Thursday, September 18, 2014

9/18/14: 1766.6 to 1773.1 miles: Boots - a Weighty Issue

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Virtual Hike
Completed Segment 27

The virtual day starts near Pendleton Oregon. The rectangular city blocks show this is an old railroad town. It has an interesting history you can read here. At one time there was a large Chinese population who is credited with building a network of underground tunnels. These tunnels are now a tourist attraction.

The town is perfectly situated to thrive from travelers, both now and in the past. Route 30 runs east and west as well as interstate 84. Route 11 passes north and south. In the past, the railroads had a dominating presence with route going north/south and east/west. The Oregon trail ran near Pendleton.

A town like this has to have a great local diner. The Main Street diner is renowned for milkshakes and hamburgers. 

Locally in the desert, the bushes with the yellow buds are disappearing and the grass is turning brown.

This has been a wet summer, so the growth is greater than usual.

Does Boot Weight Matter?

Red Wing 8 inch Work Boot
When people see me walking in my heavy Red Wing work boots, one of the questions they ask is, "Aren't these boots too heavy for walking?"

Backpackers will expound on how many foot pounds it takes to lift a boot up 3,000 feet in vertical elevation. Then they reference a study that says adding one pound to the feet is like adding six pounds to the pack.

"Maybe, I answer, but I walk faster in them." The important question isn't how much the boots weigh, but it's how fast a person walks while using the same energy. (Note to runners: Boots are made for walking.)

Ok, you can prove speed, but how can you prove energy? It would take a science lab to find a quantitative answer, but I've found a reasonable substitute. I have a Fitbit pedometer which measures the stride rate over five and fifteen minute periods. My stride rate goes down when going uphill and up when going downhill. This indicates that walking difficulty affects stride rate. I've determined that stride rate is related to stride length. An increase in stride rate increases stride length. The result is more speed.

I always have a faster stride rate when wearing my Red Wing or Danner boots than I do when wearing running or hiking shoes.

Danner Combat Boot
This Danner boot, and all scientifically designed combat boots are optimized for a stride rate of 120 steps per minute, which is a normal stride rate for people who are in reasonable shape. 

This Danner boot has an energy return system which springs the energy from each step into the next step. It was something I felt instantly when I tried on my first pair. 

The energy return system is integrated into the midsoles and the inserts. 

The Red Wing boot above has a curved shank which causes a rolling motion from heel to toe. This has the same effect as the energy return system in the Danner Boot.

I walk faster in both of these boots than I do in running or hiking shoes. From my testing, boot weight does not matter for road walking. I haven't done any scientific testing on trails, but I've found it doesn't seem to matter on steep trails in the mountains.

This may only be true for military boots. The Red Wing boot is a work shoe, but it has its roots in the famous Munson last dating back to about 1912. The best military boots are based on the Munson last.

Danner Hiking Boot
This is the type of hiking boot that has given boots a bad name. It's the Danner Mountain Light. It was designed when people did more camping than hiking. The best thing I can say about this it is good for busting sticks leaning against a rock and it is also good for digging catholes. It's not the weight of the boot that matters. The sole design doesn't give any energy return.

I haven't been able to break in this boot so it's comfortable.

After comparing the Redwing work boot and the Danner combat boot with hiking and running shoes, I've found these boots are faster. This is after thousands of miles of testing.

Ok, some might say. But what about those pesky equations? My answer is simple. There may be a difference, but a person who walks often will build the muscles to make up the difference. 

The critical questions are comfort and injury prevention which I will address in a future post.

1 comment:

  1. So useful! The last time I went hiking, one of my soles fell off...good thing was at the end of hike! This will be helpful when I come to buy a new pair :)