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Minimalist Footwear for Backpacking? (Video)


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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Minimalist Footwear for Backpacking? (Video)

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  • #3468825
    Ryan Jordan
    Admin

    @ryan

    Locale: Central Rockies

    Companion forum thread to: Minimalist Footwear for Backpacking? (Video)

    This vlog features commentary by Backpackinglight.com Founder & Publisher Ryan Jordan about the applicability of minimalist footwear for backpacking.

    #3469033
    Stephen Kundell
    BPL Member

    @skkundell-com

    How timely. I am a 68 year old and have hiked in Oboz leather boots for years. I just switched to trail runners. Today I went on a 9 mile hike in Altra Lone Peaks over midweight Injinji hiker socks. Absolutely heavenly for my old man funky toes. The grip on gravel and rocks is much better for the Lone Peaks. No going back!

    #3469055
    Patrick W
    BPL Member

    @mando12

    I really appreciate the information and ideas about shoe uses.  I switched to zero-drop, foot-shaped shoes last year when I suspected that traditional shoes were the cause of knee and foot pain.  Using LP 3.0 now.  Problems cleared and no going back for me  Still, the idea of using a minimalist shoe for foot conditioning has some appeal for me.  I expect I’ll be trying that out soon.  Thanks for the perspectives!

    #3469069
    Justin Baker
    BPL Member

    @justin_baker

    Locale: Santa Rosa, CA

    This has to be the stupidest article I have seen on this website. Ryan, you are taking your own personal experiences and opinions on footwear and presenting them as if they are facts that apply to every hiker.

    I have hiked off trail over scree/talus, up slippery creeks, loose dirt slopes, all of that in very minimalist footwear. In the past I did a few ambitious cross country routes in the ventana wilderness through hazardous terrain in well worn vivobarefoot shoes. I’ve spent lots of time hopping through alpine boulder fields in those types shoes. Lately I have been using the altra superiors with the insoles removed which offer a little more protection than shoes I’ve used in the past, but when broken in I can easily roll them up into a tight ball and feel every tiny pebble under my foot. I have also hiked in minimalist shoes with packs that were heavy and oppressive for my low body weight and lean build and I feel like the minimalist sole keeps me planted and stable. I also have a friend who regularly hiked in minimalist shoes with a huge pack with no issues.

    I have met lots of people who can’t hike in minimalist shoes and I have even met people who get fatigued if they aren’t wearing fully shanked heavy boots. The whole point is everyone has different preferences and needs with their footwear.

    I know you did an video a while back with damien on minimalist footwear. Why the change? Did you injure yourself? If minimalist shoes didn’t work for you that’s fine, but to go out and tell people that they are universally inappropriate for backcountry travel is just silly. This type of thing belongs on your blog not as an article on a website that people pay to subscribe to.

    Try explaining to this guy why his footwear is unsuitable. What it really comes down to is your feet and ankles must be weaker than hikers who have successfully used minimalist footwear. That is not to say that you are weak because I know that you could outhike me any day.

    #3469075
    Ken Thompson
    BPL Member

    @here

    Locale: Right there
    #3469077
    jscott
    BPL Member

    @book

    Locale: Northern California

    Good video, Ryan. You made a thoughtful, step by step argument for your position.

    “Try explaining to this guy why his footwear is unsuitable.”

    Or buy him a pair of Lone Peaks if you care.. Do you really think that this is his footwear of choice? like he was at the mall yesterday and came back with those sandals when he could have had anything he wanted?

    More than a bit of first world romanticism here.

    By the way those aren’t zero drop sandals; looks like he’s modified them. In any case he’s walking on a flat road, not talus slopes.

    #3469113
    Michael Gillenwater
    BPL Member

    @mwgillenwater

    Locale: Seattle area

    Use of minimalist shoes is a matter of conditioning. There I agree. Given how weak and pampered most people’s feet are (including hikers), it can take years to fully condition them. But I don’t think “pristine” is the appropriate descriptive requirement. I backpack in Vivobarefoot trail runners as well and routinely do 20-30 mile days (e.g., Cascades, Olympics, San Juans, Bob Marshall). But it takes training. Think of it like how you would seriously condition your hands for rock climbing. Once conditioned then your agility and balance are vastly improved.

    And I can’t explain it, but there is something special about proprioception. There is this primal nerve connection between feet and brain that alters your perception of the trail and you body’s physical/dynamic relationship to it. Even if they made me hike slower or reduced my max distance, I could not go bad. It would be like hiking with blinders on.

    #3469168
    Paul Benz
    BPL Member

    @treetree

    Locale: Texas

    I might be missing something here or I underestimate the difference.

