Marcus Löffler: Hiking despite heel spurs with orthopaedic insoles from medi

Walking thousands of kilometers through the USA despite being diagnosed with heel spurs: "The igli Heel orthopaedic insole relieves my heel, eases my pain and makes my everyday life easier." 

Marcus Löffler tries out the igli heel from medi at the orthopaedic shoe technician

4,300 kilometers with heel spur and orthopaedic insoles

Marcus Löffler has a heel spur. And yet, in April 2024, the 50-year-old set off on the Pacific Crest Trail adventure. He hiked alone in the wilderness - over a distance of around 4,300 kilometers in the west of the USA through the states of California, Oregon and Washington. In temperatures of up to 40 degrees in southern California and snow-covered passes in the Sierra Nevada at altitudes of up to 4,500 meters. On board: the igli Heel orthopaedic insole from medi.  

In this interview, Marcus Löffler and orthopaedic technician Jacqueline Neubrand explain how the igli Heel orthotic insole supports the adventurer on his hike. 

Dear Mr. Löffler, you started your hike in Campo, on the border between the United States and Mexico, at the beginning of April 2024 - you have almost 4,300 kilometers to Manning Park in British Columbia, Canada, ahead of you. Why are you taking on this challenge? 

"For some it might be a horror show, but for me it's an unforgettable adventure and the best way to relax and switch off! There is something meditative about hiking, I enjoy being in nature and being able to perceive myself better. The landscapes are breathtaking and full of contrasts: From the heat on the western edge of the Mojave Desert with its unique flora and fauna to glaciers and rugged rock formations to lush green meadows and hills - the untouched beauty of nature is unique! What's more, I meet interesting people from different countries and cultures every day. This mix is unique!" 

  • Distance: almost 4,300 kilometers.
  • Route: through the states of California, Oregon and Washington, over 60 mountain passes, through 19 canyons, 24 national forests and seven national parks.
  • Elevation gain: almost 150,000 meters, which is 16 to 17 times the height of Mount Everest. 
  • Weather conditions: through five different climate zones.

How did you get into hiking and how did you decide to tackle one of the most beautiful tours in the world? 

"I had already read about the Pacific Crest Trail when I was at school in 1993 and was deeply impressed. The idea sounded absolutely crazy on the one hand, but also fascinating at the same time. However, due to my professional training and a long-term relationship, it took me ten years to complete my first major trip: the West Highland Way in Scotland, which is 150 kilometers long. The simple life of being out in nature in all weathers and spending the night in a tent inspired me - and I stuck with it. Over the years, the length of the tours gradually increased until 2016, when I finally decided to embark on the Pacific Crest Trail adventure." 

How did the preparations look like? 

"I used my annual vacations before the coronavirus pandemic to go on long-distance hikes. The aim was, firstly, to get used to the daily walking workload over a longer period of time and the mental challenges. Secondly, to keep my rucksack as light as possible and to try out alternatives for sending equipment, clothing and food to different points along the route. And thirdly, to test my technical equipment to see if I could write my blog, for example, or if I was well prepared for emergencies."  

Marcus Löffler during his hike on the Pacific Crest Trail far away from roads

Which tours did you choose for this? 

"A hike through northern England and Scotland in 2017 and a section of the Pacific Crest Trail in each of the following two years: once three weeks in Washington state and just under four weeks in California in 2019. The last two partial tours on the Pacific Crest Trail were intended as preparation to find out whether I could cope well with the flora, fauna and, in particular, the altitude of the trail. Surprisingly, that worked well!" 

Which animals might you encounter in the coming months? 

"As in Germany, for example, mosquitoes and deer are widespread. In Southern California you often see lizards and can also encounter poisonous spiders, scorpions and snakes, including rattlesnakes. As a rule, however, snakes usually move away if you approach them or hit them lightly on the ground with trekking poles - the shock drives them away. Sturdy footwear can also protect you from snake bites. Pumas and black bears are also found along the trail. Unlike grizzlies, black bears are not normally aggressive and will take flight. However, it is advisable to take precautions when eating: On certain stretches of the trail, especially in the Sierra Nevada, heavy plastic containers are mandatory, known as bear canisters. You stow your food and utensils in these at night about 50 meters away from your tent, as they carry odors that are of interest to bears." 

You just mentioned footwear - how many hiking boots do you have with you? 

"Just a pair of trail runners. Of course, they won't last the whole way, but only 700 to 800 kilometers. As my feet slowly swell due to the daily hiking, my shoe size also changes over time. I will therefore buy the remaining pairs of shoes on the way. I expect to run through a total of five to six pairs of trail runners." 

Hiking with heel spurs: the igli Heel orthopaedic insole is part of your luggage

You also have special orthopaedic insoles with you on your trip: the igli Heel from medi. Why? 

"I have chondromalacia patellae, a wear and tear of the cartilage behind the kneecap, fallen arches and in 2016 I was also diagnosed with a heel spur on both feet. This is a bony outgrowth that develops on the heel bone. In my case, the tissue around the heel spur was also inflamed - I found it difficult to walk and it was extremely painful, a condition known as plantar fasciitis. This can be caused by overloading the feet. Initially, I took anti-inflammatory medication, immobilized my feet and did special exercises to stretch the foot and calf muscles. I also wore a sports insole.

