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Toe Injuries
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Paul Corcoran
(WalksInDark) - F
Toe Injuries on 06/22/2009 12:22:00 MDT Print View

Let me start by saying that on my feet, the second toe next to the big toe, is actually longer than the big toe. I am a regular (not consistent) hiker and backpacker, and have been struggling for two years with this problem.

The problem is that when I hike (but more often when I backpack) the second toe of either/or/both feet ends up either badly bruised or, worse yet, the toe nail turns black. I have tried: larger/wider boots, different lacing methods, tighter laces,thicker socks, 2 pairs of socks, etc.

Problem happened again this weekend after an 8 mile overnight backpack (up 1,200 feet, down 1,200 feet).

Anybody knows what causes this problem...and better yet, what is the solution?

Suggestions appreciated!


(drown) - F - MLife

Locale: Shenandoah
"Toe Injuries" on 06/22/2009 12:36:50 MDT Print View

Likely going downhill you are bruising your longer toe.
Longer shoes could help. As could toenail removal ( extreme option) or hiking in flatter areas or with less steep downhill sections.

I lose several toenails a year, despite shoes that fit well in every other way. I've just gotten use to this being a fact of life. It's been a problem since my earliest days of downhill skiing. I just know that I will always have some black toenails and will lose them on a regular basis.

Edited by drown on 06/22/2009 12:37:34 MDT.

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Re : Mortons toe on 06/22/2009 12:39:28 MDT Print View

It's pretty common, and known as Mortons toe

An internet search will give lots of info.

Edited by MikefaeDundee on 06/22/2009 12:42:53 MDT.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Toe Injuries on 06/22/2009 12:43:41 MDT Print View

So you are in boots, and not trail runners ?
You have custom orthodics or basic manufacturer footbeds?

I assume you keep the nails pretty short...

First guess - boots are two short and you are hitting the end or the top of the toe box.

Second guess - your second toe Nail is catching on the sock and being pulled up/back. (Which I solved with carefully placed (and monitored) tape to eliminate the catch-points and provide smooth interface.)

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Toe Injuries on 06/22/2009 16:24:12 MDT Print View

Hi Paul

Bruising is due to repeated impact and consequent damage to the capillaries.
Impact is due to your toe hitting the top or the end (far more likely) of the shoe, especially going downhill.
Your toe hitting the end of the shoe is due to the shoe being too short (much too short).

Get your feet measured on a Brannock device to see what width they are as well as what 'size'. Do NOT buy narrower width shoes than this, even if they look good.

Buy some light joggers at least a full size larger than you are wearing at present, maybe 1.5 sizes larger. Make sure the tip of your longest toe is at least 1/2", preferably 3/4", from the end of the shoe when you are standing flat on the floor. Make sure you can get a finger down the back of the shoe between your heel and the shoe.

Yes, this may result in a startling increased in your shoe size. But past mistakes in shoe sizing do not merit continuation.

Buy some thick wool socks such as the Darn Tough Vermont Boot Sock Full Cushion.

Test, and report.


Derek Goffin

Locale: North of England
Toe Injuries on 06/23/2009 02:17:44 MDT Print View

As people have said, I expect this is due to your long toe constantly hitting the front of your shoe. There is 2 things you must do to stop that.
have shoes longer than your foot as Roger suggested
but also you must stop your foot sliding forward in the shoe down hill. Lacing tight is a start but may not be enough. If your arch flattens you may still slide forward. You may need a solid arch support. This should help stop your foot sliding forward as your heel should be contained by the back of the arch support. I have not tried them but you might also find and try tongue depressors. These apparently go between the tongue and laces to push the tongue down. If lacing tight squashes your toes you can tie a permanent knot in the laces partway down so that the tightness is restricted to say the top part of the lacing.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Toe Injuries on 06/23/2009 09:38:53 MDT Print View

Longer shoes. You'd be surprised how much longer you can go and be comfortable. I have nearly 2 inches of space above my longest toe. My feet have never been happier. I've just come about 450 miles like this without issues.

Monty Montana
(TarasBulba) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Toe Injuries on 06/25/2009 19:31:37 MDT Print View

Paul, I have the exact same condition (didn't know it had a name though - thanks Mike) plus flat feet. For years whenever I had my feet measured for new boots they would measure to the tip of the big toe. Needless to say the boots would kill me on the downhills. Then on my own several years later I measured to the tip of the longer toe and went up a half size. The results were better but not perfect on subsequent hikes. A few more years went by and one day, while barefoot, I noticed that my foot both widened and elongated because the arch collapsed as I walked. So now I'm shod in boots and trail runners that are big enough to deal with all those bio-mechanics going on and haven't had a problem since. Happy trails!

And Superfeet helped a lot, too.

