I have a gripe about an article
I love the articles on travelling light, but I am a little annoyed about the recent article on light weight footwear. Having moved to using lighter weight boots I have definiteley noticed that I am less tired at the end of a day's walking. As such I'd love to go further and use even lighter weight footwear.
However my right ankle suffers from pronation and the recent article fails to mention or cover such physical problems. From the way it's written it blithely assumes that everyone can follow in the footsteps of the author (sorry couldn't resist that).
I think the magazine should publish an article from someone who can comment on the use of lightweight footwear for those people who have ankle or foot problems. If they feel it is inappropriate this should be made clear. Last night by accident having forgotten to bring my 'boots' (Merrel Moab Mids) I had to do a 6 mile walk in my Merrell sandals. The sole was great but my right ankle was inclined to pronate on uneven ground and I was concerned that it wasn't getting the support that perhaps it should. Please publish an article and put me and any others like me out of our misery!
On another matter entirely, the article on porters in Nepal reminded me of my experience on a trek in Bhutan a good few years ago now. Despite the use of a reputable U.K. company that I'd have no hesitation in recommending, the porters themselves were poorly equipped for the trek. This I believe is what comes of using a 'local' service in a well intentioned attempt to provide employment to local people.
The porters for the most part had pimsolls or trainers, jeans and T-shirts. At night it could and did drop below freezing but for the porters shelter was taken under rocky overhangs or whatever was available. I believe that most of them made do with blankets for bedding. Although there was a group dining tent I wasn't sure that the porters were allowed to use it. The cooks fared best under their tarps to keep fires and food dry. One night even the local tour leader suffered when it rained and his sleeping bag got wet. I think that night they did use the dining tent but I believe that it leaked. I remember wondering what kind of sleeping bag he had and would it dry out in time for the next night's sleep?
Clearly these people will take risks in an attempt to earn a wage. At the end of the trip some 21 items of clothing were donated to the porters which meant that every one of them got at least two items. This 'generosity' was not prompted by compassion, but that's another story.
I thought the role of this forum was to offer an alternative to the letters page which is why I wrote in. If it's just a forum for debate by OMers on the content of TGO then you're right I should try the letters page.
As for writing an article on the suitability of lightweight footwear for people with physical 'problems' whether that be pronation, achilles tendonitis or bunions, I'm not qualified to write with any authority on the subject. Express my opinion yes, offer informed guidance no. Also my written English would probably fail editorial scrutiny, although I could get my wife to proof read it for me! She's a real pedant for the use of the English language and it's grammar.
Many thanks for mentioning Country Walking. I'll consider that for future reference. However I have subscribed to CW before and unless it's changed, the physical demands placed upon the walker are for the most part are significantly below that of Trail and TGO. I'd also be surprised if they venture in to the more technical aspects of walking such as lightweight gear, tarps, footwear, sleeping bags, tents etc. If memory serves me well most of their walks are under 8 miles and are aimed more but not exclusively at families. They're aiming at a different market. I may well come back to them myself but hopefully not for at least another decade.
Warning! Backpacking with trainers is not for everyone. I agree with you that the ultra lightweight options should not be written up in magazines as for everyone. In my case I regularly do day walks in hill trainers in the Lakes (Saloman Punteras - original ones bought cheap because they fitted well). BUt last weekend I used them for wild camping trip. I only went a short way with a very light pack and then back to the car the next morning (too cheap for a campsite, besides it was late). On the way back to the car a lack of concentration lead to a sprained ankle. I am confident that in my boots I would not have gone over like that and I would not have got home with an ankle twice the normal size and a bruise extending halfway up my calf. Not helped by a 10 mile plus walk later that day.
I will be day walking with the trainers but not backpacking in the future. One size does not fit all in boots / shoes and in lightweight walking. I think boots are still more likely to have stable midsoles and heels. Although the height of the boot is not the main factor in stability, but the part cradling your foot, it is still more common to get this part right in boots IMO.
My advice is to find your own limits when lightening your load. If trainers don't work for you don't go there. Also, go to the TGO forum and copy your post. Let them know what your think as one of their readers (and speak for me too). Trail has a forum too, but they are not into going lightweight as much as TGO. Their gear expert is sceptical about trainers.
Of course, keep coming back to OM. The best forum pages in the outdoors world.
Major Cynic wrote (see)
All ankles should prontae, it's part of the natural gait cycle. The trouble is some over-pronate, but you shouldn't assume that boots (as opposed to shoes) are necessarily something that will prevent that. I actiually suffer less from over-pronation in sandals than in boots...
If you over-pronate I'd suggest Superfeet insoles or a more specialised orthotic, possibly custom-made if an off-the-shelf doesn't do it. For less radical/lumpy terrain a running shoe with over-pronation protection and a half-decent outsole (e.g., the Saucony Grid Omni) should do the job.
