Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Hiking Catawba Falls with my Vibram FiveFingers

Over the Memorial weekend I took the family hiking near Old Fort, North Carolina to see the amazing Catawba Falls in the Pisgah National Forest.  This was the first real hike I completed using the Vibram Five Fingers KSO shoes. 

For those that are not familiar with Vibram FiveFingers shoes. As you can see from the picture above, the main feature immediately recognizable is the individual toe sockets.  Vibram points out that "The typical human foot is an anatomical marvel of evolution with 26 bones, 33 joints, 20 muscles, and hundreds of sensory receptors, tendons and ligaments. Like the rest of the body, to keep our feet healthy, they need to be stimulated and exercised. That’s why we recommend wearing FiveFingers for exercise, play, and for fun. Stimulating the muscles in your feet and lower legs will not only make you stronger and healthier, it improves your balance, agility and proprioception." Time Magazine even named Vibram FiveFingers as one of the Best Inventions of 2007

For more information on Vibram FiveFingers here are a few links that helped me get to where I am today with these "Funky Feet" as my kids like to call them.

Catawba Falls

Catawba Falls is part of the upper Catawba River and is short drive from Old Fort, North Carolina just off I-40.  It's very accessible and was about a 1.5-2 mile hike to the main falls so it may be around a 3 mile round trip.  We did the hike with several kids ages 2 years old - 9 years old.  I did have to carry the 2 year old back most of the way, it was nap time :) There was a moderate incline  but the trail is maintained so there was a clear easy path most of the way.  There are a few points where the trail crosses the river so we did get our feet wet.  People say that when there is heavy rain it is a bit harder to cross the river so keep that in mind if you go to the falls yourself.  

The Shoes
The Vibram FiveFingers shoes were a dream on the soft natural hiking trails leading up to the falls.  I don't know how to put it exactly but you "feel" more connected to the trail and your body.  I found myself looking down at my feet a little more because you are more sensitive to stepping on rocks or other natural objects that may jab at your feet.  But after a while I put a bit more trust in my feet and what they were feeling underneath. 

Obviously, transitioning from trail to water is great with these on.  I had very secure footing on the slick river rocks due to the excellent molded soles and the low profile nature of the FiveFingers. They also didn't have that sloshing effect you would get with a trial running shoe or even a light hiker.  

At this point I can't imagine using anything else for light to moderate hiking and exploring.  The FiveFingers really feel so natural in this type of setting.  If you are interested in getting some more information please check out some of the links I have provided.  There are a lot of good case studies out there on the Vibram FiveFingers and barefooting in general.

Video and Other Links
More pictures of Catawba Falls