I have now done 12 days of foot toughening. So today I walked from the Barbara refuge (1,750m) to the Dar Moine pass (2,700m) for a total distance up and down of 11.5 km, 7.5 km of this and 650 m height difference barefoot.
I would have walked right up starting from the refuge but that’s cow country and the suspected presence of bits of metal and glass and other nasties put me off somewhat. So I waited until I got well into the natural. It was freezing cold and my feet were soon numbish with cold but not so uncomfortable that I had to put my shoes back on. Walking across the first stream, the water actually felt warmer than the ground. It will sound like a bit of an exaggeration after only 10 days of foot toughening but the walk was really comfortable. No pain on the soles, no pain in the ankles (unusual) no pain from my fascitis either. It only took a few hundred meters for my feet to realize where they were and then they were all bouncy and happy like a dog with a stick. The further I went the better they felt.
The changes in temperature and soil types are amazing to feel on your feet. Maybe that’s why kids like going barefoot so much. I only stubbed my toe twice each time simply because, not used to watching every step, I looked around me. The things you need for this lark at my stage of development are total concentration, relaxation (if you tense up it hurts and you start to stagger) and a slow pace.
Until almost the top the going was just like walking in tennis shoes. The last part was on mica and needle sharp. The worst was some really soft mica earth with mica slices in. No cuts or punctures though and I think that with another few weeks of toughening would take away the pricking sensation completely. I examined my soles when I got back and no cuts, grazes or punctures. Amazing. I stopped barefooting though after 7.5 km because going down hill is of course harder than going up as you have to brake. My soles were beginning to hurt a bit which broke concentration and tensed me up so I thought it wise to revert to shoes.
Going up the only pain was in my middle toe on my left foot. I think this was because of the splaying effect. In fact when I got to the top I tried to splay my feet and found that from no splay at all on the left foot I could quite happily have slid a pound coin between them.
The pain started in general when I put my shoes back on. Maybe because I overdid it barefoot (although it didn’t feel like it) but my ankle, knee and hip started playing up.
I slipped and stumbled far more in shoes simply because I wasn’t concentrating on placing my feet.
Near the top there is a stream delta about an inch deep in water and walking through this had my feet tingling beautifully. A new sensation for me a bit like if somebody had taped marshmallows to your soles. In fact the whole walk was rainbow of new sensations.
This evening my feet are a bit sore, no way could I walk on gravel now but I gave the tootsies a wash and massaged some cream in and hopefully tomorrow they’re back to normal.
There is a lake near the top which has to be the neatest place for a wild camp - 2,650m, three and a half hours away from anything, perfect views over hundreds of miles, water on tap, shelter from the wind if necessary. Perfect. I spent a good hour and a half there hunting round for signs of prehistory but didn’t find any signs of anything not even modern except the path of course and two rusty cans exposed as the lake dries up. I could have been in any moment in time I suppose. It was a really odd sensation. When the wind dropped, total silence, totally still, no movement at all, totally alone even the dog stretched out and basked, sleeping in the sun wasn’t making a noise.
But it was Saturday in the first week in august and predictably there were quite a lot of late starters who began to arrive in dribs and drabs. So after spending 2 hours between the top and the lake in total solitude I headed off down. I’d been told to expect comments when going barefoot but surprisingly nobody had anything negative to say. Curiosity was the main thing. A couple in clunky, leather 4-season walking boots, check shirts and…. wait for it…. red socks were the most surprised but ended up saying that had they been 10 years younger they might have tried too. This gives me hope so perhaps I don’t need to be so furtive about it in the future. The first few people I saw I stood to the side of the track to let them pass and hid my feet in the long grass.
This morning feet seem perfectly OK if a little stiff which is only to be expected.