Both of my feet, though especially the right, over-pronate remarkably if left to their devices, but I can walk in lightweight shoes with few (if any) problems using off-the-shelf Superfeet. I used to destroy fell-running shoes quickly with over-pronation, but again Superfeet seem to have helped prevent that since I started using them. Boots, by themselves, do little for my problems.
I have heard a great many people say they need boots as they have weak ankles... one of my ankles is weak, having been sprained badly 3 times over the last 25 years, but it hasn't prevented me from using lightweight footwear with no obvious problems. My wife similarly has one ankle notably weaker than the other, but she's moved to shoes too, and no problems. most of the opposition to moving out of boots into something lighter appears to be based on conservatism and a remarkably pessimistic view of what one's ankles can take. Most walkers should have remarkably strong ankles thanks to all the exercise they get, but a great many of them seem sure theirs must be weak...
The porters for the most part had pimsolls or trainers, jeans and T-shirts. At night it could and did drop below freezing but for the porters shelter was taken under rocky overhangs or whatever was available. I believe that most of them made do with blankets for bedding. Although there was a group dining tent I wasn't sure that the porters were allowed to use it. The cooks fared best under their tarps to keep fires and food dry. One night even the local tour leader suffered when it rained and his sleeping bag got wet. I think that night they did use the dining tent but I believe that it leaked. I remember wondering what kind of sleeping bag he had and would it dry out in time for the next night's sleep? Clearly these people will take risks in an attempt to earn a wage. At the end of the trip some 21 items of clothing were donated to the porters which meant that every one of them got at least two items. This 'generosity' was not prompted by compassion, but that's another story.
Yet despite being "under equipped", they've been living there with these conditions and clothes for their whole lives and getting by apparently all right! Are they under-equipped, or are perhaps their clients some mixture of rather softer and/or over-equipped?
While I have no issues with you wanting to provide an extra tip, be aware that most donated equipment tends to be sold on (do you think they were all on their first trip and no previous clients had thought similarly?), so it would probably be easier all around for them if you just used money...
To explain this story I'll need to give you a little background to the trip. Our party comprised 2 Brits and 6 Americans. The trek, the Druk path in Bhutan, is labelled as an easy trek. The U.K. operation carefully vetted me before allowing me to go on the trek to make sure I could physically manage it. Not so on the American side. On the American side they had all been told that this was an Easy Trek, with no forewarning of what that meant. Of the 6 Americans, one had already been out there 2 weeks and was fully acclimatised, the other was pretty fit. The other 4 Americans comprised one clinical psychologist, one mother and daughter and another gentleman.
The clinical psychologist had never been hill walking before, brought long a brand new pair of boots that he didn't break in, and wondered why he was suffering from blisters very early on. The mother and daughter's idea of easy walking was taking the dog for a 3 maybe 5 mile walk. I can't comment on the other gentleman. By the end of day 3 on the trek we had reached what should have been our second overnight camp. That night the clinical psychologist overdosed on Diamox and was seen wandering around the camp late at night talking to himself. The following morning the other gentleman had turned a nasty shade of grey. So half our party went down. The other half including myself carried on trekking walking in one day what was planned to take two.
I feel that the genorousity exhibited at the end of the trip was largely prompted by the Americans willingness to abandon unused and unwanted never-to-be-used again clothing!
To give you an idea the clinical psychologist walked into an outfitters and said hey chaps! I'm going to the Himmalayas for two weeks what do I need?! He left having parted with $1500. He was persuaded to buy new boots (obviously) and a pedicure set to clip his toe nails that came in a small silver case, which cost him $75. He told us all this quite openly. Maybe he was expecting sympathy. I just though he was an idiot. As for taking Diamox, it is normally taken at altitude if symptoms of altitude sickness appear. If those symptoms don't disappear then the sufferer should descend to a lower altitude.
No one was seriously hurt during the making of this trek
The memories of the people and their 'misadventures' on this trek far outweigh the memories of the scenery, which was a little disappointing.
Frankly for the most part the other Brit and myself had a good laugh about it all and on the last night we were sharing alcohol, the local stuff offered by the cooks, around the camp fire.
I developed a recurring Achilles Tendon problem about the time I went over to a lightweight Nike walking boot. I can't prove that the move to lightweight footwear for fell walking was responsible for my achilles' problems but it is coincidental. So I'm suspicious and wary as thanks to a rigid orthotic my achilles' problem isn't troubling me at the moment and I've resumed my fell walking with no apparent pains or discomfort. Having moved to using the Asolo Fugitive as my boot I have become all too well awar of the effects of wearing a heavy boot on the hills. I'd like to move to something lighter but am wary of causing my Achilles tendon problem to return.
