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Thread: Hiking Barefoot

  1. #1
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    Hiking Barefoot

    Yesterday, I went on a long hike with a group. The group leaders were hiking barefoot, and the girl I rode with decided to hike barefoot, too. I'd never known anyone to do this before, but the trail was very soft in places, wasn't covered in pebbles, and mainly had tree roots as the foot-bruising thing to watch out for.

    Toward the end of the trail, as we were coming to the waterfall that was our destination, the trail was a bit muddy and slippery, especially in the steep descent down to the little beach at the foot of the waterfall. The people hiking barefoot seemed to have much less trouble negotiating the slippery areas than those of us with shoes.

    So on the way back, I decided to hike barefoot, too, at least for the slippery parts. I found it much easier to negotiate slippery rocks and steep portions of the trail without my shoes. I enjoyed it so much that I hiked the entire return distance (3.5 miles) barefoot.

    So today the soles of my feet are a little tender, but overall my feet feel better than they usually do after a long hike. I'll definitely hike barefoot again, on trails where it makes sense to do so.

    Anyone else hike barefoot? If so, do you mind posting trail suggestions? Preferably in the Southeast, but other areas are good, too, as I don't know where I'll end up after grad school.

  2. #2
    bunnys
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    I have never hiked barefoot. And I hike 8 miles every day.

    I don't think I'd want to do that.

    But the really crazy thing to me is those people who wear those toes running shoes and run in those. To me that seems as if they are begging for an injury...

  3. #3
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    I think your thinking of the "vibram 5 fingers" shoe. I think that is safer than barefoot and I've seen people hike in it. I don't own it (though sometimes I wish I did). I do however take suburban walks barefoot. Ok it is a little tough on the feet (we're talking sidewalks and stuff ok) and I usually don't get as far as I do with shoes. And it's not even that I PLAN to go take a walk barefoot, it's just that I want to take a walk, I'm barefoot (usually am at home), and before I know it ... I also take short runs barefoot. I don't run for exercise at all really, I walk for exercise, but I do run to discharge energy. The trails here are mostly PRETTY ROCKY here, it's rocky and dry here, the dried plants are prickly, so I can't see hiking barefoot (plus snakes and so on). In suburbia though I was once walking barefoot, got tired of the concrete and so walked on the lawn. One lawn the earth was surprisingly sandy with very fine sand and what little grass there was there was soft too, it's just a treat how soft the grass and the earth was on that lawn. I found myself walking back and forth over it.
    I hope that someone saves a seat for me on the last plane out

  4. #4
    Senior Member Bronxboy's Avatar
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    ...and I think my 150 foot barefoot round trip (9 or 10 months a year) to get the morning paper is a big deal.

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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by bae View Post
    Thanks for the link, Bae. I imagine Cody Lundin's feet are almost as tough as nails after going barefoot for 20 years.

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    I always walked around barefoot all summer when I was a kid. I've got straw mulch in my back orchard. Maybe I'll start going barefoot again. I like the Earth connection. I've never tried barefoot hiking. It sounds interesting...

  8. #8
    Senior Member Mighty Frugal's Avatar
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    I remember once reading about a habit of going out barefoot and putting your feet on the earth for a few minutes. Apparently some 'stuff' is supposed to be absorbed through your feet-healthy stuff....can't remember what but it was supposedly a healthy thing to do.

    As a child I spent 2 months in central rural Italy-lived in a home built in the 17th century, no running water, outhouse, etc. We were barefoot the entire time. At first it hurt but by the time we flew home the soles of our feet were hard and we could walk across sharp rocks without flinching

    Not sure I would walk around barefoot now-too worried about stepping on broken glass, rusty nails, dog poop, and people's spit (ick)

  9. #9
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    Foremost, being barefoot is our natural state. Shoes -- throughout the world and centuries -- were designed to protect our feet from the elements, not to enable us to have better mobility (running/walking), with the exception of the development of roman soldier's sandals which allowed soldiers to walk several kms further and faster than previous shoes that existed (it was the development of the heel on the sandal that created this outcome, and developed the heel-strike gait).

    In many modern-traditional societies, people still do not wear shoes, or wear "minimal" shoes that would simply protect the foot from injury of stuff on the ground (rocks, etc). We need only look at "tribal" communities throughout the world who spend much of their lives walking/hiking, running, and dancing in bare feet or minimal shoes (huarachi style).

    Our bodies create a natural, healthful gaits that protect our joints when we run, walk, and hike barefoot. We actually take in more visually at an unconscious level, avoiding risks (they have done studies of how barefoot verses shod people walk in the same environment, and barefoot people 'see' more and avoid problems such as animal waste, dangers such as rocks, glass, and similar, and better navigate the landscape, even though they don't "look down" any more than a shod person does. The eyes simply scan differently, and the body takes over and does the rest).

    The gait also protects the joints in the long term -- as the heel-striking gait of the shod individual actually creates damage to the joints over time. And that heel-strike gait in running is particularly injurious.

    Barefoot running (whether in minimalist shoes such as the vibram five-fingers or traditional mocs or huaraches) creates a mid-fore-foot gait that aligns the joints better, and creates a faster, sprint-like gait. It's more efficient over all, as soon as your body as re-adapted to it.