Edited by TarasBulba on 06/25/2009 19:33:14 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Toe Injuries on 06/25/2009 20:39:36 MDT Print View

> while barefoot, I noticed that my foot both widened and elongated because the arch
> collapsed as I walked. So now I'm shod in boots and trail runners that are big enough
> to deal with all those bio-mechanics going on and haven't had a problem since.

I wouldn't say 'collapsed'. I would just say they did their normal expansion movement under load.
But otherwise - right on!


Matt Audet
(neggyman) - F
bloody toes! on 07/01/2009 13:57:41 MDT Print View

I've experienced this a few times over. Needless to say I'll be purchasing new boots before my next hike. I lost the big toe nail on the right foot and nearly the the one on the left foot. I suppose my hiking boots just need to be larger than the average show!
God that was painful. The worst part is continuing on your trek with bloody toes!!


I recently went on a 9 mile hike with new boots , I know but I had no choice, thought mine were home but they were not, and I kept banging my toe against the end of the boot going downhill. Not too bad the next day but two days later I went on another hike with a different boot, one size larger and my big toe got worse. Probably took time to get worse or who knows. What do you do for this "hot burning" type feel? Is that why they call it a hot spot? I don't have a blister, my toe is swollen and hot and throbs. God it hurts and I can barely walk on it. I am going on a week long hike in Montana in two weeks what do I do?????

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Plan B on 08/23/2011 02:18:35 MDT Print View

Week long hike in Montana? What's involved. Would trail runners (Check out the Peregrine by Saucony) do they job? (In Peregrines, you'll probably want a half size bigger than in most running shoes.) They have a high toe box and as such should be less likely to put pressure on you sore toes.
If your size is out try

Of course, dozens to choose from!

You describe a soft tissue injury that is not likely to heal in the space of a week especially if you continue to subject the toes to the same treatment. Your feet may well be slipping forward in the boot on descents. "Lace locks" at various points may help keep the foot from slipping. Boots take some doing and a week is probably not enough time to get them right. Trail Runners when carefully selected, on the other hand, can be good to go the distance right out of the box. When bearing weight after a few steps, a thumb's width between your longest toe and the end of a trail runner should be fine.

Get some good trail running shoes and have yourself a great week! And a pair or two of those short Darn Tough Hiking Socks -- the stripey ones. has these too. On return, if you are still interested in your "boots", find a good boot fitter and see what can be done.

Edited by backpackerchick on 08/23/2011 02:40:27 MDT.

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
get rid of the boots ! on 08/23/2011 07:36:10 MDT Print View

yes, probably toss the boots if they hit your toes (and this from peter, the Boot Guy ! )

there is no need for them to "hit" your toes to make the nails fall off. a steady light touch will do the trick. just a few miles of gentle touching, and oops.. it's blue and doomed to fall off. .. again ...

if addicted to real boots, consider that they are a huge pain to properly fit. that Roger is correct in his 1/2"+ clearance recommendation. and you might go to U-tube, lookup "boots, alaska, vacco" and watch the vids to see how your foot gets shoved forwards when you walk, and how this destroys your toes.
a superfeet insole (big arch)

can help keep the feets n the back end where they belong.

morton toe ? yeah , is what.. 12% of the population, and either protects you from, or guarantees you'll get.. alzheimers... something like that.

boot mod wise, one can use a mandrel and a length of pipe to pound out a nice little place for your toes to slide into if you give it a bit of thought. sometimes all it needs is another 1/16b or so.

peter v.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Maybe narrower shoes on 08/23/2011 07:57:07 MDT Print View

I find that when my toes hit the tips of my shoes, its usually because my forefoot has too much room in the shoe. Tightening the lower laces ofter helps, but you may need a narrower shoe, at least in the forefoot. This will put a little pressure across a larger area of the forefoot instead of just your long toe. I would give this a shot.

Mark Primack
(Bufa) - MLife

Locale: Cape Cod and Northern Newfoundland
Larger size on 08/23/2011 08:59:02 MDT Print View

I was having problems with my toes hitting the front of my boots and shoes while descending. I experimented by buying inexpensive/on-sale shoes and boots a 1/2 size and 1 full size larger. I found going up a full size was mostly unnecessary and that the shoes and boots felt sloppy and less secure. Going up just half-a-size made an enormous difference in comfort to my toes in most shoes and boots.

Because many shoes are built on European or Japanese/Chinese lasts, some shoes do need to be a full size larger because the equivalent is less than half-a-size larger. In those cases, a full size larger does the trick, but of the six pairs of shoes and boots I've bought over the last two years, this was only the case once, with Salomons.

One other issues: As we get older, our feet slowly spread out. I was having all kinds of irritating foot problems, especially toe bumping, until my doctor told me this. I couldn't believe that my shoe size would change after more than 45 years of being the same. It was he who got me to size up--and my feet are so much more happy.