[pct-l] Barefoot Hiking

Scott Williams baidarker at gmail.com
Fri Jan 20 22:00:53 CST 2012

Well said Eric.  Everyone is different, and where feet are concerned you
have to find your own way.  I'm one who is attempting to strengthen my feet
through providing less support.

After training for years in light runners, before I began my thru hike in
2010 I bought a pair of Super Feet, put them in my shoes and within the
week had plantars faciitis.  That's the second time in 20 years, and each
time it's been precipitated by a try at adding support.  You'd think I'd
learn!  My feet were sore through part of the desert section but the pain
completely went away in the snow of the High Sierra.  I think it was the
softness of snow and the constant cooling of tennis shoes in ice water and
snow.  Anyway, by Tahoe it was all in the past, at least until WA.

Through OR we all started to hit 30 to 35 mile days consistently and I had
no pain, but keeping up nearly that mileage in WA where the trails are
tougher, brought back the plantars faciitis.  I padded and arch supported
them as best I could and lived on vitamin I until finishing at Manning, but
off trail they didn't get better.  By November I thought they were a lost
cause when I read "Born to Run" which makes a great case for minimalist
shoes.  One day I pulled out the heel cushion and experienced immediate
relief.  Several days later I pulled out the arch support and felt even
better and after about a week, pulled out the cushion and eventually the
insole that came with the shoe.

My feet healed up in short order and I've been running and hiking for over
a year now with only the rubber sole.  In August and Sept. I re-hiked WA
and got up to 28 mile days without a recurrence of the soreness.  I also
run in Merrill Five Finger shoes which offer no heel support at all and
feel like slippers, but I think are great for strengthening feet.  I
wouldn't backpack in them, but I love running in them.  I'm also doing heel
lifts on the edge of a stair tread.

That's just my story, and lots of folks get great results with Super Feet
and other supportive insoles, but not me.  The best I've ever felt is just
my feet in flat soled shoes.  I feel the rocks in the trail through the old
thin soles and it's like I'm using my feet more like hands getting over
rough terrain.  Very different for a guy who wore heavy Vibrum soled boots
for years of backpacking when I was young.

Good luck finding what works for you.


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