Apr 20, 2013 at 2:53 pm #1301976
I've been using a new pair of boots with much less sole stiffnes. I like the boots but I've noticed my left knee has begun to ache a bit on downhills; never has before. There could be no correlation at all between this knee achiness and the new soles, but I don't know.
This is probably an impossible question to answer. Everybody's feet/knees are pretty particular in terms of how they respond to things.
Still, I thought that I'd ask.
The new boots are Vasque Breeze; I'm used to Asolos.Apr 20, 2013 at 3:04 pm #1978790
Daryl and DarylParticipant
@lyrad1Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
I don't have an answer but I have a clue.
I hurt my left knee a few years ago and noticed that it didn't hurt if I was walking down stairs or an incline and touching the ground with the ball of my foot first. My physical therapist said that made sense but I couldn't understand her explanation.
Sooooo, I could see how the stiffness of a sole could affect how your foot makes contact with the ground and how it moves after doing so.
I would try some other shoes for awhile, even if you can't figure out the biomechanics of the thing. Soreness or pain would be my compass and I would navigate away from it.Apr 20, 2013 at 3:14 pm #1978794
Daryll: interesting, Ive noticed that about going down stairs as well.
The Vasque Breeze are the 'new boots' that I'm trying! I agree about navigating away from pain. Everything is a compromise; I like how the Breeze feel on my feet, except for the narrow toe box.
This could get expensive fast.Apr 20, 2013 at 4:08 pm #1978817
spelt with a tParticipant
@speltLocale: SW/C PA
Going downhill doesn't hurt anymore since I switched to trail runners.Apr 20, 2013 at 4:58 pm #1978831
Switching shoes is probably the best way to find "injuries" regardless of going from stiff to soft or vice versa. Your body adjusts biomechanics based on what it's used to. The feet have a lot of mobility naturally which ends up affecting all the joints above up the the back when they start acting different from before.
Since you (and Daryl) both feel going downstairs is more comfortable when using the ball of the feet first, that sounds like biomechanics. Basically with stiff shoes you often get a lot of heel cushion. So you "learn" to strike with your heel since the boot absorbs the impact. When you get rid of that cushion, now your heel takes more direct force and that translates into your knee bits smashing into each other harder than before. Over time this gets tender and can hurt a lot eventually.
If you use the ball of your foot first, then the entire structure of your foot acts as a spring/cushion to soften the impact on your heels. The foot/ankle/calf is REALLY good at doing this, but only if it's strong. Making it stronger is not a particularly fast process. Muscles are slow to develop but I suspect that most people have weak tendons and tendon takes FOREVER to grow stronger. It's akin to developing finger strength in climbers…years of climbing is the only thing that works.
You can't just swap out boots for trail runners and expect to get the same mileage out of them. With boots you have to "break them in" until they're comfortable. Well with progressively softer shoes you have to "break in" your FEET! Start with day hikes and slowly increase the miles so your feet and ankles can get used to having stabilize more often than before.
Trust me, been there done that and now have a chronic knee issue (but will also never go back to overbuilt shoes).
In the meantime stretching helps a little. But surprisingly the most effective treatment I've found for knees has been exercise. Specifically a range of different two-legged squats and lunges in all directions coupled with single leg body-weight exercises and plyometrics. Think cross-fit type stuff but doesn't have to be as intense. It makes my knees feel stronger and more stable which over the long miles allows my knees to resist all the impact better.
PS: Trekking Poles also alleviate a lot of the downhill force and keep my knees to a dull ache instead of throbbing burn when I'm lax on my non-hiking leg exercise.Apr 20, 2013 at 5:15 pm #1978835
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
I wear very thin and flexible shoes. When I walk downhill I naturally step on the ball of my feet.Apr 20, 2013 at 6:54 pm #1978857
@fluffinreach-comLocale: no. california
if the pain is in the rear of the knee it could well be bursitis.
downhills are fun to blast, but are really a fine place to go more calmly and rest. then the pain might go away.Apr 20, 2013 at 7:30 pm #1978864
@m-lLocale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
Be careful, stiff shoes don't allow your feet and ankles to extend and become a part of each stride. Instead your knees will take all the impact.Apr 20, 2013 at 9:43 pm #1978897
@jenmitolLocale: In my dreams....
