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Shoe/boot research
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Keith Selbo
(herman666) - F - M

Locale: Northern Virginia
Shoe/boot research on 12/31/2009 14:09:44 MST Print View

I'm interested in making it easier to find the right footwear. Those of you who've had foot pain, please describe it (ache, acute,etc) localize it (ball, heel, arch etc.), medical diagnosis if you got one, what you tried that didn't work, and if you found a cure, what it was.

I'll start. After two or three days on the trail, the balls of my feet start to ache, and it feels as if the soles of my shoes are iron plates. To date I've tried Vasque Velocities, Asic Gel-Khana 2 trail runners, and Keen Brandon's. I think the Asic's helped a little, but their toe protection was worthless and the soles showed unacceptable wear at 80 miles. For insoles I've tried Superfeet and Spenco Backpackers and a gel insole that I don't recall the name of. None of them offered any relief.

Edited by herman666 on 12/31/2009 14:11:06 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Shoe/boot research on 12/31/2009 20:12:31 MST Print View

> the balls of my feet start to ache
All the shoes you listed are quite narrow. That does it every time.
Try some E or EE fittings.
New Balance list shoe widths on their store web site.


Keith Selbo
(herman666) - F - M

Locale: Northern Virginia
Re: Re: Shoe/boot research on 01/01/2010 09:35:49 MST Print View

Thanks Roger,

My Keen's are boats where width is concerned and I was able to find the others in wide as well.

In reading journals I've found complaints about "foot pain" that were cured by new gear but they weren't all that specific about the symptoms and there are some counter examples where the same gear caused problems for others.

I was hoping to start a thread from which I could correlate various specific foot problem causes and cures with shoes and or insoles to make finding proper footwear less hit and miss.

Given the number of complaints I've read over the years, I expected this to start a long thread, but for some reason, no.


Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Optimistic, but okay ... on 01/01/2010 11:03:12 MST Print View

Perhaps a bit optimistic to try to collect all trail-related (and no doubt some that are not) foot ailments in one thread, but I'm game ...

(1) Bunionettes, i.e., little-toe side bunions, often with accompanying under/overlapping little and next-to-little toes which can sometimes blister as a result. Solutions: surgery, or get shoes with a wider toe box, plus on occasion injinji (toe) socks for the toe lapping thing. I passed on the surgery; Golite shoes for me, always interested if a supposedly "wide toe box" shoe of another brand resolves this particular problem for others. Hint: I walked almost 50 miles on one trip with shoes that didn't work before the gradually increasing ache made it's way into my brain that "these shoes don't work". So it's not something I can figure out in five minutes in a shoe store.

(2) Morton's Neuroma. Something more common in women who wear high heels, nerve damage in the area of the ball of the foot. I just did have surgery for this. Dunno if the tread pattern on my Golite shoes was a factor in getting it or not, but there was an obvious "click" as things shifted inside my foot in that area, and a low grade discomfort bordering on pain that was just never going to go away without the surgery. I recall reading somewhere that someone was using kevlar stiffener in their shoe for something along this line, not an insert, just something that presumeably goes below the insert. In looking for something like this later, I've not run into anything, so if anyone has any leads (and/or experience) ...

(3) Something mysterious in the arch of my right foot. Like the Neuroma this started happening in the last few hundred miles of my PCT thru-hike in 2008. It just feels sore, kind of achy. My foot doctor couldn't make it hurt through manipulation, it only bothers me after I've been standing/walking on it for a while. He theorized some sort of soft tissue problem that could be cured through immobilization, but after a month in a walking cast the problem is still with me, thus I don't think it's anything like a stress fracture. Occasionally it feels like it shoots up my ankle towards the ball of the ankle a bit. I'd really like to at least diagnose this one.

Feet are complicated. I can't wait to find out what new problems are in store for me on the Appalachian Trail this year! :-)

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Shoe/boot research on 01/01/2010 11:40:41 MST Print View


Edited by skopeo on 04/28/2015 11:48:57 MDT.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Shoe/boot research on 01/01/2010 15:00:14 MST Print View

I have had the bottoms of my feet hurt and the bottom of my shoes feel harder than the ground itself wearing New Balance shoes, one of the more expensive models that most hikers rave about. A cheap pair of $39 New Balance are much more comfortable.

I got undiagnosed metatarsal stress fractures in both feet wearing Montrail Hardrocks (08 models) hiking the PCT. I was forced to go home in Mt. Shasta and it took 6 months before the pain was gone. I believe these shoes were way too stiff for me.

I had total success and happy feet wearing Brooks Cascadia trail runners. The sole is much more flexible than the Hardrocks. I think they are up to model number IV or V on those. Mine were Cascadia II. I went about 1500 miles happily.

I did get (undiagnosed) tendonitis in my ankle wearing the Cascadias. Was this the fault of the shoes or my own fault pushing too hard up the hills?

