Monday, 1 April 2013

Aches can be blamed on footwear, right?

Everything aches.

That's been the constant refrain over the last couple of days as 4 of us climbed hills, descended into valleys and lost our way in woodlands in the course of hiking the South West Coast Path.

We had picked the 3 legs starting from Minehead and ending at Combe Martin. The first day wasn't a walking day, and would see us get to Porlock by a combination of buses, taxis and steam trains. We then proceeded to walk about 45 kms over the next two days (Porlock to Lynton, Lynton to Combe Martin), fuelled (for the most part) by a healthy combination of carrots, apples and water.

Swayed by their sleek appearance and a little marketing-speak, I (and another member of the party) had decided to don "barefoot" trail-running shoes for the trip, instead of the usual pair of hiking boots that's been a trusty ally so far in such endeavours.

The only problem with the boots had been that my feet would get sore after walking in them for long-ish durations, because they were quite heavy. So it was with great excitement that I had trialled the barefoot shoes on the treadmill in the week just before the trip. They performed fabulously well -- I ran faster, the legs didn't hurt and most importantly, the modified style (minimalist running) was plain more fun.

So it seemed like a reasonable idea to attempt the hike in the new shoes.

Well, I can honestly say I'm never doing that again.

While the shoes themselves didn't detract too much from the overall experience, they do have a rather unique characteristic of letting you feel every tiny irregularity on the "road". This meant that every time we hit a rocky -- or even just gravelly -- stretch, it would be an exercise in focussing intently on the path to avoid landing a foot on any slightly incongruous looking stone.

Additionally, because feet encased in these tend to land "naturally" towards the front and middle parts, my calf appeared to have become the primary load-bearing structure. And my load is not inconsiderable, so my legs had to heft me over hill and dale without any assistance from the feet at all.

All of this resulted in every muscle in the legs crying out in complaint at the end of both days of walking. Moving forward through pain is perfectly fine, but hobbling around at the same B&B where significantly older hikers flit around happily having completed the same trail is intolerable.

The next coastal hike I go on (and I plan to go on lots more!) , it's back to the old and comfortable Woodlands for me. The Vivo Barefoot Neos can -- all multi-terrain claims aside -- remain relegated to the treadmill.

2 comments:

sherilee said...

I have Vibram Five Fingers, and I love them... would I do a trail hike with them? Probably not.

I'm here because of the A-Z Challenge... is Aches your A submission? I couldn't tell... hope so!

Shrikant Narasimhan said...

Yep, this is my A submission. The only reference to it would be the "A2Z" label on the post, as I haven't posted about it at all.

Thanks for dropping by!