Pedestrian's shoes; pedestrians' rights
October 25, 2009 10:48 AM   Subscribe

This is a two-part question. First, what are the ideal shoes for long-distance walking on paved or gravel roads? Second, what rights do I have as a suburban/urban pedestrian in California in terms of not being hassled by "authorities"?

The first part is fairly straightforward: I'm heavy (with an intention to become lighter if I keep up my walking), and will be walking in urban, suburban, and rural areas, sometimes on hills, with no terrain more difficult than gravel.

Second, as a rather fierce civil libertarian, what am I obligated to allow a police officer / whoever to do to me and ask of me (California)? Withholding my name, ID, purpose for being in the area; denying searches, frisks; etc.? This helped some, but does not fully answer what I'm asking. Something like a specialized ACLU-style reference would be great. I'm thinking about carrying a discreet voice recorder (to help me later) at all times; could that get me into trouble, if I record police without their knowledge?
posted by quarantine to Law & Government (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Ideal walking shoes depend a lot on the kind of weather conditions you'll be walking in (e.g., is waterproofness a concern? Is it more likely your feet will be cold or hot?), and quite a bit on the shape of your feet. Does it matter what they look like? How important is light weight measured against durability?

Hiking boots would probably be overkill, but 'light hikers' or 'day hikers' (manufacturers' names vary) might be a decent choice. Regular walking shoes might not be ideal on gravel, but they'd be excellent on pavement.
posted by box at 11:10 AM on October 25, 2009

There's not a universally correct answer about the shoes. Basically, some people need and do best with a more structured shoe/boot option, with support, structure, and plenty of technology -- think of a hiking boot, or a cross-training shoe. Something rugged, with a lugged sole and the right blend of stiffness and flex for your foot.

Other people do better with a more minimalist approach. The extreme (short of being actually barefoot) would be Vibram Five Fingers, but there are plenty of others on the spectrum from ultra-minimalist to regular shoes.

So people here can say "product X worked for me," but that's no guarantee of what will work for you. I'd suggest going to an outdoor store similar to REI and trying on a bunch of shoes ranging from quite rugged to soft and flexible, and seeing what feels good on your feet. Whatever you choose, easing yourself in will allow your body to adjust and strengthen; similarly, what works best for you at the beginning of your walking regime may not be what works as you get fitter.
posted by Forktine at 11:12 AM on October 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Excellent so far. Thank you. Waterproofness is not a major concern, and my feet are more likely to be hot than cold (fall and winter in Southern California).
posted by quarantine at 11:20 AM on October 25, 2009

Response by poster: Does it matter what they look like?

No. Not in the slightest.

How important is light weight measured against durability?

I don't know enough to know. I'm willing to invest in what works best for me, within (high) limits.
posted by quarantine at 11:38 AM on October 25, 2009

I'd highly recommend finding a small shoe store that specializes in functional-but-ugly footwear like Birks and whatnot. You need an expert for this sort of thing, because how it feels when you first put it on and walk 100 yards is not how it'll feel 10 miles down the road. Most larger shoe stores simply don't cater to people who actually walk a lot. They may deal with runners or hikers, but regular old fashioned walking is different.

I walk a lot, have fairly flat feet and a never-ending battle with an old stress fracture in my toe. I've had awesome experiences with Birkenstock's Wexfords (with the higher arch insert) and Finn Comforts. Both are made in the same factory and have similar footbeds with a WIDE sole that helps my knees a lot. Both are expensive enough that you'll want to take care of them and have them re-soled rather than simply buying a new pair. My Finns are on their 5th year & 3rd sole of ~5 miles a day through whatever weather Michigan can throw at them. The Wexfords are about a year old and are holding up great (and look a lot less like your grandma's orthopedic shoes). I LOVE both pairs of shoes.
posted by paanta at 12:09 PM on October 25, 2009

Mod note: few comments removed - OP next time please ask one question at a time, thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:14 PM on October 25, 2009

Response by poster: [sorry]
posted by quarantine at 12:19 PM on October 25, 2009

Merrells work excellently for me. I've been wearing the same pair of Merrell shoes every day for nearly four years now, including many long walks on paved surfaces, and they have always kept my feet extra comfy.
posted by emilyw at 1:06 PM on October 25, 2009

I would get a pair of running shoes. I find running shoes to be much more pleasant than any hiking boots that I've ever worn -- to the point that I don't wear hiking boots anymore. I hike in the mountains in trail running shoes. The only exception to this that I can think of would be if you feel you need some ankle support, you might look into some light hikers or day hikers which would be something like these.

As far as being hassled by the police goes...I really don't think that you would be. You might have the police asking if you need help if they see you walking along a rural road (thinking that your car might be broken down).
posted by fieldtrip at 1:57 PM on October 25, 2009

Is there a reason you're not buying a sneaker or athletic shoe? If you're going to walk long distances, it's worth getting fitted for a good pair of running shoes. (Don't let the name "running shoe" throw you, plenty of people walk marathons too.) A well made sneaker will help with any oddities in your walking pattern. Do you under or overpronate? Do you need cushioning in a specific part of your foot? A good running store can analyze your gait and put you into the correct shoe for your weight and walking technique. Here in San Diego, I'd suggest SDRI (fantastic fittings), or Movin' Shoes (good, but not as good as SDRI). Wherever you are, you want to look for those types of stores - small stores, dedicated to running/walking which specialize in fitting. Foot locker, Dick's Sporting Goods, etc are pretty much useless.