However, it was the igli Heel insoles, which were shown to me by the Ilse medical supply store in Bochum, among others, that brought about a noticeable improvement. I'm currently wearing one pair of these, and I'm sending another four pairs as a reserve by parcel from place to place." 

Treatment and fitting of insoles at the medical supply retailer: igli Heel supports, stabilizes and comfortably cushions the feet

Ms. Neubrand, you are an orthopaedic technician at Sanitätshaus Ilse and have fitted the igli Heel. Why is the igli Heel the ideal orthopaedic foot orthosis for Marcus Löffler? 

"Patient-specific and holistic advice is our top priority. That's why it was also an advantage that Marcus Löffler had all the relevant documents relating to his medical history, such as medical reports and diagnoses, with him when we first met. We always schedule enough time for this initial appointment so that we can devote our full attention to the patient. In Marcus Löffler's case, we took a foam impression of his feet, a static 2D scan and a dynamic gait analysis. It was also crucial that he walks long distances every day - he needs an orthopaedic foot orthosis that provides extra support, stabilization and comfortable bedding for his feet." 

What advantages does the igli Heel offer?

"Basically, it can be individually adapted to the patient's movement pattern and thus optimally supports the foot without restricting its natural mobility. The special feature: The igli Heel insoles have a recess channel from the heel to the metatarsophalangeal joint, which relieves the painful areas. At the same time, the additional strong heel padding reduces pain and the high shell guide with the flexible carbon clasp supports the foot and makes it comfortable to wear. The individual postings - these are freely positionable support elements - allow us to actively take pressure off the heel, prevent pressure points and achieve better distribution at the forefoot, as the transverse arch of the straps can be straightened on the inside. Overall, with the igli Heel we can achieve the best possible relief of the heel spur on the sole of the foot - not just for athletes like Marcus Löffler, but for all patients with heel pain." 

Marcus Löffler's movement is analyzed to find the perfect posting position for him

How do you decide how many postings to put in which position on the insole? 

"As different as every foot is, so different are the postings to be set - there is no universal system, only a rough guideline. The experience of us specialists is crucial here: How is the foot positioned? In which shoes are the foot orthoses used? What does the patient's everyday life look like? Do they walk a lot or cycle more? In Marcus Löffler's case, we already achieved good results with the first posting. Just two months later, we made a slight readjustment and used larger postings in the hindfoot to correct the foot and placed a small posting under the pad in the forefoot. This is precisely the advantage of these special orthopaedic insoles: they can be adjusted at any time during the course of therapy."  

igli Heel: Postings make the difference

Dear Mr. Löffler, how was the first wearing experience? 

"Basically, new insoles, no matter what type, always take some time getting used to at first. But I quickly got to grips with them and no longer notice that I'm wearing orthopaedic insoles. I am particularly impressed by the postings - they clearly make the difference with the igli Heel. I feel completely different support, especially on the inside of the arch of the foot. I also have the feeling that they stimulate and train my foot muscles. After just a few weeks, my heel and knee pain has improved noticeably. I hadn't expected that to this extent! Another advantage: the insoles fit perfectly in my hiking and everyday shoes - shoes with a firm upper material are important for support." 

Do you wear the igli Heel every day? 

"So far, I've mainly used them for everyday sports or hiking. After my hike, however, I want to wear them at work and in my free time as well, and I'm going to get some suitable shoes. I wear them every day on the Pacific Crest Trail - otherwise I wouldn't last six months."  

Being on the road for six months also means taking a break from your job. How did you organize this? 

"I am employed by Sparkasse Vest Recklinghausen in the Internal Audit department. My tasks can therefore be planned well in advance for the entire calendar year. Nevertheless, it is of course not a matter of course to be able to take a longer break from work for personal reasons - my superiors were very accommodating and supported my plans. Back in 2019, I asked whether a six-month sabbatical was conceivable and we discussed various models together. In the end, we found the best solution for both parties: I am employed on a 50% part-time basis for one year. I worked full-time for the first six months from October 2023 up to and including March 2024 and therefore built up overtime, which I am now reducing again during my migration." 

What does a typical day currently look like for you? 

"I get up at sunrise - that's between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. here in Southern California in spring, eat a snack and then set off. I roughly plan my stages in advance so that I can estimate how much food I need to take with me - water is scarce in the desert. However, you should be prepared to have to reschedule routes if necessary, as extreme weather situations such as forest fires, droughts, heavy snowstorms or rainfall become more frequent. For navigation, I mainly use an app in which, for example, water sources are listed and other hikers can leave comments on how abundant the source is. For the southern Sierra Nevada, I also take classic maps with me. In the midday heat, I usually take a break in the shade for several hours to escape the blazing sun and look around for a place to spend the night in the afternoon. In spring, it gets dark relatively early and above all quickly, around 6.00 pm. At the end of the day, I write down my experiences in my blog - so family and friends can share my hike and I have a travel diary for afterwards." 

Marcus Löffler on the Pacific Crest Trail during a break in the shade

What does the Pacific Crest Trail experience mean to you? 

"For many people, hiking is a form of self-discovery, a way to find themselves or a physical and mental challenge. For me, it is above all an opportunity to fulfill a long-standing dream: After 30 years of working, to simply unwind for six months, to have no obligations, to be one with nature and to enjoy the simplicity of life. These are moments that I will always remember - and that make me a happier, more content person." 

Dear Mr. Löffler, thank you very much for the interview and many wonderful moments on your way along the Pacific Crest Trail!