20 Nov Hiking in Boots vs Minimal Trail Shoes
This post has been inspired and sponsored by Vivo Barefoot.
Vivo make shoes with healthy feet and a healthy planet in mind.
BUT WHY DID I CHOSE TO GO MINIMAL?
This is the question people ask after noticing the wide toe box and minimal design of my trail shoes.
Why do you wear those trainers Ben? They don’t look like they offer you a lot of support.
I wish the answer were an obvious one and echoed some of the efforts to make a lasting change on the planet, but my reason for going minimal is more to do with health.
Let me take you back to where it all started. I was 16 years old and living in West Yorkshire. I had a job working at a warehouse making cardboard boxes at the other side of town.
All I could focus on was getting into the Army and out of my dull existence. I would get the bus to work and then after work run in my boots the 10 miles or so so back into town. On my days off I would either hike with weight or go running. As soon as I hit the key age of 16 and 9 months I joined the Infantry and escaped my mediocre life for good.
When I arrived at basic training I was already very fit and I had a lot of miles in my legs. Switching from work boots and trainers to military issue boots wasn’t a problem and I felt proud to finally start dressing like a warrior. My care free, ‘all guns blazing’, attitude to physical challenges was my strength in the army.
After years of patrolling, running and hiking about in military issue boots, I left to go look for something new.
Soon after returning to civi street I started raising money for charity through completing mountain challenges. This lead me to achieve my Summer Mountain Leader Award, and to find myself working in the outdoors along side the NHS . All these experiences enhanced my passion for the outdoors, and I walked through them all in boots.
Trail Running Shoes
I put my boots to one side and started wearing trail running shoes. It was time to start fell running and it felt like the natural progression.
Running on 16 year old feet and legs feels a world apart from running on 30 year old feet and legs.
I am now approaching 36 years old and I am very aware of all the niggles and injuries I have developed over the years.
For the past 18 months I have been living with Mortons Neroma, nerve damage in my foot. To be more precise Mortons Neroma is when scar tissue develops around the nerve. Each time pressure is put on the metatarsal there is a stabbing pain that runs up the middle of my foot. My care free, youthful fitness days are over. Fell running had to stop and guiding mountain days was becoming difficult. The pain in my foot was clouding the enjoyment of the experience and I wondered if the pain would ever go.
I became aware that pounding my feet for all those years in boots had probably caused long term damage. So, I was trying to minimise the discomfort and prevent further injury by wearing trainers with a good cushion.
What I didn’t understand is that the cushion was causing my foot to fall in an unnatural position and this was making the pain worse. At one stage last year I was guiding with my foot taped up and an inner sole support added to my shoe just to minimize the pain. But it wasn’t working. I needed a break.
We went on a family holiday to Crete. I was in awe the whole time, looking up at the mountains wishing I could disappear and explore, but this was a time to relax and I needed to think on what I was going to do when I got home.
At the end of the holiday, after days of bliss sunshine and happy times, we were preparing for our flight home. For the first time in over a week I put my gym shoes on to carry the case to the car. As soon as I took a step the pain shot up through my foot. I immediately realised the problem!
I spent my whole time in Crete either barefoot or in flip-flops and never once experienced pain. I knew it was the trainers that were causing the issue. Now I knew the problem I could start looking for a solution.
I had heard about Vivo from an ultra runner I used to talk to regularly. Paul Tierney, used to visit the climbing wall I worked at and he would talk to me about the benefits of achieving healthy feet. He was always wearing Vivo shoes and recommended I get some.
My mind was made up. If I want to keep enjoying the mountains and start fell running again, I needed to find a healthier solution for my feet. I thought that Vivo would be worth a try.
I ordered my Vivo trail shoes and started wearing them from the moment I got them. 3 weeks later I gave all my other shoes to charity apart from some boots for gardening and splitting logs. The pain was no longer an issue and I knew I had found the support my feet need to get me back out into the mountains comfortably.
I decided it would have to be the Pennine Way. The Pennine Way offers a challenging multi day hike and takes in some of the most beautiful areas in England.
Yes, typical Ben! I never do things the easy way. I decided it was time to put this funky looking foot amour to the test.
Is it wise to commit to a multi day hike in these minimal trail shoes? People ask. Do the shoes offer enough support and are my feet strong enough to be wearing them?
The truthful answer “I don’t know until I try”
So that’s what I did. I hiked the 115 miles from Edale to Tan Hill over 7 days. I would be lying if I said I experienced no pain, but the pain I did experience is from getting up at sunrise and hiking each day, those general aches and pains.
I hiked through bog, up and down grassy hills. I did quite a bit of road hiking and plenty of walking through wet brown stuff.
My feet had more than enough support and felt like they fell naturally over the terrain. Whilst walking over rocky trails it is possible to feel the sharp edges of the rocks and react to them, however those edges did not hurt my feet because the sole offers enough protection, my feet could mould around the lumbs and bumps.
Whilst walking down slippery slopes I am able to engage my toes much easier because there is no cushion or sponge dampening my perception. I enjoyed getting my feet wet because the shoes dry extremely quickly and I wouldn’t be squelching about.
Most importantly, my feet remained pain free.
I did have some lacing up issues on day 3, but that was my own fault. The only other real issue I had was the amount of cow crap I had to wade through. Minimal trail shoes with air freshener built in would have been perfect after that experience.
I am happy I chose these shoes because it feels better for my feet, my legs and my all round posture.
I hope you enjoyed this post, please share and leave a comment. Until next time……….
Check out what Vivo have to offer here.