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#196128 - 07/22/16 05:29 PM Clumsy Hiker
KIB1288 Offline

Registered: 07/22/16
Posts: 4
Loc: New England, USA
Hello, this is my first post.

Some background:

I've been hiking for three years, less than two in the rugged NH White Mountains. I hike every week, I've climbed 42 of the 48 4Ks, all seasons. I'm female, late 40s.

I fall when hiking - often! I do use trekking poles on the descents, but I still find myself falling. Tripping, slipping, sliding, you name it, I've done it. I fall on most of my hikes. I am not a fast hiker, if I try to go quicker to catch others, I fall more. I look down while hiking to watch where I'm placing my feet.

I was a competitive figure skater, so it's not really a balance issue. I have not tried other brands of boots - I have a few pairs of Keens.

Does anyone have similar issues? Any recommendations other than trying different boot brand?

On the rare occasion that I do not fall on a hike, I do a celebratory dance at the end.


#196130 - 07/22/16 06:12 PM Re: Clumsy Hiker [Re: KIB1288]
aimless Offline

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 2880
Loc: Portland, OR
I am only guessing here, so be aware of that. It sound to me like your brain is well-programmed for balance and grace while figure skating, but for some reason it is failing to retrain itself for keeping balance on uneven ground, with ruts, roots, and rocks that sometimes stay put and sometimes shift position.

The key might be learning to quickly see the area where your foot will fall next and finding the best placement for it. This evaluation process goes on continuously, for every footfall on broken terrain. I do not have any golden key for learning this skill, except to encourage you to continue to pay close attention to your foot placement until the problem abates. If you bagged 42 of the 48 4Ks, you've certainly demonstrated the necessary perseverance to lick this.

Good luck!

#196131 - 07/22/16 07:01 PM Re: Clumsy Hiker [Re: KIB1288]
Glenn Roberts Offline

Registered: 12/23/08
Posts: 1417
Loc: Southwest Ohio
How do you feel about those poles - do you find them a reliable tool, easy to use, quickly able to put out an additional support point where you need it? Or do they make you feel clumsy and uncoordinated?

I think poles are great; but to use them effortlessly requires practice. To me, they're now second nature, but the first few times I used them, I really struggled to get the rhythm and coordination right. (I still occasionally get them crossed, or caught in a root or crack in the rock - at which point I question whether the designer's parents were really ever married.) Have you tried walking without them, and if so, was there a difference in the amount of falling?

There's always the middle ground: one pole. Since I began my backpacking career by copying Colin Fletcher, I used a single, 5-foot-long pole for many years. I always found that a very natural thing to do, as opposed to my initial reaction to double poles. I still occasionally threaten to return to the single fixed length pole.

Good luck, and hang in there. And welcome to the forums.

#196133 - 07/23/16 09:53 AM Re: Clumsy Hiker [Re: Glenn Roberts]
KIB1288 Offline

Registered: 07/22/16
Posts: 4
Loc: New England, USA
Thanks for the feedback and welcome. I do think I may need more practice with poles. I will admit to sometimes leaving them strapped to my pack, as they get in the way on a steep descent when I like to use my hands.


#196135 - 07/23/16 02:11 PM Re: Clumsy Hiker [Re: KIB1288]
bluefish Offline

Registered: 06/05/13
Posts: 677
Depth perception? Conditioning? Are your legs tired on descents? Are you tensing up and falling because your being too rigid from fear of falling?

#196136 - 07/23/16 02:17 PM Re: Clumsy Hiker [Re: bluefish]
balzaccom Offline

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 1737
Loc: Napa, CA
Eyes on the trail. Skating assumed the ground is flat. When I stumble on the trail, it's almost always because I am enjoying the view and not paying attention to where I am putting my feet...

check out our website and blog:

#196137 - 07/23/16 05:26 PM Re: Clumsy Hiker [Re: balzaccom]
Glenn Roberts Offline

Registered: 12/23/08
Posts: 1417
Loc: Southwest Ohio
"Ah," you say, "but isn't the whole purpose of hiking to see the beauty of the natural environment around you?" No, I reply. The whole purpose of hiking is to get from point A to point B in one piece, and so I agree with those who say, "Eyes on the ground while moving."

The whole purpose of stopping, on the other hand, is to enjoy the beauty of the natural environment around you. And I stop. A lot. For me, a trip is not about piling up miles. Yes, the sheer exercise feels good. And yes, you often do have to do your daily allotment of miles to keep a trip on some kind of "schedule." But I will pause for a couple of seconds to look into an intriguing glade, or observe the sandstone cliff on the other side of the creek, or maybe just to observe the creek. And I usually stop for about 10 minutes an hour to get the pack off and sit down - and I try to pick an overlook, or someplace interesting to be part of for those minutes. Another hour for lunch, and maybe a nap, and arrive at camp, 8 - 10 miles away from last night's camp, with enough time to explore for half an hour before or after supper, then quietly sitting in camp and letting it get dark around me - can't ask for a better day.

Stopping is highly underrated.

#196145 - 07/24/16 08:34 PM Re: Clumsy Hiker [Re: Glenn Roberts]
KIB1288 Offline

Registered: 07/22/16
Posts: 4
Loc: New England, USA
When I'm moving, I am looking down probably 99% of the time, with the exception of the occasional logging road.

I don't think it's conditioning, but thank you for all of the feedback.

Admittedly, I do tense up when I am afraid of falling downhill. Someone told me I just need to "go for it" more.

I love to stop and look at the scenery too!

#196173 - 07/27/16 10:11 PM Re: Clumsy Hiker [Re: KIB1288]
KyHiker40 Offline

Registered: 01/09/12
Posts: 14
Loc: Louisville, KY
You don't mention anything about pack weight. I will say that when I first started backpacking I tended to carry a lot more gear and hence a lot heavier pack. With a heavy pack every slippery spot of trail becomes much more dangerous.

Over the years I've slimmed down the pack weight, very rarely carrying more than 12-15 pounds before food & water. As a result, I don't really notice the pack on my back and I feel much safer on questionable terrain.

Just a thought.

#196174 - 07/27/16 10:45 PM Re: Clumsy Hiker [Re: KyHiker40]
Glenn Roberts Offline

Registered: 12/23/08
Posts: 1417
Loc: Southwest Ohio
Very good point. I think that, as a site where most of us are lightweight backpackers, we sometimes forget that not everyone is like us. A heavier pack does make it harder to walk on tricky footing. Along a similar line, how is your pack loaded? It works best when it is balanced from side to side, front to back, and top to bottom - with a low center of gravity, close to your back. An unbalanced load will work against you, and tend to pull you off-balance.

#196210 - 08/02/16 01:05 PM Re: Clumsy Hiker [Re: Glenn Roberts]
Snappypepper Offline

Registered: 08/02/16
Posts: 18
I find myself to be much more clumsy in beefier shoes. I'm not sure what type of Keens you are using, but maybe if you are just day hiking a more minimalist type shoe would work better. You can feel the terrain and there's less bulk to get in the way.


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