Jeff as you mentioned there is no answer that works for everyone. And as a previous poster mentioned sometimes just switching things up can bring out a biomechanical fault you didn't really know you had.
Depending on your foot type, your previous shoe may have been blocking a bit of pronation (which you want, by the way…) and protected your knee; now that you have a softer shoe your foot may be going through its whole range of motion but taking the knee with it. Since you say most of your pain is going downhill, that means that you lack enough muscle control through your whole leg – from the hip on down – to keep your knee aligned when you step down. Try doing a single leg squat in front of the mirror and see what your knee and ankle do: does it fall in towards your other knee? Can you keep it perfectly straight?
I posted some hip exercises on my crappy blog backpackerPT.com that address this issue exactly…so go that route first, or just get some shoes with more pronation control.Apr 21, 2013 at 8:22 am #1978978
@rustybLocale: Rocky Mountains
My knee pain was cut by 80-90% when I started backpacking in "barefoot" shoes. And, after a decade of not being able to jog across a cross walk in "runners" without pissing it off for days, I discovered I can literally run again in these shoes, or barefoot, with no problems. (I seldom run anymore but it's nice to know I can when I want)
So, I got rid of all my day to day shoes that were cushioned in the heal, were snug fitting, had arch support, and all the other stuff we've been told for yrs we "need" to take care of our feet. I have since tried on conventional "running shoes" to see what they felt like and I feel severely handicapped.
I'm no PT or podiatrist…and I'm even further from being trendy, but I think there is a lot to be said for wearing a shoe that allows everything to work naturally…at least for some people (maybe most, I don't know).
Don't know if it applies to the OP but this is my experience and observations. I should also note that my total backpack weight is between 7.25 and 10 lbs which I'm sure helps too.
Best of luck to the OP!Apr 21, 2013 at 12:23 pm #1979045
I wrote several articles on this exact topic for eHow and Arizona's new health initiative. The muscles in your feet are evolutionarily designed to absorb impact. With each step, the ball and heel of your foot should simultaneously contact the ground, and as the arch collapses to flatten against the ground, the impact is redistributed along the muscles of the foot instead of the shin and knee.
So, the correct answer is that flexible soles will be better for your knee, BUT, you will need to strengthen your feet first using minimalist shoes or barefoot time to really absorb the shock.
Best of luck!
-MaxApr 21, 2013 at 12:32 pm #1979048
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
"So, the correct answer is that flexible soles will be better for your knee, BUT, you will need to strengthen your feet first using minimalist shoes or barefoot time to really absorb the shock."
That's it. Need to walk or hike daily. Build up your lower joints and associated parts. Natural walking is best, which means barefoot or minimalist. If you are over weight or an occasional hiker you already have two strikes against you. If you have already suffered serious injury, that is another matter.Apr 21, 2013 at 3:14 pm #1979086
About a year ago I switched to stiffer-soled boots, and did notice strain on my knees. But, the relief to my feet, which was my goal, was so positive that I decided to "watch" the knee-feel for a while. I no longer have any problem with the knees, so I suppose that I adjusted to it well.
KellyApr 21, 2013 at 3:53 pm #1979096
Kelly brings up an interesting point that I've looked into.
I'm a firm believer in barefoot/minimalist shoes for improving over all foot/leg/back health. I like letting my body function as naturally as possible. That said I also believe that there are potential benefits to stiffer or more supportive shoes, in the short term. The concept behind padded running shoes still sounds logical, when trying to max out performance. I have near zero drop shoes (still working up the muscles) for my day to day walking and occasional jogging. However when I go backpacking I take more padded shoes with a rock plate and a bit more heel drop because it cushions my feet better. I do this because i don't get to hike/walk as much as I want or need on rocky terrain to build up my foot toughness. Thus I use the technology of shoes to compensate. But again this is only temporary measures. If I were to do a 1000+ mile thru hike I would just deal with the initial pain the first week then move on from their.
