Backpacking in minimalist trail-running shoes

You might have heard the old adage of 1 pound on the feet equals 5 pounds on the back. Because of this, I've been slowly getting used to hiking in minimalist trail-running shoes, in preparation for climbing Mt. Whitney.
My beautiful Merrell shoes

How slowly? I got the shoes in mid-June, and in almost 2 months, I was up to jogging ~5 miles in them without my ankle or Achilles tendon hurting.

The shoes underwent their first real test this weekend, when I went backpacking in them for the first time. During the two-day trip, we hiked 11.6 miles and covered an elevation difference of 4,300 ft. I didn't weigh my pack, but it probably weighed around 25 lbs including water, which we had to carry with us. Now, a day after the trip, I can barely walk down stairs due to sore muscles, but my ankles are fine! Success. This means I will be hiking Mt. Whitney in these minimalist shoes.

It was interesting stepping on a pebble for the first time. You feel sharp rocks a lot more than in hiking boots, and even tennis shoes! Oh, and do not kick any cacti or agave, those thorns will go straight through the mesh parts!

What are your experiences backpacking in minimalist shoes? Post your comments below!


  1. Great post! We're hiking Mt. Whitney in a few weeks, and I'll be trying the hike with my minimal shoes too. When is your hike?

    1. My Mt. Whitney attempt was just last weekend. My pack weighed 17 lbs total at the start, and these shoes ended up being perfect... until on the second day, we got to the switchbacks that had snow and ice due to a hailstorm during the night. (Exciting story.. I'll post it soon!) To be honest, I wish I had taken crampons. In those conditions, even hiking boots wouldn't have helped much. But in short, my ankles didn't hurt, and I wouldn't have changed a thing. Good luck on your Mt Whitney trip and let me know how it goes!