    All of these claims can be backed up with a simple internet search into barefoot running or bare footing in general. I simply don't have enough time right now to look up the specific articles and pepper the post with them. I do apologize for making "unsupported" claims in this way, but the information *is* out there.

    To speak of my own experience.

    As a child, I grew up largely barefoot. Weekends and summers were usually completely barefoot most of the time, or in minimalist sandals (when we had to go indoors and such). Of course, for athletic stuff (softball) and school, shoes were required as an aspect of dress code under "health and safety" regulations. I often would remove my shoes when in the classroom and sit 'indian style' in my desk. I often got detention for it in high school, which I always refused to attend, because I didn't see the point of continuing to wear shoes while sitting. LOL I was always like this, guys, seriously.

    I never wore shoes at home.

    In university, I really only wore shoes when I had to, otherwise I wore the most minimalist shoes that I could find. After law school, I became a yoga teacher. HOw do you think I spend *most* of my day? LOL

    About a year and a half ago, my husband and I got vibram five fingers ("those toe shoes"). They are exceptionally comfortable, honestly, and my goodness do they make your feet healthy.

    My husband was flat footed. Over the years -- through yoga, walking barefoot, and particular mindfulness, he was able to develop an arch. But he always ran in --what i called -- "bricks" or motion controlled shoes. ANd, he always had orthotics, which never did much for him, honestly. And he had strange callouses across his toes and foot that he often had to have removed at great effort on the part of a pedicurist.

    Over the last year and a half, he was been barefoot or wearing vibrams almost exclusively. Every quarter when he would go to have his massive callouses trimmed, the lady would have to really work diligently. She has noticed over the last year that there's "much less work" to do, and the last time, she had only a tiny amount and taught him how to safely keep it himself. The callous is now so small, he has what looks like a normal toe and ball of the foot on both sides. He has a normal arch, and his toes are splayed out nicely -- just like a normal human foot (as opposed to one shaped like shoes).

    He has been a runner for the last 27 years, and was a heel striker from day one. It has taken a *long time* relatively speaking for him to teach his body to adapt to the proper gait. He would run normally for a bit (usually about 5-7 minutes), then revert to heel striking, which was leading to pain in his heels and shin splints because the shoes do not have the cushion to mitigate the impact.

    So, he changed his tactic, and would run for 5 minutes, and then each run, add 30 seconds of time to the run so that he could maintain the proper gait without falling into heel-striking. He is currently running about 25 minutes, but the distance that he can go now, vs heel striking, is much greater because he is moving more quickly with the proper gait.

    For my own part, I started barefoot hiking about 10 years ago. What happened was this.

    In 2000, I went to africa and before going, did a lot of hiking in my boots to break them in before going to africa to hike. My feet were torn up by those things, and I must have hiked about 8-12 miles at a go two or three times a week. At the last hike, which was supposed to be a 15 miler over the course of a day, my feet simply couldn't handle the damn boots. I took them off and walked barefoot for the rest of the walk (which was over 6 miles) -- and I felt great.

    In africa, I decided to simply walk in my moccasins, which were very comfortable, minimalist shoes. Yes, I was even carrying a pack -- and I didn't have any of the foot issues that my friends had, nor any issues based on the boots or what have you. I just walked everywhere that I could, and enjoyed the process. It was really great. And, I went barefoot when I could (my concern more being about getting hook work or other parasites, more so than any risk to my feet from rocks, plants, etc).

    When I returned home, I would hike in winter in "warmer" shoes -- which is to say my sneakers because they would more or less protect me from the wet. It was very comfortable, and ultimately, I got a pair of keen trail shoes which I quite liked -- and found comfortable because of their wide foot bed. So, I started to wear those as my "winter shoes" and otherwise was wearing minimalist shoes (i.e., minimalist sandals) or no shoes at all.

    In the summer of 2002-4 or so, I hiked Katadan and much of the northern part of the App Trail in a combination of basic sneakers (rocky areas) and bare feet. It was just more comfortable. I also found that I was less tired and my feet less destroyed than my friends who were in boots.

    So, I just kept on that path.

    When I moved to NZ, I was psyched by the idea that so many people go barefoot. Except that they don't in the city (which I believe has to do with class issues). I bought vibrams to wear to more or less "fit in" as a shod person while down town, while also being 'basically' barefoot. They are great to wear every day, and I've worn through them. I don't mind, because they still look like shoes, but now it's about 1/4 barefoot (because of the hole! LOL).

    I plan on buying 1-2 more pairs, one that will likely be used for hiking, as some of the walks that we want to do are quite rocky/long, and it would be good to have some basic protection for the feet for that. But, I also do a lot of local hiking barefooted -- as it's quite easy to get around through most of the local trails, which are soft earth, grasses, sand, and related. There are some that are gravel/rocky, and so it's nice to have the shoes then.

    But if it is big rocks (boulders), then i like to do that barefoot because I feel more with my foot, and I feel that I have more stability while doing the walking.

    On average, we currently hike about 6-8 kms on a weekends, and I tend to walk (across the harbor area and into the city) twice a day, which is about 3-4kms per day.

    I love my vibrams. I probably do need to buy another pair or two.

  10. #10
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    topic that i'm passionate about, obviously. lol

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