Shoes should be viewed as tools and not as clothing so much. Like all tools they make life easier, but so easy that you lose the muscles necessary to do the job if you didn't have the tool. Forklifts are great for heavy loads but not really necessary for a single 50lb bag. If we use the forklift for every lifting job (no matter how easy) then we lose the muscle to lift a simple heavy but not ridiculous bag. Shoes are used everyday for everything, so make sure your feet are still getting the proper workout they need on at least easy terrain of civilized life.Apr 21, 2013 at 8:51 pm #1979182
@scfhomeLocale: Chocorua NH, USA
"Be careful, stiff shoes don't allow your feet and ankles to extend and become a part of each stride. Instead your knees will take all the impact."
That's been my experience also, as my knee joints get older and less functional.
More flexible soles (lengthwise, not tortionally) greatly reduced the problem.
Found that shoes with stiff soles had an almost immediate impact on the knees when they got off the roads and onto the trail. It took a while to see the correlation.
Decided this year to focus on footwear. You are right Jeff, it does get expensive.
Tried to use sites that pay both delivery and return shippping, to keep the cost down. Still not sure if it was worth it.Apr 22, 2013 at 9:38 am #1979327
@barrypLocale: Eastern Idaho (moved from Midwest)
“…my left knee has begun to ache a bit on downhills; never has before..”
+1 on the trekking poles. Those really help the knees.
Stiff soles or flexible soles? I don’t know. I've had good success with both. My first sets of sandals were very flexible and it felt very nice being able to feel the earth and all its bends. And I could go far. But I avoided scree as much as possible— because it did tire out my feet. Now I use the stiffer sole and I can walk on scree all day; it feels good. And I play sports better with my stiffer sole (basketball, tennis, & racquetball). And then when I’m walking around town, I’ll slip on a very flexible Nike sandal— and that feels good too/again. Right now, for backpacking, I’m staying with the stiff sole.
Good luck in the footwear choice,
-The mountains were made for TevasApr 22, 2013 at 10:09 am #1979337
spelt with a tParticipant
@speltLocale: SW/C PA
>>Be careful, stiff shoes don't allow your feet and ankles to extend and become a part of each stride. Instead your knees will take all the impact.
This is exactly what happened to me. Coming downhill I was striking with my heel first and it aggravated my knees badly.
>>My first sets of sandals were very flexible and it felt very nice being able to feel the earth and all its bends. And I could go far. But I avoided scree as much as possible— because it did tire out my feet. Now I use the stiffer sole and I can walk on scree all day; it feels good.
FWIW, my experience was that flexible soles combined with a cushy insole (Inov8 XTalon 240s and Wolverine Durashocks, specifically) gave enough protection on rough ground without sacrificing the benefits of flexible soles. I haven't had problems with aching feet. Plus my balance is much improved when my foot/shoe is able to conform to the shape of the rock and maintain contact over a larger surface area.
Again, just my experience and YMMV!Apr 22, 2013 at 6:15 pm #1979535
editApr 22, 2013 at 6:52 pm #1979548
I did a quick browse through this thread after someone referenced it on a thread I started this morning. I was sharing my experience with a forefoot strike in running, and also reviewing Merrell's Trail Glove 2's. A lot of what I'm getting at is being expressed on here in terms of biomechanics and joint pain/injury.
Those of you who wear minimalist shoes while hiking (zero drop w/ cushion, VFF's, Trail Glove types, etc.), how do you strike the ground on flat trails? With your heel, midfoot, or forefoot? Uphill and downhill are probably with your forefoot (unless you like climbing up using your heels and/or jumping down onto your heels).Apr 22, 2013 at 6:59 pm #1979552
@mwgillenwaterLocale: Seattle area
I wear Vivo Breathos backpacking. I think how you strike depends on how much you have strengthened your feet and legs, which can take years. Also a strong function of the ground surface. Hard surfaces lead me to less heal impact, while softer you can use a more normal heal strike walking gait.
mgApr 22, 2013 at 7:12 pm #1979559
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
I wear very flexible shoes (vivobarefoots). When walking on a flat and clear surface I strike near my midfoot/heels. My midfoot and heels tend to strike at about the same exact time.
