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Right Shoes - All you need is to look the part
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TOPIC: Right Shoes - All you need is to look the part
#406
Right Shoes - All you need is to look the part 2 Years, 10 Months ago  
Reading user responses to both the Kananaskis Public Safety and Parks Mountain Safety is an "enlightening" experience. I want to start a discussion to help other mountaineers combat some of the pervasive stereotypes the result in judgment without objectivety. This discussion is about the public reponses to both webpage, I really appreciate the content on both webpages.

Lets use the following post as an example:
www.facebook.com/KCPublicSafety/photos/a...422/925993370751259/

The right shoe stereotype detailed in the above link is one that I find gets abused by the media on a regular basis.

Just as an aside, a stereotype is defined as:
(noun) a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.

To be clear, a stereotype is not an erroneous idea and those who state them are not necessarily wrong. However, a stereotype, by definition, is an idea that has been so oversimplified that acting upon it is harmful to those implicated. A stereotype neglects nuances that are important due to the fact that we are not a society of clones, but rather a wide array of people with different believes, backgrounds, abilities, values and cultures. I feel the best way to combat a stereotype it is simply elaborate the points and try and provide referenced facts.

Back to fashion, I mean shoes. It is true that some footwear is better than others, but footwear alone is not going to make or break a hiker or scrambler. I'm going to let my bias be know, I have scrambled, hiked and bush-wacked many miles in ski boots, full shanked boots, 3/4 shanked boots, crampons, sandles, 5-fingers and runners and I have pretty much settled on five fingers for everything but block scree and steep snow, but whatever I need for the climb seems to work too. I have friends who have worn out many a set of flip flops on climbing approaches. I have heard of people sending WI5 in hut booties. I have seen rigid boots eat peoples feet alive.

For some reason, no other piece of outdoor gear garners as much scorn as footwear. Many a mishaps gets over simplified to footwear, even if footwear had absolutely nothing to do with the incident. I find it strange that so much attention is given to what type of shoe somewhere wears, and almost no attention to what is in the shoe.

My argument centers on the idea of experience based on incremental experimentation. Starting from easy trips to moderate trips to more difficult trips, building up lots of miles and experience along the way will make you far more prepared for a trip than if you go out and "buy" the right gear. Having the right gear certainly helps, but can not make up for the necessary experience. Furthermore, footwear is only part of the set-up, one must try and and find the right pack, water (amount), food (type and amount), rain gear, warm gear, navigation, base layers, foot wear, socks and navigational gear that works for them in that sort of terrain. Peoples skills and strength are different, thus the gear required is different and can only be verified by testing. Buying the "right" gear does not substitute for experience. It is true that a shoe that offers ankle support may prevent a rolled ankle, but it is equally true that lots of experience walking over rugged terrain will also prevent a rolled ankle. Thus, if someone is going to be judgmental about shoes, they should be just as judgmental of the wear on the bottom of the shoe. For example, lots of experience may have taught you that using poles are the right tool for you to prevent rolled ankles and footwear plays a much smaller roll. Or, that when you run out of food or water that your balance suffers and you become rolled ankle prone. If you are going to judge someone by their shoe type alone, you mine as well double you data points by judging them on the make of their watch as well.
Matthew Breakey
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#410
Re:Right Shoes - All you need is to look the part 2 Years, 10 Months ago  
Hey Matt,

I certainly agree with you that footwear is not the be-all and end-all and is only one variable in a really, really complex equation.

However,

I think it's important to remember who posts like that are aimed at.

You and I tend to hang out with people like you and I and the result is that we think we represent a significant portion of the population.

The thing is, Kananaskis Public Safety (just like MEC) realizes that you and I are a weird fringe minority. Those messages aren't aimed at us.

I know that when moving fast I'm more likely to roll my ankle in mountaineering boots than in a low profile trail runner. I know what sort of stuff I can climb in ski boots. I know stuff based off of a lot of experience and a lot of practice getting things wrong - in fact what I wear is continuously adapting as I try new things and find gear and techniques that work better for me.

But I'm weird. Just like you're weird. We do stuff every weekend. We do stuff like try to climb in ski boots or run 50+km in a day, crossing a few mountain passes as we go. You and I run the Rockwall Trail in a day while most people do it in a short week. We know that in order to do that in a day, we need to go super light and wear the right footwear for what we're doing, which for that is crazy light trail runners. For us, lightweight is safer than heavy in that specific usage case. In others, we bust out mountaineering boots, or crampons, or ski boots, or approach shoes. I literally have 9 pairs of 'frequent use' active footwear in my front hall. We base our gear and objective choices based off of experience and research. We represent 1% of users out there. KPS doesn't target their messages at us, they don't even think about us.

KPS is in the business of rescue and more importantly, education. They have limited funds and the public has a limited attention span. They need to broadcast a message that will have the broadest audience possible. You and I think about safety all the time - it's part of being someone who thinks spending discretionary income on helicopter time is better than fancy clothes or shiny cars. But people who go hiking a couple of times a year, or who are thinking of getting out there for the first time in a while - THAT is the majority of users. THAT is who KPS is targeting with their messages.

I don't look at KPS for advice on what gear to use - I base that on my own experience; but if you don't have your own experience to rely on - then messages from KPS - which tend to argue the most conservative possible option - can be a valuable source of information.

Despite the fact that per capita, your and my spending at MEC is huge, as a group we represent a footnote, so they start carrying more yoga wear because people who lead 'active lifestyles' dig that sort of stuff and there's eleventy billion of them - MEC chases the largest audience. KPS does the same thing - their messages are aimed at the group that is the biggest (and unlike the MEC case, needs them most) - the occasional, casual user.

I agree the wild rhetoric espoused in the comments is typical of reactionary, non-critical, 'because this is what works for me, it works for everyone' thinking could use some work - but I think that's endemic of broader social issues rather than persecution of mountaineers with a taste for Five-Fingers.

I think it's the same as the person who called the cops on their neighbour in Squamish who let their kid play naked on the lawn, or people who are against gay marriage or struggle with cultural sensitivity - a failure to understand, consider different lifestyles or empathize means that an opportunity to learn something new or be exposed to a new idea is instead treated to a hostile and negative reaction without any actual consideration.

Pemberton Search and Rescue helped me rescue a friend out of the back country a few years ago. When we got out, I asked the lead SAR tech if he had any advice for us. He laughed and said we were an awesome change of pace. We were a well equipped, experienced party that was self rescuing and they just helped out. He said that 99% of their calls are for "saggy pantsed f*ckwits out the back of Whistler". I think it makes a lot more sense for them to aim their education at the saggy pantsed f*ckwits than the experienced, well equipped parties out there - all 1% of us.
Phil Tomlinson
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