Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Outdoor Footwear

I choose my outdoor gear the same way I run IT projects - first I define requirements, then I write specifications, then I choose the right solution for the task to be done.

My 5 Summer activities are
*Walking with my wife in the mornings
*Kayaking the Charles in the late afternoons/evenings
*Cycling Dover/Sherborn/South Natick on weekends
*Hiking the Franconia/Kinsman/Presidential ranges in the White Mountains in Friday mornings. Instead of taking my customary last week of July vacation this year, I'm taking off Friday mornings in July to hike. Given all the Stimulus-related Healthcare IT activity in Washington and Massachusetts, it's easier for me to be available at least a portion of each day to ensure that I'm not a rate limiting step.
*Climbing in New Hampshire and Yosemite

I try to own and carry the most minimal gear possible for each activity. I want to be safe, capable of self-rescue, and reasonably comfortable, but I always want to be light and fast. In many activities, an agile response to changes in weather is safer than carrying a heavy load of equipment.

Each of my activities requires specialized footwear and I have selected shoes that meet my requirements, providing optimal function without a lot of complexity.

For Cycling, I use Pearl Izumi X-Alp Seek, a lightweight riding and running shoe that enables me ride on or off road, hike to my final destination, and portage my bike through mud/water.

For Hiking, I use the Five Ten Savant, an amphibious shoe what enables me to hike through rain, mud, river crossings, swamps, and canyons without worrying about getting my feet wet. The Savant drains so well that I arrive at my destination with dry and comfortable feet.

For Climbing, I use the Five Ten Prism that are optimally shaped for edging on small footholds and crack climbing.

For light treking/walking, I've used the Chaco Unaweep Z1 but their heavy sole is really more than I need for flat trails. For Kayaking, I've used NRS Kickers neoprene booties but they are really too hot for summer and neoprene really smells bad in warm, humid weather.

So, I needed a lightweight protective shoe that meets my light hiking and warm weather kayaking needs. My search led me to Vibram KSO Five Fingers. My daughter describes them as the strangest looking shoes she's every seen. Although they are indeed different than other footwear, they are light, durable, comfortable, and ideally suited for light trails and kayaking. Wearing Five Fingers feels like walking barefoot but without damaging your skin on rocks and roots. They dry rapidly, and their low volume means they are easy to fit into tight kayak hulls or narrow surfski footbraces. I would not have predicted that Five Fingers would work so well, but they are my favorite outdoor shoe at this point. Of course, I'm not likely to win any fashion awards, but I'm an engineer, so judge me for my efficiency, not my sense of style.

Since my feet are ultrawide (9EEE), I usually buy a half size larger shoe (9.5). However, the standard sizes of Five Fingers work perfectly for a wide foot. Check out the Vibram Five Fingers - together we'll make it a trend.


Christopher B said...

Dr. Halamka,
The Five Fingers is an amazing shoe! After reading a number of articles on barefoot running, I decided to make the switch. I used to have issues with hip pain from walking or running, but no more. I have not converted my wife yet, but she supports me on our early morning walks as I, like you, put fashion aside for practicality (plus there aren't many people out at 5:30am!).

Thank you for the blog - always interesting commentary.

Snowdrift said...

Nothing for the winter? The Five Fingers looks fun, eye-wateringly expensive in the UK, however.

Madonna said...

I've seen a number of fellow runners wearing the Five Fingers! I even found a fellow Kayaker at the kayak shop the other day, wearing them around. I'm going to have to seriously look into trying a pair of these. Thank you for your feedback on them.

Anonymous said...

Must say: Five Fingers is the ultimate in goof-look ware that Americans are so good at actually wearing on their feet (exhibit A crocks).

Having said that, I LOVE the concept. Just wish they would get a decent fashion designer to provide better looking options. Have we thrown out refinement in visual representations of ourselves completely? I think it is just about color and patterns on the designed shape. If they get a few decent designs and let Sarah Jessica Parker model it then their sales will go through the roof! They can take this shoe and bring it mainstream for people walking "barefoot" around the city, shopping, catching up with friends etc. I would buy it!