Minimalist Footwear for Summer Backpacking

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Minimalist Footwear for Summer Backpacking

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Viewing 21 posts - 26 through 46 (of 46 total)
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    John S.
    BPL Member



    Nick Gatel
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern California


    Go easy on the Treks at first. They are not shoes!

    Mark Cucuzzella


    Locale: West Virginia

    As a doc, runner, hiker, researcher in gait mechanics, and now store owner of a running/outdoor store selling only flat and minimal shoes….the research and human experience support less in more. out website is a portal of information, a library, videos, and evidence based education on the subject. Any of th minimal running shoes now such as Vivo Barefoot, NB Minimus, Merrell Trail Glove, Kigo, Inov 8, Altra, and more to come will support your foots rehab. Bracing the foot inhibits movement. take the 2 week challenge and walk as much as possible barefoot and when you need shoes get as thin and flat as possible for max proprioception.

    Mark Cucuzzella MD

    Damien Tougas
    BPL Member


    Those are my wife's toes, and don't worry… it's UL nail polish ;-)

    Lisa Nichols


    Locale: New England

    I think those Inov-8, as well as some others, only come in a gender-neutral version – ie male only. I have the X-Talon 220s and have tried the MudRoc 290s – which are also a performance last. I do have slightly narrow feet (between normal and narrow for a woman), and actually find I have plenty of room in the forefoot and toe box of those shoes. My toes can surely spread out, a little too much for me. I can't even wear any of the other Inov-8 lasts due to the shoe feeling like boxes on my feet instead of shoes.
    I buy shoes that people have said are "narrow", in the hopes they will work for me. I often find that doesn't work out because the reviewer had bear feet and anything but a DDD would feel tight (an exaggeration). But my point is you should probably let everyone know upfront what type of feet you have and that your review is based on your feet. Although I haven't tried the Inov-8 shoes you reviewed, I would likely rate the fit much higher than you did based on my feet.
    Why can't we just get molds of our feet and have our runners/hikers custom made to fit – at an affordable price that is?

    Jim W.
    BPL Member


    Locale: So-Cal

    I'm not quite going for complete minimalism, rather fairly light, fairly neutral heel, good drainage, but high enough to keep rocks out. Normally I use Dirty Girl Gaiters but was looking for something a bit tougher.

    The Nike SFB boots look pretty good. They are basically the same weight as my Montrail Hardrocks (older version). 16 oz. each boot for size 9.

    If any of you have tried them, please report.


    Daniel Fluri


    My girlfriend's Merrell Barefoot Pace-Gloves after only two days hiking in the Swiss Jura-hills:

    She returned them to the supplier, who will send them to the manufacturer. I shall keep you posted once we get a reply.

    David Wood
    BPL Member


    Locale: South Eastern UK

    For what it's worth, my wife and I both wear FiveFingers (mainly KSOs) a lot and have done for a couple of years.

    When we first wore them for a walk that took in a stretch of very stony beach we both found it painful after about 500 metres. That was a few months after we started using them.

    We walked that same stretch about a month back and we both were struck by how we could walk the terrain without any pain. Nothing.

    So, yes, after a while, your feet adapt. And we do need time to adapt – the idea mooted above that we shouldn't use minimalist footwear because we didn't grow up using it seems to give our bodys' ability to adapt way too little credit.

    George Matthews
    BPL Member


    Had the FiveFinger Treks for four weekends of taking 1.5-1.75 hour walks both wkend days and then between taking 1-3 week day walks after work of .75-1.0 hours.

    There is gravel section that I descend and then later ascend. Over a month's time I've experience a significant improvement. In the beginning my feet would react immediately when I'd feel any rock or point on my heel. Now I just walk right on over. I feel the points but relax and walk on.

    I wonder if this is as much psychological as physical.

    I am confident enough to take them on my next lightweight backpacking trip. Don't know how many miles I will do yet.

    One change I've become aware of: I'm much more in tune with the surface of my immediately upcoming steps. With trailrunners and boots I sometimes tend inadvertently to kick rocks and roots – lack of concentration. Have not banged my feet yet or caught a toe with the fivefingers.

