Walk A Mile In Your Shoes, Part 2*

Boot Selection and Common Hiking Injuries

Boot Selection

Before you walk too far–either by choice or circumstance–I’d strongly encourage you to get a good pair of hiking boots. What I believe you need (as an individual striving to be prepared) is a heavy boot made of leather, at least six inches tall, with a quality sole, and preferably with a water-proof lining. These boots will be a relatively expensive initial investment, ranging from $200 – $300. But, if well cared for, they will last for years and you (and your feet) will never regret that purchase.

A trail shoe, or light weight boot may feel very comfortable, but it won’t hold up to serious walking; especially off-trail and/or for multiple days. A heavy boot will be rigid enough to support your feet (arch and toes), will provide shock absorption for your joints (all the way up to your lower back), will provide good ankle support, and it will last.

If your feet get wet and/or cold you will be miserable. To keep your feet dry, I recommend you buy a boot with a waterproof (such as Gore-Tex) lining. To keep your feet warm, insulated boots are available. Boots insulated with 200 grams of Thinsulate will keep them warm in temperate climates, 400 – 600 grams will work well in cold climates, 1000 grams will ensure warm feet in extreme conditions.

The biggest disadvantage of a heavy boot, other than the initial cost (and the weight), is that they are stiff and require a break-in period. We’ve discussed before that you can’t  buy stuff to have ‘just in case’; this is especially true with a heavy hiking boot. You need to walk in them, start with shorter walks and build up. Figure out how to adjust and lace them up comfortably, and what kind of sock(s) to wear. As endurance improves, start going on longer walks, on dirt trails, carrying a pack.

Common Hiking Injuries

Blisters are formed when skin is damaged by friction (this is accelerated by wetness). Fluid collects between the upper layers of skin, attempting to cushion the tissue underneath and protecting it from further damage. Wet feet, poorly fitted boots, boots not properly broken in, and unconditioned feet all can result in blisters.

Shin splints–pain when you lift your toes to take a step–are frequently caused by a muscle imbalance, specifically tightness of the calf muscles and weak shin (tibialis anterior) muscles. Too quickly increasing intensity and duration of walking causes these lower leg muscles to become fatigued and makes it difficult for them to absorb the shock of the impact from each step. This impact is worse when walking uphill, downhill or on hard surfaces; wearing poor or worn-our shoes also contributes.

In addition to muscle soreness in your feet and legs, your lower back muscles can become fatigued and sore as they are forced to stabilize, along with the abdominal muscles, the upper body each step you take.

Once you throw on a pack your shoulders and neck may become sore from the additional weight. Loading a pack efficiently, with proper weight distribution, takes practice and experience. Remember to use the waist strap, and consider using the chest strap, to redistribute the weight.

We take our ability to walk for granted. We assume that if we need to we can walk as far as is required. But–in the modern, inactive, motorized world we live in–distance walking is becoming a lost skill. But it’s an easy one to regain: invest in a good pair of boots, break them in properly, and start walking.

(Friday: What I Did This Week To Prep)

*review Walk A Mile In Your Shoes, Part 1

Walk A Mile In Your Shoes, Part 1

The Importance of Conditioning Yourself To Walk

Walking. Our ancestors have been doing it since, well, a long time ago. We tend to underestimate the amount of energy and muscle exertion that goes into walking; especially when carrying a pack. We take walking for granted, heck we do it every day what’s the big deal? But do you walk any distance on a regular basis? When was the last time you took a good long walk? How did your body feel after that walk? How did your body feel the next day? Do you believe you’re in good walking condition?

To train yourself to walk any significant distance, you must condition yourself – by walking. Without proper conditioning you’ll feel it–after a long walk–in your feet, legs, and lower back; if you were carrying a pack, in your neck and shoulders also.

Keep in mind that walking, whether you work it into your plans or not, is your backup mode of transportation. We don’t carry a backup transportation system other than our feet. If a vehicle can’t get you there, for whatever reason – then you’re walking.