Last night's walk was mostly fine. Where I wasn't happy was when I was on a slope with my right ankle on the uphil side. I could feel the ankle moving out and acroos the heel and trying to escape downhill out of my sandal. I felt that something stiffer, more supportive would have prevented this disturbing sensation. One day I'll pay out for a gait analysis.
Regarding the porter thing I wasn't aware that the porters might actually sell on any gear/clothing they are given. That's kind of sad really. I remember one night in particular when it rained and the porters for the most part were huddled under a rocky overhang. At first glance those who had the dining tent had the better option, except as I said it turns out that tent leaked.
I am aware that there are schemes to provide/lend or hire out gear to porters, in Nepal. I'm not sure that those schemes have spread beyond Nepal though. I remember offering some of my whisky on our last night on the trek to the porters but they insisted we drank their local stuff. That hospitality offered by a people who don't have a lot is always ..... humbling.
MC, of course you'd be foolish to rule out the move to light weight for the problem, but at the end of the day it is a single data point and there's no shortage of other possibilities. I don't think it's fair to expect a magazine article to have full knowledge of the full extent of the possible problems that could beset all the readers as it simply requires too much information on the part of the writers, and in this case I'm not convinced that boots are clearly a best default (I suspect they have become a default because we're inherently conservative and now think you need boots to go walking) It would be fair if it's really out of the ordinary, but as your porters demonstrated by carrying heavy loads over rough terrain in plimsoles, walking without boots isn't typically the big problem some folk assume.
While I am sure your intentions in giving gear to porters to make their lot easier is honourable, don't assume they must want it. I prefer not to wear boots most of the time, even carrying fairly hefty loads (mine are reserved these days for things like cramponing where I need a well built upper and if I'm front-pointing the ankle support does make a difference), so if someone gave me a pair to help me out of the trainers I owned and preferred and didn't give me blisters, I wouldn't wear them either! Who had the blisters on your trip, the guy with the fancy boots not well broken in to his feet, or the porters in the plimsoles? While sleeping bags have many advantages over blankets they 're not so flexible in use (it's sleeping and that's about it), they're much more awkward to wash and much more difficult to repair. There's no shortage of reasons why a local porter wouldn't be just as well off with a supply of decent, hard wearing blankets, and they'd be able to use them at home too. Don't forget they're using stuff which they are familiar with and which they know works.
You've argued many of the points very well. However as Trevor said :
Practically just about everything in the outdoors magazines is generally written for fully able bodied perfectly physically fit people to follow on with, that is an undeniable fact.
I'm not asking for one article to cover individually all the various physical problems people have and whether or not lightweight footwear is for them. There are probably scores of conditions that can make it more difficult for people to walk 'normally'. A brief summary or conclusion of who that particular style of footwear is most suitable for might suffice. Or even a disclaimer that this style of footwear is only suitable for people with no physical problems with their feet. What I want to prevent is those people like me who have already spent a small fortune on boots over the years spending yet more money in a fruitless attempt to find greater comfort on the hill.
Going back to the porters your points are well made. But remember those people are used to walking on rough terrain with 'flimsy' footwear. In the article on footwear which started all this the author admits it took him six months (I think) of adjustment along with exercises to feel comfortable with his new lightweight footwear. Our feet in the west are protected very early on with leather (patented) shoes although that is changing. In the east childhood may well be spent barefoot. What does that do to the feet and ankles? By the time we get to adulthood are are feet and ankles already weaker from using over protective footwear? According to the author of the article we don't know .... yet.
As PaulB illustrated above trainers are fine in their place but stronger more supportive footwear is more forgiving of careless on uneven ground. Believe me I'm an advocate for making things lighter. Even 200+g of a pair of boots makes a significant difference after a 12 mile walk I think I'd like to get the weight of my walking footwear down to a little under 1200g at size 9. I think at that weight I should be able to get the lightness and strength I want. I have no doubt it will come.
As for the porters using the stuff they know well and it works.... are you sure? They may never had access to an alternative. The local tour guide was using a sleeping bag so he at least knew of and could afford an alternative. The other porters may not have been so fortunate.
Whoa! One thing I remember at little while ago was a TV documentary on keeping warm. It focused on a comparison with today's state of the art clothing technology (a survival suit) compared with traditional Viking clothing that would have been worn at sea. AND THE VIKING CLOTHING WON!!! It was warmer and kept one drier than today's modern alternative. So don't get me wrong ... I'm not saying that sleeping bags for porters are the answer. Blankets may very well be the best solution for them. I don't think I'd like to kip under a blanket at 13,000 feet but I'm not as hardy as they are. Recent experimentation has indicated that Hilary and Tensings' clothing performed as well as modern offerings. Maybe I/we should stop imposing what we think they need and ask them what would serve them best. However I'm also sure that the answer we'd get would be the short term best profit for me please, one.