    Alta Men’s Lone Peak 3.0 stack height = 25 mm https://www.altrarunning.com/men/lone-peak-30

    Hoka One One – Challenger ATR 3 Review = 26 mm (front ) 31 mm back  5 mm drop http://www.runningshoesguru.com/2017/04/hoka-one-one-challenger-atr-3-review/

    There was emphasis on stack height in the video but these shoes have roughly the same stack height.

    Am I missing something here or am I underestimating the difference the 5 mm makes in stack height on one part of the shoe. There is also the zero drop issue.

    #3469175
    Katherine .
    BPL Member

    @katherine

    Locale: pdx

    I found the when wearing a “heavy backpack” statements odd. Does he consider any backpack weight “heavy”?

    #3469176
    Bob Moulder
    BPL Member

    @bobmny10562

    Locale: Westchester County, NY

    Katherine, I found that odd as well.

    We have weights for UL, SUL and XUL… so maybe a definition for Heavy is in order.

    I just wear Brooks Cascadias for everything. My most-used pair now have about 700 miles on them and are now zero drop or close to it, lol. I have no issues with them, nor with the others that have much fresher foam and rubber.

    If it ain’t broke—especially when it comes to shoes—don’t fix it. Super mushy high stack shoes cause hip and knee problems for me, backpack or no backpack.

    This kind of advice is highly subjective and should be appropriately laced with caveats about carefully considering changes based on “the latest science”, especially if you’ve got no issues with what you’re currently using.

    #3469181
    Ken Thompson
    BPL Member

    @here

    Locale: Right there

    How about a transcript? Easier to pick apart,lol. You guys…

     

    #3469356
    Nick Gatel
    BPL Member

    @ngatel

    Locale: Southern California

    With all the posts over the years discussing trail shoes and minimalist shoes I am surprised there has been so little discussion in this thread. So some thoughts…


    @justin_baker
    said:

    This has to be the stupidest article I have seen on this website. Ryan, you are taking your own personal experiences and opinions on footwear and presenting them as if they are facts that apply to every hiker.

    … and

    This type of thing belongs on your blog not as an article on a website that people pay to subscribe to.

    I agree. Everyone gets to choose how to backpack. No one has the final say on what is best or universally correct because such things are just opinion, but given that Ryan owns BPL, which used to have the best reputation for unbiased and accurate content, he has assumed the de facto ‘final say’ knowing that the BPL minions will embrace and emulate it.

    I will point out that Ryan does say a minimalist shoe can be appropriate for someone whose feet are in “pristine” shape. Perhaps it would be better do explore how to get one’s feet into “pristine” shape, which seems to me the optimum goal — meaning we wouldn’t need 3 pairs of shoes as Ryan serendipitously advocates. He advocates a shoe for backpacking that provides “structure.” What is structure? How does one determine how much structure they need and how do they choose appropriate footwear to match the structural need (if it exists)?

    So I am going to go out on a limb at the risk of censorship or even being banned from BPL —

    This piece is nothing more than click bait. I don’t mind this type of marketing on a blog, but it doesn’t belong on BPL as Justin pointed out. Ryan says he uses a training shoe, a recovery shoe, and a backpacking shoe. Fortunately for the BPL minions there are links to each of his favorite shoes so the minions can emulate Ryan by purchasing three pairs of shoes, which of course generates a commission for BPL, which the “Video Notes” does disclose. Heck, there is even an affiliate link for the Spork T-Shirt Ryan is wearing.

    My blog has affiliate links, so I am not against them per se and know how they work, but for BPL content they are inappropriate in my opinion, especially since I pay for access to BPL articles.

    Disclosure: I have been hiking in minimalist shoes for 10 years or so, but have overshot the minimalist shoe by going even lighter using cross country racing flats. For the past 6 or 7 years my primary size 12 backpacking shoes weigh 4.9 ounces each. These type of shoes are not for everyone. But I haven’t died, or suffered serious injury, or been limited to how far or how many days I can hike. Actually, they have allowed me to hike further and faster, given I am now 66 years old. But God gave me feet with lots of bones and ligaments that provide real structure.

    To say,

    “Minimalist Footwear: NOT FOR BACKING” is just plain wrong.

    #3469361
    Kattt
    BPL Member

    @kattt

    If Justin and Nick disappear we’ll know why ( and Jeffrey will throw the keys out ).

    Just kidding, I think criticism is a good thing overall and will help improve the quality of this site.

    otoh minions gonna minion.

    #3469376
    No Limu, just Doug
    BPL Member

    @sleeping

    Locale: The Cascades

    A couple of things:

    This video is listed as a commentary. Which means it’s the opinion of the presenter. While he may use facts/research in the commentary (don’t know, didn’t watch the whole thing), it’s still opinion. And labeled as such. So he’s not telling anybody what to do, he’s giving his opinion on this issue (which hasn’t really evolved all that much since the article he wrote about it, as far as I could see, so shouldn’t be all that surprising).