    I've been enjoying them so far.

    Thomas Burns
    BPL Member


    Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."

    Ditto on the last two comments. The previous iterations of the KSO's were a bit thin on the footpad and were a tad uncomfortable on gravel. The latest iterations — the KSO Treks, Sport, Bikikias (sp?), etc.) have slightly thicker bottoms that solve the gravel issue.

    I have given up on my other walking shoes. I'd wear my KSO Treks around my university if my students wouldn't say, Geesh, another wierd professor. ;-D

    VBFF forever!


    Eric Palumbo


    Locale: Rocky Mountains

    "I have given up on my other walking shoes. I'd wear my KSO Treks around my university if my students wouldn't say, Geesh, another wierd professor. ;-D"

    This is a great application for the Merrell Trail/True/Tough Glove shoes. Zero drop and a little bit of padding, but they look like "shoes" to the rest of the world.

    I've walked up to 18 miles with a full pack and found them quite comfortable. I don't know if I'll walk the entire CT in them yet though….

    Brendan Swihart
    BPL Member


    Locale: Fruita CO


    George Matthews
    BPL Member



    I'm going to try them on a multi-day trek going pretty much SUL. My feet, legs, body, and head are adjusting well to them.


    I will also take my old O'Neill's just 'cause I can. : )


    Richard Colfack
    BPL Member


    Locale: ARIZONA

    I've been wanting to try barefoot running shoes ever since I read "Born to Run" but I could never bring myself to wear the arguably hideous Vibram Finger's. Right after reading this article I went out and purchased Merrell's True Glove ($110 retail, 7.1 oz per manufacturer). I've been running and hiking in them for two and half months solid so I think it's time to give my thoughts on the matter.

    The good: Very lightweight and comfortable, they actually fit like a glove. Not as ugly as the Cinqo Fingers. Large toe box, so no toe cramming on downhills. Forces midfoot strike due to lack of heel.

    The not so good: Relatively expensive for what you get. The Vibram sole wears out quickly. The inner liner is tearing apart. I have severely bruised my feet from trail running on rocky trails. Runs on concrete surfaces are knee killers because there is absolutely no cushion.

    I really enjoy using them to run on sandy trails and hike short distances. It gets ugly, however, when the trail turns rocky since these soles offer little to no protection. I believe these are a great training aid but I would never attempt a muti-week hike or marathon in them. Could I do it? Of course, and many people have. Here's the thing, some hardcore folks like to sleep without a pad or air mattress. I happen to like my Neo-Air. Could I go without it to save weight? Sure. Same goes with my hiking shoes. My regular shoes offer more protection, are fairly lightweight, last longer, I don't look silly in them, and they don't hurt my feet during endurance hikes/runs. Let face it, there's a small percentage of people that have sledgehammer feet and they will tell you that if they can do it, so can you. They believe that all humans can run like the Tarhumara Indians and the fact is that you probably can't. I've run 23 marathons and I don't kid myself that I can compete with the Ethiopians and Kenyans by doing anything similar to what they do.

    Final thoughts: I believe the perfect trail shoe is both lightweight and offers good protection from whatever the trail throws at you. These shoes are not that. They are fine shoes for shorter activities, training, and wearing around the house, but not recommended for endurance activities. I know the cult-like believers of barefoot shoes will be enraged to hear this but it's my opinion, get over yourself.

    Eugene Smith
    BPL Member


    Locale: Nuevo Mexico


    It's official, when I grow up, I want to have legs like George. With trunks like those do you even need footwear? You could probably backpacking in high heels!

    George Matthews
    BPL Member


    Follow up:

    Vibram FiveFinger Treks VFF (since April)
    Merrill Trail Gloves TG (since June)

    Started off walking with the VFF up to about two hours. Then after a few weeks, started running little over six miles on Sat and Sun mornings. Running with TG since got them, alternating with the VFF.

