking the time to respond, offer advice and encouragement. I'm sure some day I'll visit the Adirondacks again and maybe we can met up and go for a hike. Barefoot or otherwise doesn't matter, getting out there is what is important.
     
    Collapse Signature Expand Signature
    Tristan likes this.
  7. luisifer

    luisifer
    Expand Collapse
    Guest

    Good thread :). New to the forum, not new to the idea of barefoot/minimalist running, nor hiking (shod). I hike a lot and always with my 4 children, ages 4-10. To be able to do this I've gone UL on the equipment, eventhough my kids are extremely strong and durable ;-). 4 years ago we hiked with lw-boots, but discovered the UL-path and its advantages - so we switched to lw running shoes. This has shown to be even better for our feet - the lighter the better. The muscles in the ankle and rest of the foot will react faster when twisting forces are applied, thus lowering the risk of injuring yourself, compared to heavier boots with thicker soles. This fall and winter we've been running with minimalist shoes and these will be worn for our summer hiking trips. I believe that my two oldest children (both girls) will probably hike barefoot - they're the ones mostly inspired (by Born to Run), they've already started running barefoot.
    Still I think the key is the UL-equipment, as mentioned by Tristan. Going UL has enabled me to hike for 2 weeks straight, with my 4 children, and this includes all the food and sleeping and camping gear. Without injuries.
     
    hikerdana and KTR like this.
  8. KTR

    KTR
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters
    1. Spain - España

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2016
    Messages:
    255
    Likes Received:
    429
    This sounds like music to my ears :D
     
    Collapse Signature Expand Signature
  9. luisifer

    luisifer
    Expand Collapse
    Guest

    Gracias amigo
     
  10. Thea Gavin

    Thea Gavin
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2012
    Messages:
    89
    Likes Received:
    153
    Hi HikerDana--Sounds like you're on the "right path" (sorry about the pun) headed toward miles of fun on the trails. I've been hiking/trail running without shoes since Jan. 2010; it's been awesome to really feel the trails and see how strong my feet have become. It's taken a long time, however, with lots of 'mini-injuries' along the way, which I've gotten help with from a really good physical therapist. I also am playing around with being more aware of how my body moves (Feldenkrais sessions; you can google it and see what you think), which has also helped a lot.

    The main thing is . . . if you want to get better at hiking/running barefoot, then the shoes have to come off. I adjust my trail time to avoid summer heat and winter cold (avoiding the middle of the day in the summer, and early morning in the winter). Since I live in a pretty mild climate, that's all I need to do to keep running/hiking barefoot year 'round.

    Now I can carry a 25-pound backpack for miles barefoot, (or a 35-pound one if I wear my old Merrell Barefoot sandals), and have enjoyed barefoot backpacking at Grand Canyon several times in the past few years. You might want to check out my blog, where I write about these adventures . . . I try to make them useful with lots of photos and tips and encouragement so others will try barefooting on the trails. (I'm a 56-year-old granny who gave up long ago caring what other people thought about my bare feet :) )

    https://theagavin.wordpress.com/

    Happy trails . . . remember it's supposed to be fun :) Thea
     
    hikerdana likes this.
  11. Christian Lemburg

    Christian Lemburg
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters
    1. Germany &...

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2014
    Messages:
    206
    Likes Received:
    296
    Hi Dana,

    don't worry, you will be able to hike almost anything barefoot if you build it up slowly, and just try out how far you can go. Have some backup huaraches or similar in your pack or trouser pocket, and off you go. Sure, there are areas where it is very difficult to hike barefoot - e.g., lots of thorny plants, extremely hot or cold, wet mud, sharp rocks, sharp rocks embedded in wet mud, etc. . However, you can often navigate around these, or just put your huaraches on for the time. The longest hike I did fully barefoot was a 10 day hike through Eastern Germany in autumn, with some sub-zero temperatures, lots of rain, gravel forest paths, and many iron ladders. I was initally worried about the ladders, but it turned out just fine.

    Just be careful with wet mud. There may be sharp things in it, and on inclines it is very slippery, leading to dangerous falls.

    Good luck!
     
    hikerdana likes this.
  12. BareFootHeath

    BareFootHeath
    Expand Collapse
    Barefooters
    1. Canada

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2019
    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    155
    Another wealth of information


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
    Barefoot TJ likes this.

Share This Page