Journeying safely through the wild requires attention and intention. “Zoning out” is dangerous and a misplaced foot or unexpected animal encounter can definitely ruin an adventure.
Along with owl eyes, fox walking is one of my favorite ways to stay alert and tread quietly.
Proponents of fox walking advocate for trodding barefoot. I know, it’s sorta crazy to consider. We’ve been raised wearing shoes – and not just shoes, but close-toed shoes with thick heels and stiff structural rigidity.
Walking barefoot or in minimalist footwear is reported to increase the natural health benefits of walking. It makes sense, I don’t think early humans wore shoes and doubt that the last vestiges of Cro Magnons and Neanderthals donned footwear either.
Fox walking puts an emphasis on shortening the stride and walking as silently as possible. This last part has been critical for me, since soft steps reduce strain on key lower body joints (ankles, knees, hips) and the spine.
When stepping, the fox walker should land on the outside parts of the feet and slowly transfer weight to the insides of the feet to complete the stride. This allows the sturdier sides of the feet to “feel out” the surface of the ground.
By slowly moving the weight to the inside of the foot, obstacles are sensed before they can do any damage to the delicate arches on the inside of the feet. Also, this keeps you stealthy and feet won’t be as likely to snap twigs or bramble in underbrush.
Essentially, by closing up the stride and extending out with the step (think of spreading the toes and maximizing the surface area that you’ll be landing on), each footfall should distribute the body’s weight evenly.
This creates a smoother gait that allows you to move quietly and stay in the moment. Port Heiden is packed with animals to enjoy. They’re everywhere. Ptarmigans, coyotes, cranes, porcupines, caribou, seals, and yes, foxes. By moving silently and listening deeply, it seems that I encounter more beasts and can easily share space with them.
Personally, fox walking has also dramatically helped some spinal issues (more on this tomorrow).
Until then, may the force(s of victory) be with you.