When do I step on my forefoot?: When walking up or down hill, I strike forefoot. When walking on lots of small rocks (like in a stream or scree field) I step somewhat carefully on my forefoot so that I don't smash my heel against something. When I hike off trail and I am stepping on lots of fallen branches, I step on my forefoot. When walking around actual barefoot, which the skin on my feet isn't tough enough to do comfortably (i just do it around camp), I step on my forefoot because it's more comfortable walking on pokey leaves and branches that way. If I putting my foot down in between some bushes and I can't see exactly what I am stepping on, I go forefoot.
Basically, the more damage stepping on the ground will cause to foot (from tiny rocks or sharp branches), the more my foot naturally steps on the forefoot.
People don't naturally always step on their forefoot on flat ground. That's a myth that has been popularized by barefoot running shoes manufactures to push their products into casual use. However when running, it's always forefoot. Go watch Cody Lundin, a survival instructor who walks around the desert barefoot, and you will see him heel striking.
Also when I first started using very minimalist shoes I did more forefoot stepping on flat trails. Now I seem to walk more on my heels, probably because they are tougher now.Apr 22, 2013 at 8:09 pm #1979567
I've recently been going to a podiatrist alot because I'm having knee problems when training for a hike. Was labeled a "hyper" pronator with the tightest achilles he's ever seen. His take was that my feet needed stiff (but not too stiff) shoes.
Anyone else been told a similar thing by their dr?Apr 22, 2013 at 8:31 pm #1979575
@jenmitolLocale: In my dreams....
AW why are you a hyper pronator? This is the biggest question…many people over pronate because they are weak in the side of the hips: stand on one leg and do a squat in front of a mirror. Does your knee collapse inward? Or can you easily keep it straight in line with your foot?
If your knee collapses inward, that means every single time you take a step – especially going down stairs or downhill – your poor knee is twisting like that. Your foot can sometimes be the cause, but more often than not it is just going along for the ride and twisting as well. Try it: stand on one leg barefoot, do the squat, and watch your arch collapse as your lower leg twists…because your knee is falling in…
Anyway…if you work on strengthening your butt and hip muscles to not allow your femur to twist like that (and put a great deal of stress on your ITB, kneecap, medial meniscus, etc) then you can usually get away with neutral shoes and no more knee pain.Apr 22, 2013 at 10:50 pm #1979600
I agree with Jennifer. I used to have some really severe knee problems which any traditional doctor would have said I'll be in pain for the rest of my life and to use as much supportive gear (shoes, knee braces, etc) as possible to "protect" my joints.
Luckily I went to a doc who's a team doc for several of the local professional sports franchises in AZ. He said "if you were a pro athlete with a million dollar contract and a season on the line, sure we'd do some minimally invasive surgery. But you're not, take the time and just PT the crap out of your legs and you'll be fine."
I did some independent research as well and pretty much he was spot on. I still have occasional knee problems but it's almost always caused by me being less than diligent in squats and then taking on high mileage days with a ton of sustained elevation gain.
Basically work on over all fitness (legs in particular for walking/running sports like backpacking). Muscle imbalances are probably the number one source of joint pain in people. I know for sure that if any of my joints hurt or I'm losing flexibility it's almost always because muscles on one side or the other of the joint are weak. As soon as I work the antagonist muscles, the joint stabilizes and the pain disappears.
Find a good sports doctor, I'm convinced they're better than any specialist since their goal is to get you playing sports again rather than just telling you "stop doing that if it hurts you." They realize two things, first quality of life is more important than pain management, and second that the human body is physically a lot more resilient than given credit. We've just forgotten how to let it do it's own thing.Apr 23, 2013 at 9:03 am #1979696
True about strengthening muscles to help with knee issues. I've done a pretty good regimen and it's really helped. You have to keep it up though! That said, my left knee hasn't had any issues until the new boots. I think that greater foot mobility has taken my knee along, as Jennifer writes.
My right leg does pretty well on the single leg squat test. My left leg/ankle wobble and collapse inward on this test, but that's because I have no arch (long story)–there's just not a stable platform. This, after years of single leg balance exercises on this foot that have really improved things. What's odd is that it's my right knee that has issues, not my left–until the new boots!
Anyway, the search continues. What's difficult is that, in going for something new (lighter) I can't tell in-store what the longer term results might be. And frankly I hate to take advantage of REI by returning boots after wearing them for a month. But I might.
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