    Last week, gave them both their first good backpacking test. Was with wife so did low miles, but my pack weight was 29 lb on day one. Trails included hard rocky, snow, muddy, soft dirt, loose gravel. Was in Yosemite. First day was travel and walked around Valley. Day 2 from Tioga Rd to site near Indian Rock. Day 3 was loop by North Dome and then down and back up near Tioga Rd via trail along Lehamite Creek then down to footbridge over Snow Creek and south along creek to site. Day 4 was back to trail and then back over footbridge and then descending down to Valley via Mirror Lake. Day 5 was walking around Valley. So three good days on trail, 5 miles TGs, 7 miles VFFs, and 5 miles TGs.

    My feet and legs did better than they ever have. For me, and I can only speak for my own results, these shoes are both amazing. I did not use poles. Was really in tune with my steps. Was a whole lot of fun. I love these things!

    TG snow


    snow vff trek

    BPL Member


    wrong thread

    Brian Russo


    I love my VFFs, have the KSO's and leather Trek LS'. They are incredibly comfortable and when I have to wear my leather moc's or shoes like Vans for going out I definitely miss the free feeling (I'm pretty comfortable with myself, but not enough to wear VFFs to a club).

    They do have some QC issues, but frankly so does just about every other shoe I've worn so while I can't praise them here, I can't say they're worse either.

    Your feet will get wet. Here on Oahu the Koolau hikes tend to get very muddy. The flipside is at trailheads where rinsing is available I have 90% clean shoes in 5-10 minutes that dry out very quickly. Toss them in the washing machine when you get home (or wash in sink) and you're good to go (Only applicable for the mesh versions).

    As for the sole being thin.. well that's the point. I grew up mostly barefoot so have well-developed feet. I can certainly understand how people that are accustomed to shoes "providing support" need to build up their feet or elect not to and stick with more modern shoes. But this isn't a flaw of the shoe, anymore than it is a flaw of an UL pack that it can't take a 60 pound load without the seams splitting.

    I have literally sprinted down a crater to escape a brush fire with police helicopters yelling at me while wearing VFFs. I did suffer a bruised heel (that I didn't notice until later due to adrenaline), but I can't say I would have been able to move as easily in a conventional shoe. With VFFs you won't drag your toes nor trip over them because they can flex properly.

    BPL Member


    Locale: NorCal - South Bay

    I have had these for a little over a year now. I have the trekking version. I where them all of the time. 4 weeks ago I sprained my ankle and the top of the outer foot. My boss won't let me where the VFF to work, so I suffer in pain all day in a good pair of Brooks. When I put the VFF back on after work and wear them on the weekend it is fantastic. NO PAIN. From an elevated tennis shoe back to a natural foot position, this injury is almost unnoticable in the Vibram Five Fingers…

    I have been walking about 5 miles a day the last few weeks. I am not a runner. I am too big of a guy and have had a knee injury I worry about. It is also a reaccuring injury. Though, since I started using the VFF – The knee doesn't hurt…

    Ugly, maybe; did the guys at work put up pictures of a Silver back gorilla the first time they saw them all over my cube? YES. Does my wife think they are embarassing. Why, absolutely!!!

    VFF Forever!!!


    Lou Renner


    Through the toesalad site, I got turned on to Invisible Shoes sandals. They're a version of the huaraches sandals. About a minimalist as you can get, and weigh 3 ounces each. They were a great addition to my pack, perfect for when I didn't want to get my boots wet, and I ended up wearing them for much more of my hiking than I expected. I got really into how you can totally feel the ground when you wear them.

    Justin Baker
    BPL Member


    Locale: Santa Rosa, CA

    I have been interested in minimal footwear for a while now, but I didn't want to bang up my feet with the ultra thin stuff. I found a good middle ground that I have been using. I take a pair of van's sneakers, rip out the in/midsole (not easy because it is all glued) and put in a very thin insole.
    It ends up with a somewhat thicker sole than some "barefoot" shoes, but it has been working for me. I don't feel the ground in the bad painful way, but the soles flex and allow to walk naturally.
    When my current ones wear out, I am going to try the converse as coast sneaker (lighter and thinner than the regular chucks).

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