Incidentally when it cam to the end of the trip the Americans grossly over tipped as usual. Or are we Brits miserly? The tour company provided guidelines for tipping and we kept to them.
Oh yes that clinical psychologist left a trail across Bhutan, admittedly at the hotels we were staying at, of discarded gear. Doubtless someone benefited from it.
Oddly enough MC.....
I suffer with bilateral Achilles tendonitis to the extent where just getting out of bed to go the bathroom would have me hobbling in pain.
Eventually after years of continued abuse I was referred to an orthotist who made othortic inserts for my boots and other footwear. 6 month of wearing these had pretty damn good results and now I wear foorwear with the likes of superfeet for enhanced support.
However, it is not the weight of the footwear or the ankle support that needs to be borne in mind , it is the arch support, heel cupping and projection in to the anle that really matters. I spend my life in boots for walking and was quite specific about how I quizzed the orthotist - I cannot claim to know what I am talking about, I just took the guidance of the expert.
I also asked him specifically about shoes for my son who was 4 at the time. I wanted to know about conker shoes which are a particularly 'green shoe' that allows apparent tnaturall progression of the foot, they can be relasted for growing feet - however they cost a fortune..... He replied that I should give products like that a wide swerve as they werent good for developing feet, Clarkes (according to him) provided the best childfootwear because of the level of support offered within the show. I returned to my wife and told her this (she wanted conker shoes). 'bollocks!' said she...'how do you think children in bloody Africa get by without the support of Clarkes shoes!'
I took her sentiments to the appointment with the orthotist and put them to him. He told me that adults' feet in developing countries were shocking and that Africa (as an example) had terrible foot problems in poorer and deprived parts because the children are raised without foot support. In other words we are better off for having supportive footwear.
I am just repeating what I have been told - so please dont blame me guys if you dont agree - nor can I elaborateany further.
All I know is my ankles are much much better thanks to his help. BTW I run for up to 4 hours in trainers in open moorland without so much as a twinge now.....
I hope that helps.
Edited to add - like you and many other people my problem was overpronation
That more supportive footwear is more forgiving on uneven ground isn't necessarily so. In practice it's a two-edged sword, as the support is provided at the expense of mobility, which in turn can tend to prevnt a foot conforming to a surface: a big, stiff boot might require edging where a much lighter, flexible shoe can provide full contact, and thus less chance of a slip, and if you do past the Point of No Return then the extra "support" actually helps lever you over, making things worse rather than better! Studies of populations where a significant number walk barefoot show that the majority of nasty ankle injuries happen to people in shoes, not to those with bare feet.
The main problem with trainers over rough ground is they don't distribute "hot spots" over the whole foot, so you tend to get rather sore feet over thr course of a day. A stiffer and/or thicker sole in an otherwise light shoe willget around that though. Boots really score where you want to prop up your undercarriage doing things it hasn't evolved to do, like standing on edges and distributing the load away from the contact points.
I think it's the case not that our cosseted feet are not necessarily significantly weaker, but they are much less adpatable on the small scale. In particular, a barefoot walker has a myriad of muscles under their foot which are used to helping deform the foot selectively to ride over small perturbations, and that's how a habitual barefoot walker can walk easily over gravel that would hideously painful to someone who normally wears shoes.
So perhaps the problems are really down to change. If you're used to light footwear then big heavy boots will be agony, if you're used to big heavy boots then light stuff won't support the way you're used to, so "most suitable" is usually going to be "what you're happy with". I guess since the nation's default is boots then anything that moves away from that is a possible problem, so fair point with real lightweights in many cases... But don't assume that, at least given time and acclimatisation, your over-pronation issue stops you using lightweight footwear. Speaking as an over-pronator I can assue you it's not a "boots only" state of being.
Onto what's written for outdoor mags... well, it's whatever is submitted to them for publication! In practice it tends to be folk writing about stuff they've done, and perhaps the general assumption is it needs to be a bit out of the ordinary to warrant doing an article, and that tends to be the more able folk? But Trevor's perfectly physically fit people is an interesting term, as it covers a huge range of possibilities. No shortage of folk who consider themselves fit and able bodied would wilt if they had to walk up a Munro without a series of breaks, so you don't have to be Superman to be "perfectly physically fit" by the general standard. And it's also the case that you don't have to pass a physical to write an article.
Peter Clinch wrote (see)
And it's also the case that you don't have to pass a physical to write an article. Pete.
And it's also the case that you don't have to pass a physical to write an article.
Now that's a classic !
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