Hiking in Vibrams – Old Rag
For my 35th Birthday hike, Ryan and I did a 6.7 mile hike in our Vibram Five Fingers. But– it was a flat hike mostly on packed soil. We didn’t really get a feel for how the footwear would do on a “real hike”.
So two weekends ago, we found out. A small group of our friends decided to hike Shenandoah’s Old Rag. In 2009, Backpacker Magazine readers voted Old Rag to be the best hike in Virginia. It’s 8.8 miles, at least one mile of which is a rock scramble, and has an elevation gain of 2,510 feet. Should be a suitable test!
My concerns going in were traction and lack of ankle support. Because I wasn’t certain about the Vibrams, poor Ryan completed the whole hike with my boots tied to his backpack… just so I would have backup footwear. : )
Pros – Ascent and Rock Scramble
I was very pleasantly surprised with traction of the Vibrams. I felt sturdy and safe on all the different terrains we encountered that day, including the boulders.
I really didn’t notice the lack of ankle support I was so concerned about. I did, however, note that I felt very nimble in the Vibrams. I think they were particularly handy on the rock scramble. The free toes and added flexibility allowed my Vibrams to sneak into small dents in the rock surfaces and help me climb up. My clunky boots wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of such small crevices.
We got up to the summit with surprising ease. So I would say with the ascent and the rock climb the Vibrams were fabulous. In fact, I preferred them over my Asolo hiking boots.
Cons – Descent and Stubbed Toes
I did, however, find the descent down the mountain to be uncomfortable. I can’t be certain if that was due to the fact that we were going downhill or just a product of all the mileage we had put in (walking on flat terrain my feet typically get sore around 6 miles in the Vibrams).
What I am certain of is stubbing your toe(s) is entirely unpleasant. I nicked a rock few times as we descended. Each time, as the pain traveled up my body to my brain, I’d instantly covet my boots. But, I’d continue walking, take deep breaths and within moments, I’d be good again. It didn’t take Ryan and I long to adapt and put in place preventive action. You simply have to concentrate even more than normal on every little step down the mountain. So you can expect conversation to falter.
Will I Do It Again?
Even though I know the risk (not to mention the pain) that can come from the more exposed toes, I’m going with yes! They felt so great on the ascent and the rocks. It would be hard to pass that up.