I work 45 miles from home. If disaster strikes when I’m there, my ultimate plan is to get to my family. Assuming there is no other transportation available, I’ll grab my BOB*, put on my good boots, insure I have plenty of water and WALK home. I’ll plan to stop and spend the night along the way. Can I do it? I believe I can…I know I could 15 years ago.

Am I in the same condition for walking as I was, 15 years ago, when I was going through Army Special Forces training? No, I’m not. So recently I’ve started a walking regime; it coincided well with getting a new dog who needs and loves to walk daily (dogs are great motivators). Kate, our four-month old Border Collie, and I have begun walking regularly about two miles. Soon I’m going to incorporate a pack, weighing about 30 pounds, and increase our walks to three miles and more.

In Part 2, I’ll cover choosing good footwear, the muscles involved in walking, and how to avoid and treat injuries. But for now, just get out and walk. Walking will help you get in better condition, burn calories, help clear your head, and your dog will love you for it.

(Friday: What I Did This YEAR To Prep)

*For my list of abbreviations and other information, open the above ‘Check Here…’ page tab.

But I’m Working Now

Creating Your Work Evacuation Plan

As much as we’d like to, we don’t get to choose our disaster or where we will be when it strikes. Best case: entire family home together with all our ‘stuff’ available; worst case: stuck in an airport, alone, with none of your preps. How about something in between, what if you’re at work?

Remember school fire drills? We’d all neatly file from our classrooms with the teacher leading us, like a mommy duck, to our designated spot in the playground. They’d take roll to account for everyone; that’d be reported to the principal, then we’d all file back inside.

Fast forward to today where you’re sitting at work. Something is wrong and you have to evacuate. It’s not a drill, there’s no teacher to lead you, or principal to account for you. Hopefully you know how to safely evacuate your own building, but what next? We’re all grown up now; we must have our own plan of what to do if an emergency occurs when we’re at work.

This is another one of those things where I can’t tell you what to do; you’ll have to develop your own plan. But I can tell you what Sarah and I have planned, and our contingencies.

Sarah and I both work in Seattle (about 45 miles from our home). Ironically we only work about a mile apart. Sarah commutes on the train working traditional hours. I drive to work and have a ‘non-traditional’ schedule. Each week there are three days we both work there (but only in the afternoons), two days she’s in Seattle alone, and one day only I’m there. We’ve had to come up with multiple plans that vary based on the day of the week.

So if we’re both there, she would come up the hill to where I work. My workplace is more secure, further from the water, and away from the downtown congested high-rise area. In case I have to leave work also, we’ve discussed what street she would walk up and what side of the street she would be on. We have contingency plans of where to meet if we both had to leave and we didn’t (or couldn’t) meet up on that street. If it’s only me, since I drive I have my car and BOB; I also have friends I could stay with in the area if necessary. If only she is there, she’ll make the decision if it’s okay to take the train home, or if it’d be better to stay at a predetermined friend’s home in the area. She also has a family member who works near her (and who drives to work) and has made plans of where to meet and try to get somewhere safer together.

Also since Sarah rides to work on public transportation, everything she has for the day is in her backpack. In addition to her normal work stuff, she has a miniature version of her BOB; she also wears good walking shoes back and forth to work. At work she keeps extra water, food, and a change of clothes.

We’ve also discussed communication:

  • if cell phones aren’t getting through, we’ll try a landline
  • if “all circuits are busy”, we’ll try a predetermined long-distance relative
  • if landlines don’t work, we’ll try texting (texts frequently go through even when voice calls don’t)
  • if texting doesn’t work, we’ll try email (if necessary, moving to a wireless area to email on the phone)
  • if none of those options are available, we have a predetermined place to leave a written note

Of course all the “what ifs” can’t be covered. The important thing is to take the time to think about what you’d do if an emergency happened when you were at work. Then develop and discuss your plan with family members. It costs nothing and, in this crazy world we live in today, it’s one less thing to worry about.

(Wednesday: Never Buy A Replacement Blade)