    I don’t agree with calling it clickbait. Might just be a difference in definitions. I see clickbait as some outlandish headline, often with a pic that doesn’t correspond to the actual subject matter, housed on a site that isn’t the site you’re currently visiting. IOW, trying to get you to visit the site with a very misleading headline. This isn’t that.

    As far as it belonging on a blog instead of a paid website, I disagree with that sentiment. Commentary can be just as worthwhile as ‘news.’ It can get you to rethink how you do things, or at least think about why you do things the way you do. If I pay for Foreign Affairs, I’m paying for the commentary as much as I’m paying for the news. It’s all worthwhile. And, again, since this is listed as commentary and not some news-type article, it’s being presented ‘honestly.’

    FWIW.

    #3470379
    Geoff Caplan
    BPL Member

    @geoffcaplan

    Locale: Lake District, Cumbria

    I’m not sure why Ryan is shipping flack for expressing his opinion in a vlog that’s clearly tagged as an opinion piece, but I have to agree with those who feel that his position is misguided.

    His two substantive points appear to be:

    1. The human foot isn’t adapted to walking on uneven ground
    2. Once you add pack-weight, your body’s balance and biomechanics are disrupted so your foot needs artificial support.

    So do ether of these arguments stack up?

    My personal view is that the human foot is a miracle of evolution supremely well adapted to carry us over any kind of ground. The more you learn about the mechanics of the foot, the more awesome it seems. But the footwear we use in Western culture has so weakened our natural capabilities that almost everyone needs artificial support of some kind when they venture onto gnarly ground.

    Regaining our natural capabilities involves a certain level of commitment and persistence, in the same way that someone who’d been bed-bound for many years would need long-term therapy to regain their normal functioning. So the question we all face is whether we are happy to settle for using some kind of crutch, or whether we want to regain our full bio-mechanical potential.

    At this point in the footwear revolution the majority still seem happiest in traditional boots. An increasing minority settle for the half-way-house of supportive trail-shoes. And a smaller group find that the experience of reconnecting to the ground under their feet adds such a powerful new dimension to their experience of nature that they’re prepared to do what it takes to strengthen their feet and walk in the most natural and healthy way they can.

    To argue that our feet are inherently incapable of handling rough ground and loads is simply nonsensical – as humans we evolved to walk with loads. Just because most of us have lost this capability doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. Many of us who have fully transitioned are doing big walks and high routes with fewer foot issues than the average hiker.

    What Jordan is really saying is that his personal comfort level is with supportive trail-shoes, and that’s as far as he’s motivated to go. I’ve no problem with that – we all find our own way to enjoy the hills. But to argue that his way is in some way the right solution for everyone is where we part company.

    Personally I’ve reached a point where walking the hills in shoes that deaden proprioception would make about as much sense as making love in a suit of armour. But I do think that we need to be pragmatic about adapting to conditions – particularly those of us who are getting a bit old and crumbly. After I transitioned my first big walk was 6 weeks in the Western Alps shod in Vivobarefoot trail runners. I enjoyed every step, but the ground was challenging and my feet did get a bit tender. Not a problem for weekenders, but an issue for thru-hiking. So for the past few years I’ve been developing an adaptable system for longer trips. My base shoe is still minimal, and all I need on dirt or grass. But on stony trails I’ll slip in a home-made rock-plate that still gives good ground-feel, and on long road sections I’ll use a 2mm impact-absorbing insole. I’ve also extended the system so it works in moderate winter conditions using a vapour barrier or neoprene socks.

    So that’s the feet taken care of, but what about loads? Why do we settle for pack systems that disrupt our balance and biomechanics? Aarn Tate and Prof Ray Lloyd have shown that this can be avoided by more rational pack design, but as with minimal shoes their ideas are currently the preserve of the minority enthusiast. And although I’ve bought into the Aarn approach I do have reservations about the commercial implementations, so I’m evolving my own MYOG solution. Aarn’s body-pack concept works really well for me – better posture, better balance, and zero pain in my neck, back and hips even after 14 hours on the trail. As with our footwear, most of the problems with carrying loads are caused by irrational ergonomics rather than our evolutionary limitations.

    Long story short – my personal experience is that the combination of natural footwear and ergonomic pack design has greatly enhanced my comfort and enjoyment on the trail. So it’s disappointing to see someone as influential as Ryan actively discouraging people from exploring this path, based on nothing but his own personal preferences.

