Keen to do a walking or hiking adventure? Your first step is easy, says Nelfrie Kemp. Be well prepared.
Taking up walking or hiking is often done with the intention of getting fit while feeding the soul as you take in fresh air and enjoy your surroundings. But there’s a lot more to consider.
The first step when preparing to do a walking or hiking adventure will be to engage in an overall strengthening programme with your biokineticist or personal trainer – especially if you’re not fit or haven’t exercised in a while. Any walking you do in preparation is great, but you also need to strengthen your kinetic chain and joints and work on your proprioception
It’s great if you can train on the same terrain as your adventure, but the reality is that most of us will train on tar and pavements. Time on feet is what is important. When I trained for the Tankwa Camino, it was more about the time I spent walking rather than the distance. The upside is that walking becomes meditative, and once you get into the groove and lost in your thoughts, time goes by very quickly. When I was younger and trained for Kilimanjaro, I never set foot on any mountain and only trained in the gym.
So what about the shoes? They need to be comfortable, offer stability, absorb shock, be lightweight, and flexible over the ball of the foot. Consider what the terrain will be. Are you walking the Camino in Spain where it’s a combination of dirt road, cobble streets and tar, or hiking in the Berg where you follow cattle track, negotiate water, and hop over rocks?
You need the midsole of the shoe to absorb the shock and provide comfort throughout your hike. Often from day three onwards when muscle fatigue sets in, is when you’ll rely on that midsole of the shoe. And don’t mistake shock absorption for cushioning and softness. Yes, you do want cushioning, but if the midsole is too soft it will collapse under your feet and change your foot function. The shoe upper offers support and stability and its function is also to keep gravel, stones and the like out of the shoe.
Walking poles are a good idea, and when fatigue sets in you’ll be amazed at the load they take off your feet and joints. They also offer stability and balance on an uneven surface.
And what about preventing blisters? Make sure your shoes fit correctly, usually one size bigger that your normal shoe size. Choose your socks size specific and not too thick or too short. Make sure your nails are cut short, and lather your feet from the ankles down with Vaseline every day before you set out on the adventure.