FiveFingers fan Chris sent in the following story about hiking the Narrows in the Zion National Park in his Spyridon LS FiveFingers. Seems the Narrows are hiked primarily in a river and the hike can take around 13 hours.
Here's Chris' story:
Recently I took a trip out West in U.S. to see some great sites, one of them including the Zion National Park. One particular trail that tests someone's will is called the Narrows. It consists of a flowing, cold river and rocky, usually slippery terrain— in addition to this you're placed in a very tall canyon that has only two directions to follow, back out and further in. This trail is often started at the 'bottom' and hiked up against the current, farther in to the canyon, which is how I made my way. About half of the people I met had on Canyoneer 5.10's, which are phenomenal shoes, for their grip is like glue and you have the option for wearing neoprene socks. Many others I passed by simply were not prepared for the hike but couldn't resist the beauty of the place. I on the other hand decided to hike up with my somewhat new pair of Spyridons (LS). I also donned a pair of Injinji wool socks which were pretty much essential in my opinion.
When I first started the hike it was early in the morning and the water was maybe even as low as the high-50's (Fahrenheit), during the day it warmed up by about 10-15 degrees but was still chilly in the deep, and reported to be around mid-60's. The terrain was typically rocky with some sand, but mostly rocky and as such almost every single step had to be considered as it was easy to look up at the great wonder of the canyon and zone out.
What do I mean by rocky? Well consider pebbles and throwing stones to rocks the size of footballs all the way up to boulders that could be climbed up and over, basically at every foot step. I was a little nervous about this hike as I was worried about my feet getting jammed, scraped or simply tired from the constant surmountable terrain. Luckily my Five Fingers performed admirably. I specifically chose the Spyridon LS as I think the tread and most importantly the grip is superior to the other variations of Five Fingers, but it also has a protective arch which proved incredibly important as many of my foot strikes were right down on the arch so I could try and grip rocks as a basketball player might grip the ball.
After hours in the canyon I made my way back, something of which took about half the time as I was almost running with the current and on a decline. Early on I had became confident in my choice of footwear and laughed a bit on the inside every time I saw someone in sandals. While I jammed my foot once, right down on to the ankle as I slid on a very slippery rock, I found that because of my almost-barefoot experience I was not placing so much weight on to each step. The jam proved to be nothing and I was off in a second, to tell you the truth I was more worried about tearing the fancy upper on the shoe.
Where did the Spyridon LS excel? Pretty much everywhere, mostly from being lighter and holding on to less water than other heavier duty shoes; but, also from the fact that the grip was far superior to everything except perhaps the canyoneering-branded shoes. I felt like some nimble ninja and sometimes bolted through the canyon around many of the slow-goers.
What were the downfalls of choosing this shoe for this hike? I think new comers to the Five Finger community may have tired feet along the trail. The biggest downfall was where the rubber failed me, but only a few times; once or twice on a buttery-slick rock where I don't think any amount of rubber would have helped, and a few times on sandy, dry rocks where at the same time my shoes were sandy. I actually got a chance to use 5.10 Canyoneer shoes and while the rubber on those is designed for canyoneering and thus somewhat mind-blowing, it did exhibit the same fatal flaw my Spyridon LS did— if the surface is dry and sandy and the bottom of the shoe has packed-on, dry sand there is no hope for grip.
All in all the Narrows was a fun hike and perhaps my favorite of Zion National Park. It is both beautiful and somewhat technical, especially the farther up go you. I hope to go back some day and do this hike again, and you bet I'll be wearing my Five Fingers!
Great to hear the Spyridon LS performed so admirably in such unconventional conditions! I've heard almost universally positive feedback both about the grip of the Spyridon sole and the added protection due to the "cocoon technology" (more on all this in the BirthdayShoes Spyridon LS review). That said, they are mostly aimed at trail running, so it's neat to hear how they perform well as river-hiking footwear!
Thanks for sharing your story, Chris!