This weekend I went backcountry hiking and camping in Shenandoah National Park. We started on Skyline Drive at Pinnacle Overlook parking, and took the Hannah Run trail down into Nicholson Hollow, where we camped — about 4 miles and elevation drop of 2,000 feet. The next morning, we hiked back out, going up Hot Mountain-Short Mountain Trail, Catlett Trail, then back out a section of Hannah Run Trail — this leg was 5 miles, with a 2,000 foot elevation gain. You can see the route on my trail map:
It was a nice, strenuous hike. Since I am a veteran Vibram Five Fingers wearer (but have not been backpacking since I began wearing them some years ago), I thought this would be a great chance to test out the trail.
For my trip, I chose my pair of Trek LS — a lace-up, kangaroo leather version of the Trek which is no longer made. (The closest version now is probably the TrekSport.) I figured the slightly thicker sole (4mm) and leather upper would offer good trail protection.
It worked well. I had great ground feel throughout, and since my feet are already accustomed to the barefoot lifestyle I could handle the rocky trail. My feet hurt now, but no more than usual after such a hike. I liked how light my feet felt and how connected to the earth I felt. (I also liked how I picked up little flowers in between my toes as I walked.)
[UPDATE: I forgot to mention one thing: I did find that my pace was a bit slower than my companions. I am, always a bit slower than my fellow hikers (I have a naturally slow pace) but it was more pronounced. I think this was because I had to take a bit more care with my footfalls, due to rocks and debris — while the 4mm Trek soles buffered the majority of things, I still felt the rocks. This is just something that hikers who use Five Fingers need to get used to: you don’t have the kind of impervious barrier that hiking boots give you.]
My big caveat: If you are new to Vibram Five Fingers, DO NOT go on an extended hike in them until you have more experience. I would give it at least a year, to be truthful. But, if you are accustomed to FiveFingers, they work great for hiking.