What kind of issue are you anticipating with the police? I walked, run and hiked all over California and I've never been questioned by a police officer. I have gone through the Border Patrol and Fruit Inspection points in my car, but that's only been a wave-through.
posted by 26.2 at 1:59 PM on October 25, 2009

Response by poster: Is there a reason you're not buying a sneaker or athletic shoe?

Ignorance? :-) Really, I have no idea what I'm doing here.

Do you under or overpronate?

[google 'define:overpronate' kthnx] I don't know.

What kind of issue are you anticipating with the police?

Not sure. I'm a white adult, but I'm big, hairy, and I walk in the wee hours of the morning on suburban streets sometimes.
posted by quarantine at 2:18 PM on October 25, 2009

Response by poster: [google 'define:overpronate' kthnx]

Ironically thanking Google's less-than-helpful first-pass results, not 26.2. Legitimate thanks to 26.2.
posted by quarantine at 2:23 PM on October 25, 2009

Best answer: Look at the soles of your most worn shoes. If the inside or outside is more worn, then you've got a pronation thing going. If there's a certain spot that wears out first on your shoe you've got something wonky in your gait. Sometimes people walk with their weight shifted on the toes or heels, that will create a distinct pattern on the sole of the shoe.

If you're planning to go long distances or even shorter distance walks very frequently, then go for a running shoe. When you go to shop, they'll have probably 30 or 40 styles. That's because they need to deal with all types of feet and walking gaits. If they have 40 pairs of shoes, maybe 3 will be appropriate for you. Let them tell you which ones.

First, they ask you to fill out a questionaire about your walking habits (mileage, frequency, surface), your weight and any problems you're having. Then they'll watch you walk or have you walk across a computer pad. They will also measure your feet. That will give them a good sense of what's going on with your tootsies.

Watch out for store employees who insist that you need a custom or upgraded insole. That's crap unless you've got an orthopedic problem or your arch collapses when you walk. Generally stores that pimp SuperFeet to every customer just don't know how to fit shoes. SuperFeet are an excellent product IF you need them, not everyone does.

The type of shoe you're looking for is a "Clydesdale". That's the term for larger male runners/walkers. You want a shoe with a firmer, denser more durable midsole. You want a shoe designed for a guy your size. A lightweight shoe isn't going to last when a heavier guy is using it.

Don't get overly concerned about what midsole and pronation or any other terms mean. Just understand that when you go to the store, someone should be looking at your current shoes, watching your walk or having you walk across a computer pad and offering you shoes for Clydes.

About the police - I don't think you're going to have trouble, but I'm also not a larger male so I could very well be wrong. Hopefully someone will be able to help with that.
posted by 26.2 at 2:46 PM on October 25, 2009

agreeing with above responders who've said "depends on your feet."

my experience: all summer long, i've been amping up my walking distance from four to six to eight miles (all on sidewalks), and have done it in land's end beach slides ($15)--most comfortable walking shoes evar! for me. but i tend to run barefoot as often as it's feasible, so my toes are wide, arch is high, and my feet are overall quite sturdy and stable, so the less shoe, the better--just let the feet do their thing. recently i bought a pair of bare traps women's "cozy" (clogs; $30); took them out for an eight-mile spin yesterday and they are definitely going to be my winter walkers.

the most important shoe attribute (for me) is that the footbed/sole be cushiony to reduce shock, but the arch support can't be too high or it will interfere with the natural spring action of my own arch. also important is toe width: if the shoe constricts my toes, i will instantly have really nasty blisters, big toe and little toe go numb and i will not want to walk any more. and closed back (again, for me) is right out because they dig into my narrow heels--again with the nasty blisters!

but for you? only you can figure out what is going to work well for you. and you'll probably unfortunately only find that out through trial and error. if your feet are in pretty good shape, you might try starting out with a more minimal shoe and a short distance--plan a half-mile trek; see how the shoes are working for you. note any place that's being rubbed, pinched, sore, going numb. some little blisters are unavoidable when starting out long-haul walking, but not big bleedy painful ones, and generally not until you've been out walking over an hour. i got a small blister on my right little toe toward the middle of my eight-mile walk when wearing a new pair of beach slides, but i took care of it with a band-aid and the second time out, it wasn't a problem.

oh, and if you're walking long distances a lot, you will run through whatever footwear you decide on, expensive or cheap, at a remarkable rate. really. especially if you're heavy (i am).

have a great time on your rambles and good luck with the lightness thing.
posted by miss patrish at 3:11 PM on October 25, 2009

I really like trail runners for this sort of thing. I've had many other kinds of footwear walking and hiking, but since I discovered trail runners they're just about all I wear unless I'm going to be trudging through mud. I've been happy with Merrel brand, and consequently haven't tried any others.
posted by Emanuel at 5:07 PM on October 25, 2009

I prefer a low cut walking shoe. I used to favour tighter hiking boots, but these days I go for a slightly loose fit. I don't like the sole to be too cushioned.

This is important - you are going to want good socks. For walking socks, I shell out $25 - $35 for a pair with natural fibres, such as merino wool. It's worth it! Good thick socks help fill the gaps in the shoes, wick away moisture and prevent blisters and chafing. When you discover a brand you can walk all day in without problems, buy a few more pairs. (I recommend this for shoes too, by the time you realise you have an excellent pair, that model will probably be off the shelf).

Often you aren't going to know how your shoes will work for you until you've walked some distance in them.

In truth, the best shoes are the ones you've already walked a few hundred hours in, they have conformed to your feet!
posted by tomble at 6:36 AM on October 26, 2009

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