Hike Like a Goat
A 7-Part Skills Series
Part 3—Surface Contact
This 7-part series came out of a conversation that my Honey and I had about being sure footed on the trail. She wanted to leave the fear of falling behind with all of its timidness and tentativeness. In other words she wanted to Walk Like a Goat. When I said that the first time to her, she wanted to know what that meant because it sounded derogatory…until I explained: a goat is confident and relaxed on rugged and uneven ground—so stable and skilled on her feet is that goat that falling is not even a fleeting thought. Walking Like a Goat is a high complement for any Honey on the trail.
We are going to unpack Part 3 of this series called:
We did some filming today of my Honey running up the trail and quickly doing a water crossing. She was caught in the act of practicing good foot placement. Even when moving quickly you can place the entire sole of your trail shoe on the ground at the same time for maximum traction most of the time.
There are times when you can’t set your foot down parallel to the surface because there isn’t enough room or you just miss. In these cases if you are planing to fall as we discussed in Part 1, you will know where to quickly place your other foot to maintain control of your movement.
The more surface to surface contact you have between two objects, the more friction there will be. That translates for us on the trail to either the ability to stop or to push off for the next step without slipping. In other words it will prevent a sudden accidental shifting of your center of gravity.
I ran for most of a year on the balls of my feet for about 30 miles a week. I was working on my calfs and I was seeing if there would be a significant reduction in shock to my knees if my foot caught most of the force like a spring.
The experiment showed positive results for muscle growth and reduction in shock to my knees. Running or walking on the balls of my feet was good in that case. If you are doing that or doing a heel to toe roll as your standard step it could get you pitched in a pile on the trail. Dirt, mud, sand, leaves and crumbling rock are not very forgiving when it comes to just letting you slip when you step on them.
Angling your foot in such a way that the entire shoe makes contact with the ground at the same time gives you the greatest chance of controlling a slip and will give you the best chance of pushing off of a slippery surface to take the next step.
You will notice in these two pictures of my Honey that she is doing this naturally. The trail surface today was slightly damp but by using the whole foot as much as possible she was about to move quickly without slipping. She is doing a quick hop over a small stream in the first picture and running up the hill in the second.
She is fond of saying that she used to trip on a flat sidewalk but look at her go now! Mastering this principle like she has will give you greater confidence and speed when hiking on slippery surfaces.
For Learning to Deal with the Oopsies on the Trail see my Honey’s post.
Products consumed on this hike: