At my age, I never thought I’d have to learn to walk.
Thankfully, it’s not because of disease or injury. No, I’m learning how to walk long distance.
It’s not as simple as you’d think.
A year ago, I agreed to walk across England for charity. That’s 84 miles in 6 days. Averaging 15 miles per day.
This is something I’d never done before. So I had to learn to walk.
The very first thing I did was to buy a pair of decent light hiking boots. Because you need solid ankle support and a heavy-duty sole.
At our local outdoors store, a salesman showed me a few brands of boots and eventually sold me on a pair of Asolo GTX Flames.
They felt good and snug. “And those are the very boots I own!” the salesman told me.
Next, it was time to buy socks, because you can’t just go walking in any old pair of cotton socks. No, you need to consider the type of trip you have planned, and the kind of terrain you’ll be walking on.
There are mountaineering socks, midweight socks, and lightweight socks. Made out of wool, cotton, silk, and synthetic materials. There’s Coolmax, SmartWool, and Hollofil. You also need a pair of sock liners to help prevent blisters. It’s enough to drive you crazy.
Again, I relied upon the smooth-talking salesman at the outdoors store to outfit me right.
Soon, I was heading down the trail in a pair of Thorlo Coolmax Light Hiker Crew Socks over a pair of Fox River X-Static Polypropylene Liners.
I didn’t walk very far at first. A mile here, a mile there. This was the breaking-in period for my boots. Very important, I was told, to acclimate my feet to their new home.
I didn’t like that breaking-in period very much. Because my feet hurt. I mean, really hurt.
It was like someone was taking a hammer to the ball and heel of each foot. After a few miles, I would arrive back home feeling battered and bruised.
Back at the store, the salesman cheerfully told me to “just keep walking.”
So, I walked. Farther and farther. 5 miles, 8 miles, 10 miles. And still my feet were being tortured.
Then, one day this spring, we were in the outdoors store to buy my son a new swimsuit, when I saw a display of Keen Oregon PCT boots. I don’t know what came over me. Most likely, it was a deep subconscious hatred for my Asolo boots.
I strayed. I picked up one of the Keens. It looked different. Friendlier, happier.
I put it on my foot. The sole was bouncier. My toes had wiggle room.
Without thinking of my Asolos back home, I slipped on both Keen boots and walked around that store. The epiphany came to me within a minute.
I’d been wearing the wrong boots!
Those poor Asolos, they just weren’t the right fit for me, but it took me six months to realize it.
The new Keens came home with me, and the very next day I walked 12 miles in them. With absolutely no foot pain whatsoever.
And the day after that, the Asolos went up on eBay.
I’m happy to say that I have arrived at the end of my struggle to learn to walk. Soon I will be setting out in my Keen Oregon PCTs, feet smeared with BodyGlide to prevent blisters, covered by a pair of polypropylene liners, and covered again by a pair of Coolmax cushioned hiking socks.
Learning to walk is not a simple endeavor. It’s a process of trial and error, give and take, disappointment and surprise.
I started off hoping this would all be worth it. The long walk across England hasn’t even begun yet, and I can state emphatically that it has been a success. My personal goal to raise 1000 British Pounds (that’s nearly $1500) was met this week. Friends, family, bloggers, even strangers, came through big time. I am humbled, impressed, and exhausted.
My other personal goal, to make it through those 84 miles without faltering, is that much closer now that I’ve properly learned to walk.
By the way, there’s still plenty of time to make a donation to my walk. Visit the Idaho Dad’s Long Walk Fundraising page to add to my total. Every penny goes to the charity.