Every time I travel somewhere known for its mountain filled landscapes, I pack my pair of alpine trekking boots, taking up a third of my overall travel size and weight restrictions. I don’t mind these limitations, when I’m really going to be making use of its advantages (like the time I hiked to Mirador Las Torres, in Chile). However, most of the times I don’t need such high-tech boots – simple and comfortable walking shoes with a resistant sole would suffice.
I walked into an outdoor equipment shop looking for my next hiking boots. This time, I thought, I want light ones that don’t take up much space, water-resistant and easy to wash. Oh, and if possible, as compact as flip-flops.
I know what you’re thinking: Those shoes don’t exist.
True. But I think I found something fairly close to my requirements.
Go ahead, crack yourself up – who said they were going to be sexy? I’m a new convert to the Five Fingers cult! Not only is it a pleasant experience to have a feel of what’s actually happening underneath your sole, but also do I believe that walking barefoot (or in this case, semi-barefoot) has many benefits that we have been loosing over time – we’d live healthier, improve our posture and have a better understanding of our body.
As soon as I packed in my new purchase, I decided to put them on test.
We chose an easy walk for that afternoon – it was hot and humid. Skies were covered with low-hanging clouds that had been pushed against Tenerife’s northern hillside (a weather phenomenon commonly known as panza de burro or mar de nubes). The hike was about 9km return with not more than 200m meters of height difference – a relaxed walk along the island’s coastline.
Starting at the Hotel Maritim, in Los Realejos the path started on asphalt, but soon turned into gravel. At first, I must admit, I didn’t feel comfortable – instead, I took each step with insecurity. I noticed the small rocks and sand under my feet and consciously looked for smoother and flatter areas. During the first 15 minutes, I only stared down at the ground making sure I wasn’t going to step on anything pointy, and so missed out on part of the beautiful landscape.
With time (and practice!) I felt increasingly more confident. The sole, although thinner and softer, still protected me from the heat of the ground and uneven surfaces. I soon realized that these shoes would probably help me gain balance (something I’ve always been lacking of, and that would probably ease my irrational fear of falling down a cliff).
As we reached the end of our walk and considered to begin the return, our adventurous spirit kicked in – we literally went off the beaten track to try to reach a small and individual beach. A steep and narrow sandy path limited by a cliff leading directly into the ocean, where pointy rocks waited patiently in the uneasy water. Adventurous, yes. Safe, not completely – not for me. As soon as I took 2 steps down that hill, I knew it was too late to go back. A million thoughts and what ifs were rushing in my head and I stopped to think clearly. I lost confidence in my own feet and my balance. At that point, my mind must have been blocked – as I can’t remember most of it. Somehow, though, I made it up that hill and promised myself never to leave a path again (we all know that won’t last long, though).
My take on this is simple: exercising barefoot (or semi-barefooted) is an amazing experience, but one needs to know his own limitations (as well as the ones of the shoe itself) and work on them before jumping to the extreme. I’m sure I’ll learn to trust in my feet and improve my balance and, someday, it will allow me to overcome this stupid little fear.
Have you ever walked in Five Fingers or barefoot? Would you consider it?
Disclaimer: This post is NOT a sponsored post. I bought the shoes myself and continue to use them regularly (for instance, to run in the park). All opinions, thoughts (and fears) are of my own.