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Backpacker Magazine – August 2011

How to Walk

Yes, there's a better way to put one foot in front of the other. Improve your stride, trek farther, and end leg and back pain with our guide to the new science of healthy hiking.

Text by Annette McGivney. Illustrations by Don Foley, Peter Sucheski, and Supercorn.

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Aly
Apr 19, 2012

GREAT article. I leave basically untrained - for the Camino de Santiago next week - this will at least give me things to think about whilst walking:)

Aly
Apr 19, 2012

GREAT article. I leave basically untrained - for the Camino de Santiago next week - this will at least give me things to think about whilst walking:)

MandalaRunning@gmail.com
Mar 25, 2012

Confirmed: Check Barefoot Running for the Complete Idiot. When Foot strikes, first thing that happens is an outside heal strike. Further as this article demonstrates foot then rolls to the inside heal while almost at same time engaging little toe-mound, then back momentarily to the inside heal while progressing to big toe mound to a big toe lift-off. Each of the four corners of the foot engage a complete kinetic chain from foot to top of head. Hands follow same sequence as foot while running. A complete fluid flow of the body in motion occurs. This is very important stuff to review in both walking and running to identify compensations culturally induced, or through injury or stress.

pjcamp
Mar 19, 2012

Why am I hearing bagpipes when I look at your "take the test" guy?

John Parry
Mar 19, 2012

The description of how to walk reminds me of racewalking. It is not that the stride on level ground is short, but that there is less of the stride is in front of the body and more of the stride is behind the body. Also when you are using your hips as described the effect is your overall stride length is longer.

Darren
Mar 17, 2012

Why no mention of shin-splints and stress fractures and how to prevent them? It's a very common long distance hiking injury.

Also, enough with the barefoot fad already.

Bear
Mar 17, 2012

I have been hiking barefoot consistently for a couple years, and can generally do it every season but winter (and as long as the ground isn't very wet, a pair or two of wool socks help). I have always hated shoes and wear then as little as possible. I guess it isn't for everyone, but I find the sensation of feeling the trail is just as exciting as the sights and sounds. I also feel like I am making less of a negative impact. I have to be conscious of where I step rather than clumsily tromping through the bush.

Eric
Mar 16, 2012

Short strides can lead to blisters due to overheating. So it's best in my opinion to find a good balance, not just start taking baby steps as recommended here.

Jay
Mar 16, 2012

You're kidding...??? Maybe backpacker will teach me how to dress myself as well...

Jay
Mar 16, 2012

You're kidding...??? Maybe backpacker will teach me how to dress myself as well...

skinup
Mar 16, 2012

i snow ski barefoot and find it to be a more in tuned way to enjoy the nuances of the snow. this is something you have to build up to for maximum thermal value.

Mark
Mar 16, 2012

The third picture downhill "right" is an error. Tell me someone else caught this? Ha.

Adam
Mar 16, 2012

I personaly walk around barefoot as much as I can, but I almost never hike barefoot. Anyone who goes barefoot will agree with me, gravel sucks. In the article it says to hike barefoot to strengthen your tendons. I don't think you need to go totaly barefoot, but have shoes that let your feet move the way they are supposed to. While I don't hike barefoot, a well made pair of mocasins and a pair of good socks get the job done great.

NAPOOLS
Sep 17, 2011

Walked in woods for 50 years, Tried the Vibram rubber foot gloves but are using them mainly for workouts indoors.Still married to good shoes and boots for outdoor treks and activity.

James Maslach
Sep 07, 2011

Very good analysis, but I think you could also mention stride frequency and oxygen debt. I am a former distance running coach, who constantly advised athletes to "start slow". On a Nepal trek I observed fellow hikers begin the day excited and striding quickly--only to begin gasping within 30 minutes. Oxygen debt should concern everyone, but especially hikers at altitude. Aside from starting every day at a slower & controlled pace, benefit will also result from deeper breathing--and even more so from yoga breathing.

Doug
Sep 06, 2011

Odd that in the politically correct, neutral, discussion of barefoot hiking the only hint that the barefoot hiking stride (forefoot striking) completely contradicts the heel striking, forward rolling stride otherwise advocated (correctly I think) in the article. Stand up and take a position. Which do you think is right?

JD
Sep 06, 2011

11 Pages to click through to read?
No single-page view?

Even if it's a great article I won't spend the time needed to view each page.

C Clements
Sep 05, 2011

My feet hurt on rocky trails after awhile, even with good sturdy shoes. Why would I want to go barefoot? That would be asking for trouble! I can see two bloodied feet at the end of that. No thanks!

John
Sep 05, 2011

Marines push belly button forward. It is called marching.

verona
Sep 04, 2011

Billy; I received this 2-days ago, I guess it went thru when you sent it.

Gary
Sep 03, 2011

Even the guy in the article with no clothes or skin is wearing shoes.

ben795
Sep 02, 2011

Going barefoot in the backcountry wilderness, is just asking for problems. If you have a good, comfortable pair of hiking boots, specifically designed to carry the load, and protect your feet, why on Earth wouldn't you wear them. This barefoot craze dosen't make any sense to me. Is there something to prove here? How tough are your feet? If I were to come across another backpacker, with a gash in thier foot, because they were hiking barefoot, I'd have to say "you fool, put your damn boots on!" The entire AT has been done (twice) by the Barefoot Sisters, so, lets move on now. Next It'll be who can do it walking on thier hands. without gloves!

Emily
Sep 02, 2011

The Merrell Barefeoot is another viable option. Similar to the Vibram Five Fingers, and still with a Vibram sole, you'll get a similar feel without the individual toes. Check it out at http://www.merrell.com/US/en/Barefoot . I have 3 pairs myself and love them! They're great for activities and casual wear, but I prefer the ankle support on trail still.

IL_Scouter
Sep 02, 2011

Great article. Despite being a semi-pro athlete, I still failed one of the tests! Haha, off to the gym :). We walk so often, we can actually "forget" the mechanics. Nice reminder.

Argiosinu
Sep 02, 2011

There is an optimal stride-length. The article implies "shorter is always better." Natural, instinctive striding is often best if you are fit enough to carry a pack and walk.
"Nimble rocking gait" is the goal for efficiency. These guidelines work well on flat, even surfaces, but may need modification in other areas. You won't be hitting heel-first when scrrambling!

lanceniemeyer@wwdb.org
Sep 02, 2011

Hi Lance,
Read and apply this article to prepare for hiking and back packing on future trips in Scouting like the Grand Canyon, Philmont Scout camp next summer.
Go Eagle!
Dad

D
Sep 02, 2011

If the temp is over 50 I hike in my teva hurricanes. I have bloodied a few toes but you never have to worry if your shoes get wet. I need my toes free. Second best are my vibram 5 fingers. But those are best for the gym.

Keith
Sep 02, 2011

Merrell Trail Gloves address the shortcomings of 5 Fingers

Buz
Sep 02, 2011

The walking downhill 'right' picture is the same as walking uphill. Should be heading downhill with knees bent. Just FYI....
Great article by the way!

Wolfmaan
Sep 02, 2011

I am a die hard barefoot hiker. I have hiked barefoot for decades and hold the world record for hiking the 600 mile Bruce Trail barefoot. It's not as dangerous as people perceive. It's a great way to experience the natural world.

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