If you’re interested in reading more on ideas presented in the article below, I suggest reading Whole Body Barefoot: Transitioning Well to Minimal Footwear. If you’d like movement instruction via video, start with Alignment Snacks: Walk this Way, Stand this Way.
I turned 40-years old on March 4th, and so, per usual, I wanted to celebrate my birthday with some sort of marching forth. Last year I walked 39 miles the week I turned 39; this year I decided to walk 30 miles on my last day of being in my 30s, as a way to pay homage to them.
I didn’t want to drive anywhere to begin—I wanted to get up early and just walk out the door. I also didn’t want to spend a lot of time walking next to cars, and so the Huz came up with the perfect route that had me walking out my door and up to the Olympic National Forest, mostly staying on the Olympic Discovery Trail.
One of my oldest friendships is with Karren (who is NOT my oldest friend; you’re welcome Karren). She’s my crazy-fit friend, open for any movement-related thing, like walking all day. My regular walking BFF also joined me for the morning portion before she had to work. All this to say FRIENDS ARE AWESOME. And so is coffee.
I won’t type out the entire journey (I’ll post some pics at the end), but I will answer the most popular question asked about it: What shoes did you wear?
Here’s some background:
My feet are always weaker at the end of the winter, because I spend a lot more time in shoes and boots. I also walk less. Even though I walk a lot (5 miles a day) and wear minimal boots, it’s still much less foot work than when I’m barefoot almost all day long and hiking lots of miles almost every day. So, my feet, relative to myself, are weak right now.
For this reason, I didn’t want to log that many miles (15 miles more than I’d ever walked before) in a super minimal shoe. I didn’t want to create an injury midway through my hike that would leave me unable to finish the hike or that would be there after the hike was done.
So, I started off in my moccasins because it was cold and rainy and I don’t own any rain boots. These are what I normally wear to hike in the winter (rain or snow), and they were the only thing I had.
I layered socks per Karren’s advice (she’s a through-hiker and used to doing weeks of 20+ mile days). Toe socks can keep the toes from rubbing which can mean fewer blisters. But around mile 8, my pairs of socks where slipping against each other and I could feel a super-early blister sensation in my heels so I wanted to get the second pair of socks and the boots off—as both were wet, and slipping.
I kept on my toe socks and paired them with an old pair of Earth sandals that I found in my garage. They had no rise, were soft, and not super flexible. A lot of the path we were on was asphalt–and I walk mostly on natural terrain—so I thought something that kept foot loads from being too extreme was most prudent for me given the high mileage.
They worked for another 15 miles, but then, I think, the negative heel started to get to me. Or was it the walking of 23 miles on flat and hard. Really, how could I tell? Either way, my left ankle started to bug me and I wanted to try a new pair of shoes just to mix up the way my ankle was being asked to work.
I borrowed Karren’s Nikes. They were light and flexible, but they did have a positive heel. That was super crazy to walk in a heeled shoe after so long, but the slight downhill (within the shoe, that is) was enough to change the loads to my ankle and I wore them for the rest of the flat stuff.
The last 8 miles we were walking was on the Olympic Discover Adventure Route—unpaved and super-gorgeous, through the forest.
At this point, I wanted to go barefoot but doing so, I was unable to walk as fast as I could have with shoes. I couldn’t keep up with Karren and, as we were on our last few hours of daylight, I couldn’t keep the speed necessary to accomplish the mileage before dark. So I put socks on for awhile to see if that helped (barely) and finally, back into my sandals.
Now that I’ve done this walk, I think best would have been to wear a minimal athletic shoe; a non-sandal, non-boot type of shoe that’s made for walking or running. I don’t own any of those, so I made do with what I had. (This is sort of my personality type. I am not a “be prepared” kind of person in terms of gear or things; but I do keep myself is as good of a condition as I can. I’ve probably already shared the time I did a triathlon and borrowed a friend’s bike that had no gears and a flat tire. Still, I dominated the swim and run portion, so…).
But believe it or not, the most exciting part of the walk wasn’t what shoes I was wearing.
When we got to Mile 31 (there were only 2 roads intersecting our part of the Adventure Route; one put us slightly under 30 and one slightly over at 31.6 miles, so were meeting our ride at the latter), we got the text: the roads leading to the trail are all closed.
I won’t bore you with the details, but essentially, all the ways to get the car up to us had been blocked with gates and as the sun started going down, we had to hike back out, somewhere between 5 and 7 miles, to where we could get picked up. My ankle had been bothering me the last few (ten?) of the 31 miles, and yet here I was, in the woods, with no other way out but on my own two feet.
I won’t lie, I threw a mental hissy fit, mostly because I was overwhelmed at the thought of walking two more hours. Oh, also, both our phone batteries were about to die, the sun was going down (did I mention we were in the forest at this point), and we didn’t know exactly where we needed to hike to in order to get picked up.
“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find, you get what you need.” -Rolling Stones
Then I realized, this is the entire reason I do what I do. Sometimes, the only person to help you is YOU. In this case, my life actually depended on my ability to push myself physically. I was able to hike that long and far because I’ve made it my upmost priority. On March third, I found the edge–of my thirties and of my body. Both have been a gift.
I also wanted to add that sitting is awesome. At least after walking somewhere between 36 and 38 miles.