I’ve taken three hard hikes in my Fivefingers, and I must say that I continually impressed by them. I saw them at Rei back in spring and they sparked my interest. I’d been hiking in a more traditional hiking shoes, but they never really worked for me. I tried a number of different sock configurations, but no matter what I did, I usually came home with a blister somewhere on my toes. About the same time, I’d been talking to one of my co-workers about minimalist running shoes, so I decided to see if I could do some hiking in these goofy
I bought a pair of the TrekSports, as they were the model that is most intended for hiking. I got the orange pair because I just like the color a lot. At the same time I bought three pairs of toe socks: one pair each of white and black, and a pair of wool-blend socks that I figured would be best for hiking.
As the instructions suggested, I used the shoes gradually. First I wore them around the house for a few days, then around the neighborhood for a few weeks. Mostly, this was padding around the park with my boy, walking on a mix of pavement, grass and soil. Once I got over the feeling of the toe socks, the shoes were comfortable to the point where they nearly disappeared.
The first hike I took in Fivefingers was a mess. The trail was littered with horse shit and huge sections of mud. To make matters worse, we got confused and hiked an extra couple miles. So it was ten miles of soggy trail. I stepped in puddles by accident and my feet got soaked. The shoes are made of water proof materials, but the top is just mesh, so any kind of puddle will result in wet feet.
Amazingly, it didn’t matter. Between the wool sock and the glove-like shoe, my feet simply dried out with no ill effect. No blisters. No lasting foot pain. In fact the worst thing about the hike was the sore calves for the next couple days. Since I was walking as if bare foot, landing on my mid or fore-foot, my calves did a lot of the shock absorption. I’ve had this pain after each hike, but it has been lessening as my body adjusts and my calves get stronger.
The second hike was more of a climb. This trail was well tended, but we ran into snow at the higher elevations. The TrekSports have shallow lugs and they gave me plenty of traction in the snow, though I mostly stuck to walking in other people’s footprints. None of the snowy stretches were particularly long, but I could see how cold my feet would get from any prolonged hiking on cold surfaces.
The third hike was even more of a climb and even included some scramble. We hiked on the eastern side of Mount Hood, above the treeline in an area of volcanic sand and rock. This hike had a lot of gravel and rocky debris. For this, I had to concentrate on my foot placement and make sure that I was stepping onto flat or soft surfaces. A few times I had to step in haste and landed on walnut-sized rocks that really hurt. This was an exhausting high-altitude hike, but once again the shoes performed great, giving me superior traction and protecting my feet from the worst of the sand and gravel.
I should add that some sand did get into my shoes during the hike. On our way back down, I could feel small amounts in my shoes, but it didn’t case me any discomfort. When I got back to the car, I knocked less than a spoonful of sand out of each shoe. Not bad considering that I didn’t bother to wear my gaiters.
Three long hikes in different environments, and the shoes were nearly perfect. I’m a complete convert. These shoes have exceeded my expectations.
All the glowing praise aside, these shoes are not for everyone. Anyone with a heavy step is going to have a hard time with them, as you’ll be pounding the snot out of your feet and impaling them on everything that you stomp on. I suspect that they won’t be as good for people with narrow feet. I have a wide foot and this gives me a broader area to distribute pressure. I also run, cycle and walk a lot, and I suspect that my general leg strength helps the cause.
The most common complaint I see about the Fivefingers is the lack of support. These shoes offer NO support. If you aren’t comfortable walking or standing barefoot for long periods of time, then these shoes will not work for you. They are designed to give protection and traction, but provide about as much support as a sock.
With those few reservations stated, I highly recommend Fivefingers for hiking. I enjoy the closer relationship that they give me with the terrain, forcing me to think about my steps, but rewarding me with a richer understanding of the physical terrain. They bring out the crypto-hippie in me.
Try them out, you might be surprised.