20 mile street hiking advice wanted
September 6, 2009 10:10 AM   Subscribe

In less than 2 weeks time I am taking part in a 20 mile charity night-hike around the streets of London. Does anyone have any advice for such a venture? I've been doing quite a lot of walking over summer and am currently using a cross-trainer regularly at the gym, so hopefully stamina shouldn't be a problem - I'm mainly after advice to make life more comfortable.

What footwear is most suitable for long distance pavement walking? Walking boots / running shoes?

Any recommendations for socks?

Anything else?

Many thanks in advance

posted by mairuzu to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
As for shoes, I'd probably go with what you have already broken in. I'm not sure two weeks is enough time to get and break in a new pair of hiking boots and then heal from the blisters. I put Superfeet in my hiking boots and they give a little extra support then the ones that come with shoes.

Get some nice socks that feel good with your shoes. Too much cushion might make the shoes fit too tightly, and that wouldn't be comfortable. You might want to pick up some sock liners as well. They're like little undersocks that can make things better.

If you're still going to need to be outside doing things after the hike, make sure you have another pair of shoes you can slip on. It might seem silly, but having something else to put your feet into after wearing the same shoes makes a world of difference.
posted by clockbound at 11:35 AM on September 6, 2009

Pace yourself; rest when you need to; eat and drink when you need to. You should rest for a few minutes every 1-2 hours. (I am assuming this walk will take upwards of four or five hours).

Bring plenty of water; I am always a poor judge of how much water I need for a given distance, but I'd estimate about two quarts, maybe more, certainly not less.

Bring food -- granola bars, salted nuts, cheese, dried fruit, that sort of thing. Lightwieght things you can eat without a lot of preparation. Pack a sandwich for "lunch" about halfway through your trip. Bring a bit more than you think you'll need.

For socks, you'll want a either a light or medium cushion wool hiking sock, depending on what kind of shoes you'll be wearing. Smartwool and Wigwam are both good brands, and have very soft wool socks that don't require liner socks.

I don't do a lot of pavement walking, but I would imagine whatever shoes you normally walk in would be adequate, as long as they're sturdy. I wouldn't recommend real hiking boots (too heavy) unless it'll be cold and/or wet. In any event, make sure your shoes are big enough: there should be about a finger's width of space between your toes and the front end of the shoe.

You'll want a decent backpack to carry your stuff in, preferably one with a good, load-bearing hip belt. Doesn't have to be a super-duper overnighting backpack, but something like this would probably serve you well. (The belt should fit around your hips so that the weight of the pack goes onto your legs.)
posted by Commander Rachek at 11:48 AM on September 6, 2009

Be prepared against problems getting home afterwards. (Experience of friends who did the Moonwalk one year.)
posted by Idcoytco at 1:18 PM on September 6, 2009

For 20 miles I'd want something with ankle support on my feet.

A camelback of water, 2 or 3L, cliff bars for food, maybe a ziplock of sliced peppers and berries just to liven things up. I bring a couple of moist towlets to keep things clean. A pair of socks to change into after, will feel great and give you an opportunity to air out and massage your feet.

Your bag should have a hip strap. If it's a hike weight of bag isn't an issue, but anything bigger than 28L in size is excessive... 12-25L is more than enough, bring a sweater. I agree with Smartwool and Wigwam recommendations.

I'd definitely bring a headlamp, even if in the city, and a spare set of batteries. Maybe a flasher for the backpack too so others can recognize/not drive into you.
posted by furtive at 2:16 PM on September 6, 2009

What support services are the organizers providing? If there are regular rest stops and the like set up along the route, you probably don't need to bring as much food and water as some are suggesting. If you're on your own, well, you're on your own.

If you know the route beforehand, you might consider putting an emergency cache somewhere near the halfway point - maybe in a parked car. I'd put an extra pair of shoes here in case my shoes decided to try to kill me.

Boots tend to be heavier so walking in boots is more work, but personally, that would be my choice. As has been said, whatever you've been wearing is probably best at this point.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:06 PM on September 6, 2009

Best answer: My friends and I did the London Night Hike a few years ago (I assume this is the one you're participating in). We wore running shoes, no special socks, and were fine. There were multiple stop points at architectural points of interest where free snacks and drinks were provided- even sandwiches in the Treasury- so a bottle of water and a granola bar was fine in terms of provisions. I brought a couple extra layers of clothing in a rucksack, which was useful because despite having been quite warm during the day, it felt kind of cold by 5am. I'm no athlete but the walk itself wasn't too difficult. The thing we all found the hardest was not just being awake all night but having to keep walking while our bodies wanted to be in bed. It was much harder than staying awake for an essay crisis all-nighter, so make sure you're well rested beforehand. I suppose you could try to make it easier by acclimatizing yourself to staying up quite late, but it might not be really worth it. Just plan to spend the next morning in bed! It was a great experience and a wonderful way to see London- hope you enjoy it!
posted by Kirjava at 3:28 PM on September 6, 2009

Two probably obvious things, but you'd be surprised how people overlook them or what they can do for you.