    #3470382
    Bob Moulder
    BPL Member

    @bobmny10562

    Locale: Westchester County, NY

    Geoff:

    Firstly and sincerely, Yours is a fabulous piece of commentary. Well done, Sir.

    I’m not sure why Ryan is shipping flack for expressing his opinion in a vlog that’s clearly tagged as an opinion piece, but I have to agree with those who feel that his position is misguided.

    I think that it is because Mr Jordan exudes a considerable degree of expertise, authority and influence in the UL sphere. And others who themselves have a wealth of expertise—but without Ryan’s platform—want others to know that what Ryan espouses isn’t necessarily so for others.

    Not that long ago I would not have been in a position to disagree, but a few years (and a few miles) into UL I am able to understand the subjectivity of his viewpoint.

    #3470390
    Kattt
    BPL Member

    @kattt

    “Firstly and sincerely, Yours is a fabulous piece of commentary. Well done, Sir.”

    yes indeed. Thank you!

    #3470392
    jscott
    BPL Member

    @book

    Locale: Northern California

    “otoh minions gonna minion.”

    So…critical thinking is a good thing…as long as you agree with me. If not, you’re a minion.

    That’s mere name calling. A lot of that going on. Childish.

    Minimalist footwear isn’t appropriate for the majority of people going off trail with a pack on. This is hardly a controversial statement–although from the howls so far, you’d think so. Obviously that style of footwear is appropriate for some here, who put in the months and years toughening their feet to make it work. And man, are you proud of your accomplishment! “Toughened his feet really well!” they’ll say in the obits. “Died like he lived, without his boots on.”  And now, like a paleo diet faddist, you’ll preach it to the world. Including Bob and Nancy from across the street who backpack for three days once or twice a year. And remember, they watch this video too; in fact, it’s for them, not you. You already know what works for you.

    In short: do you think that minimalist footwear is always appropriate for everyone, even beginners, when carrying a pack on scree slopes over passes and elsewhere off trail? Would you tell a weekend warrior to solo climb a class 7 route?  If not, why the howls? Ryan isn’t making this video for you.

     

    #3470393
    Kattt
    BPL Member

    @kattt

    Ok Jeffrey. Nick used the word minions. I used  it in a way that you did not like. Then you complain about name calling while doing it yourself.

    Geoff does a great job explaining what issues some people have with the piece.

    #3470397
    jscott
    BPL Member

    @book

    Locale: Northern California

    Kat, you’re ‘critique’ of my opinion was to call me and others “minions”. Well, boogaboo!

    Where did I name call? I mildly satirized; there’s a difference. boogaboo.

    Geoff explains,or proselytizes, his own philosophy, which is fine. Still I ask: is minimalist footwear appropriate for everyone, or even the majority? Here’s Geoff: ” but as with minimal shoes their ideas (on Aarn style packs) are currently the preserve of the minority enthusiast.” Bob and Nancy have three kids and two jobs; they have no time or interest in devoting their lives to MYOG endeavors and foot toughening regimes. Geoff isn’t likely to advise them to wear injinjis on their off trail trek, but others might. For them, Ryan gives good advice. IMO, it’s good advice for most people. But not for those who are deep into it and have done the preparation. Howl away!

    #3470399
    Kattt
    BPL Member

    @kattt

    You are mixing your upset with me with Geoff’s post which is not fair to him.

    #3470400
    Bob Moulder
    BPL Member

    @bobmny10562

    Locale: Westchester County, NY

    The threshold for ‘howling’ is pretty low, apparently!    :^)

    One of the good things about BPL (aside from ‘super secret selective probation’)  is that people ‘generally’ do a good job when explaining their positions, which IMO has (mostly) been the case thus far in this thread, whether you agree or disagree with their views.

    Maybe it’s because I’ve recently consumed 3 fingers of bourbon, but I haven’t seen anything remotely howlworthy yet. :^)

    #3470402
    Kattt
    BPL Member

    @kattt

     

    I had to look it up:

    “boogaboo”

    A meaning for either sex,like a boyfriend or girlfriend someone who means a lot to you.Someone who you know you can trust and someone you love.A pet name for that special someone.
    Lindsey:I love you boogaboo.
    Boogaboo:I love you too

    Thanks I guess.

     

    #3470403
    Bob Moulder
    BPL Member

    @bobmny10562

    Locale: Westchester County, NY

    ………..

     

     

    #3470404
    jscott
    BPL Member

    @book

    Locale: Northern California

    Still waiting for a critical response to the actual points that I made.

    Hey, I had no idea that boogaboo meant that! Not what I intended (‘boogaboo, I’m rubber you’re glue) but probably better. You’re welcome, I guess. Now can we get back to name calling?

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