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I'm very new to/inexperienced at hiking, and I got invited to an impromptu, 7-mile hike tomorrow at Alamere Falls (places online say it's "intermediate difficulty"). I've only gone on what I think are really easy hikes before. I'm not a runner either. This might be relevant as well: I do walk barefoot rather frequently (e.g. I don't wear shoes in the house, and often not at my desk job either).

My problem lies in my footwear: I somehow misplaced my hiking boots when moving. This leaves me with a few options, and I'm wondering what is best.

For a camping trip a month or so ago, I bought some Vibram FiveFingers (the outdoors kind, http://us.vibram.com/shop/fivefingers/men/outdoor/trek-ascent/M47.html). I wore them for the whole weekend, and it was very comfortable. I did a tiny bit of a trail, but generally walked quite a bit (and danced a little too).

I also have some non-hiking boots (http://www.j75shoes.com/mens/boots-chukkas/d-day-black-black/).

Finally, I have some old tennis shoes, but the soles are pretty messed up and they have very little traction.

Assuming I can't find any hiking boots to borrow by tomorrow, should I:

  1. just wear the regular boots
  2. wear the vibrams, but bring the regular boots
  3. wear the vibrams, but bring the tennis shoes
  4. not go
  5. something else
  • 1
    I have no time to write a real answer, so just for the short notice: If you are fit (i.e. able to carry the additional weight) I would go with 2.: Vibrams/barefoot is great but depending on terrain it might not be possible (you will notice quickly). But tennis shoes dont really help either (not much support and no suitable soles). – imsodin Jul 21 '17 at 20:28
  • I'm not going to give you a proper answer here but for a one off 7 mile hike I really wouldn't worry unless it's in very hazardous mountain terrain. I walk between 7 and 10 miles each and every day in varied terrain and I do so in £27 ($35) hiking shoes made by Karrimor. I walk so much (and have for many years now) that I can't afford super expensive shoes because I go through a set of soles every 9 months or so.. Anyway, you really don't need anything super duper. (The Vibrams I bought didn't last me any longer than the cheap ones!) – Benj Jul 23 '17 at 19:29
  • These are the ones if you're interested, I've had 5 pairs and I get about 1500 miles out of a pair. They're cheap, comfortable and hard wearing: amazon.co.uk/Karrimor-Bodmin-Weathertite-Hiking-Shoes/dp/… – Benj Jul 23 '17 at 19:37
  • Related: What are the benefits of Vibram FiveFingers? – user2766 Jul 25 '17 at 12:17
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If you are normal weight,then I would strongly suggest wearing whatever runners you wear day to day.

  • Your feet are happy in them.
  • Your body mechanics are used to them.

I would never recommend 5 finger type footwear (any almost barefoot type footwear) for a first trip. The almost comes about because I'd consider it if you were doing your garden work barefoot, routinely walked on gravel driveways barefoot.

I don't recommend new footwear for any hike. ANYTHING you are going to wear on a hike that is harder than what you are used to should be worn daily for at least at least a week prior to the event.

If you are going on a trip that is on rough trail, then you need to get your feet ready for it. Buy your boots at least 2 weeks ahead of time. Wear them for 8-10 hours a day. This is what you will be doing on the trip. At home, you won't be walking as much, but at least your feet will start getting used to the boots or shoes.

"But wait! I only have 3-4 days!" In that case, get a pair of ankle high (over the ankle bone) boots that are mostly fabric. These are a lot more flexible than the "boots of iron" leather boots. They also don't provide as much support. Wear two pair of thick socks when trying them on. Many people's feet swell from trail abuse, and some mornings being able to reduce the sock count make make them a lot easier to put on.

My preferred footwear for hiking are rubber soled neoprene water boots. They are flexible, and let me feel the trail, without bruising my feet too badly on rocks. However they are unsuitable for scree, and don't have enough traction for mud, so also have a pair of walking shoes. This combination is a good compromise.

Note too: I run a tree farm, and except when I need to bounce on a shovel, I am barefoot most of the day. Your mileage may vary.

At one point in my past I ran 'newboy' hikes. The new students (highschool) would depart for a week in the rockies the day after arriving. We found that our best strategy was to provide a cheap pair of canvas high top sneakers, and a pair of their own shoes.

The sneakers were a known quantity. They gave some ankle support, were easy to dry, and if sized to go over two pairs of sock, warm.

Most boys elected to wear the newboy runners (as they were called) during the day, and use their own sneakers for camps shoes.

Having two pairs meant that if one was giving blisters, they could change to the other.

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I have a pair of trail running vibram fivefingers but I find that the grip, while often good enough, isn't perfect for all situations.

If you didn't have sore calf muscles last time from walking in a different way (more on your front foot), I would wear the vibrams but definitely bring a backup that you are used to wearing, preferably the boots as they probably have better grip.

Other than that, it's a short trail so don't worry too much.

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I'd say it would depend on the terrain and whether you are going to carry a heavy pack with you. You had mentioned that the trail is intermediate, so having a bit of traction on your soles would be nice.

Typically, true hiking boots with ankle support are to help you when carrying a large backpack. I have a friend who hikes in non-hiking boots like those because she finds them comfortable.

But I would suggest going with the Vibrams instead. What matters most is what is comfortable for you (and your feet).

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