Take money/cards. You'll be in a big city, not the middle of nowhere. Practically anything you realise you'll need you'll probably be able to buy. Even if the shops are closed, you can buy the socks off a passerby if you're brave enough to ask. You might feel like you're wasting money, but the alternative is that you have to carry something.

A phone and a map can help if you lose your friends or way. People often think a phone is enough, but make sure you know where you are (ie an intersection of two streets) before you call, and ask them also for a point. Its surprising the number of people who ring to say they're lost and when you try to work out how to meet up again, neither of you has anything to work off aside from "I'm next to a pub/shop/house/street."
posted by jjderooy at 5:09 PM on September 6, 2009

Best answer: I have experience with a yearly 20 mile walk, but it's mostly on gravel, not pavements. I've pulled it off successfully with various levels of fitness (ranging from total couch potato to super-athlete running 10Ks for breakfast... and back, sadly) and never had any major problems.

I would recommend regular, comfy, broken-in running shoes. Hiking boots are much heavier and if you walk 5-6 hours, the difference matters a lot. I prefer standard cotton socks, but some people prefer special running/hiking socks. In any case, make sure the socks don't have any seams or stitches that would rub against your feet the whole day - instant blisters! Have a spare pair of socks for later.

Don't take too much stuff with you. Remember, you're going to carry this for 5-6 hours. For me, 2 small sandwiches and some candy bars were enough. Don't eat too much (there are some unpleasant memories of nausea and throwing up, before I learned that lesson). We got water at regular rest stops, so I didn't need to carry much. Research public toilets along the way. ;)

When choosing clothes and shoes and a backpack, be careful of anything that might rub against your body the whole time. I had blisters on my torso because of a backpack strap. Think layers and nothing too heavy (again, carrying it for 5-6 hours...). Plan for rain.

Take care to rest every now and then, but don't rest too much! Whenever I stopped for more than 5 minutes, it was an agony getting started again.

Will you have company or are you walking alone? You might consider taking an mp3 player with an audiobook or a selection of favorite music. Anything to take your mind off the (almost inevitable) blisters and joint pains.

How well is the route marked? Even with markings every 50-100m, every year I get lost at least once. :) Take a map with you and research the route beforehand.

Think about what happens after your walk. Do you have to walk additional miles to the underground/train/bus station and then to your home? Can a friend meet you, bring a pair of comfy shoes for you to change into and take you home? Plan to do absolutely nothing except sitting and lounging on the couch the next day. (Make sure you have enough food at home and don't have to walk to the shops. ;))

Whew, that was long! In summary: don't worry, you'll be fine. :) Have fun on your walk!
posted by gakiko at 12:56 AM on September 7, 2009

Best answer: I just thought I'd add that I found the route quite easy to follow. Basically at whatever points you needed to alter course, there was a volunteer standing and pointing the way. Also, everyone is given bright coloured t-shirts and balloons so you can generally spot someone ahead anyway. I agree that it's a good idea to plan transport home, but we actually finished at about 5:45am (though we dawdled and took time to explore the interesting buildings) by which time the Tube was running!
posted by Kirjava at 2:11 AM on September 7, 2009

I occasionally walk twenty miles round the city where I live, and I regularly do seventeen, mainly on roads. I wear sock liners as Clockbound suggests, sometimes putting foot softening cream on my soles first, then medium-weight socks and a pair of walking shoes - on pavements, I don't find ankle support to be necessary. I do put shock-absorbing insoles in them, and they are the shoes I wear most of the time so there's no problem with them rubbing or pinching. Gakiko is right about making sure there are no sock seams to rub - that's the main reason I use the sock liners.
posted by nja at 1:19 PM on September 7, 2009

« Older Help me make a chocolate bar at home.   |   ∃x∀y∃z[Qx∧(My→Pyx)∧Wz ∧Pzx] ∨ ∃x[Qx∧∀y(My→Pyx... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.