I think I tore something in my left foot while wearing Brooks Adrenaline in a 4E width with slippery nylon socks. My foot slipped and it stretched something internal really hard on the inner edge of my foot on the big bone at the base of my big toe/arch. I tried to solve this by tying my shoes tight so they wouldn't slip. That made it much worse and caused horrible pain. So I loosened the laces as far as possible and switched to wool socks that didn't slip. It took days before it didn't hurt (this was while hiking the PCT) but after that, I was in heaven. I will definitely get shoes in a 4E width again.

Before these glorious 4Es, I was ready to beg a doctor to amputate my little toes because no shoes ever fit them. I also no longer had any symptoms of Morton's Neuroma wearing such wide shoes. Morton's Neuroma has plagued me since I was 16. I have never worn high heeled shoes because of it. I had the clicking and the numbness and was diagnosed about 20 years ago. I cannot wear bicycle shoes because of it. But hiking the PCT in a series of shoes up to 4 sizes too big or in extra, extra wide sizes has pretty much cured it.

I went for a walk today in my Chaco sandals. The ankle tendonitis felt a lot better afterwards. Someone said to help ankle tendonitis heal, support the arch and I've always felt like Chacos have a lot of arch support.

I've hiked in flip-flops (15 miles in one day) to deal with bad blisters. I met a guy in Oregon with heel spurs who backpacked in flip flops.

I'm starting to side with the barefooters on the issue of finding the right footwear. If only my feet were tough enough to walk on little rocks.

Sorry this was so long. I'm pretty passionate about feet.

Keith Selbo
(herman666) - F - M

Locale: Northern Virginia
damned right feet are complicated on 01/01/2010 16:01:12 MST Print View

I tried the Dr. Scholl's foam in the way Mike described and agree that they seemed to help ... until they got wet. Then they flattened out like month old road kill. I recommend carrying extras in the pack.

Long is good Diane! If for no other reason than to show how nuanced these problems are. One valuable(and counter intuitive) lesson from these submissions is that arch support is important even though the pain is elsewhere

647575757 347474747
(686425) - F
This might seem absurd but... on 01/01/2010 16:52:48 MST Print View

...if you live near a really good ski shop, go in and have them make custon footbeds for your shoes. They do it for ski boots. I have duck feet with bunions. Really wide front, super narrow heels and have always had trouble finding shoes. After getting custom footbeds made, I've never had foot problems. The shoes I wear (Merrell's) aren't the lightest, but they work best for me.

Keith Selbo
(herman666) - F - M

Locale: Northern Virginia
Re: This might seem absurd but... on 01/01/2010 16:55:18 MST Print View

How much money are we talking about?

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Shoe/boot research - pic of my feet on 01/01/2010 17:01:23 MST Print View

My feet make clickity clackity noises when walking on rocks

I believe they are well-beyond human intervention...

boney feet

WALK your FEETS to the bone and what do you get?
Bony FEETS, bony FEETS

Edited by gmatthews on 01/01/2010 18:46:36 MST.

647575757 347474747
(686425) - F
Custom Footbeds on 01/01/2010 17:25:34 MST Print View

The ones I have are a brand called Insta Print X Sport and they retail for around $150. If a ski shop is a certified boot fitter, they will have them. I know, they are pricey but well worth it.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Shoe/boot research on 01/01/2010 17:51:25 MST Print View


Edited by skopeo on 04/28/2015 11:47:46 MDT.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Shoe/boot research on 01/01/2010 17:52:57 MST Print View

One of the encouraging developments in the barefoot walking and running community is the amount of research and healthy debate they are pushing on the topic of whether going barefoot is viable or not. Naturally there are times when going barefoot is unreasonable and not recommended, but from a lot of barefooters' experience their feet often get better when they switch to shoes with almost no cushioning or to very thin sandals or to barefooting itself. The act of going barefoot or almost barefoot (as with Vibram Five Fingers or Feelmax Footwear) causes you to walk and run in a different way from what you do when you wear shoes, with much more emphasis placed, naturally, on the forefoot and a bent knee. The foot and leg act together in this way as a natural spring that takes the pounding off the feet and knees that the more straight-legged gait while using shoes promotes. There is even one article (I can't find it at the moment) that looks at the structure of our feet and legs compared to that of other apes and way our toes are arranged all to the front and the elongation of our calves is unlike anything other apes have: we are designed to walk and run, and very well.

Here are some links:
Barefoot Ted.
Running Barefoot
Running Barefoot sports medicine article

I do think that running and walking require different uses of the foot and that our large heels indicate that we are meant to walk on our heels, so therefore shoes do make sense in one way. But I don't think our feet were meant to be encased in a container that does allow our feet to move freely and to expand. Our feet are like a "second heart" and need the blood moving in order to function the right way. That is one reason why feet in a flexible winter boots stay warmer than in a stiff winter boot.

I used to do judo and aikido with bare feet on the dojo floor and the way balls of the foot swivel on the floor or push laterally when the leg is in a sideways stance, with the floor pulling at the skin of the foot, must surely have a bad effect on the foot. (besides the pounding that the whole foot takes upon being thrown against the floor) That is an unnatural way to move... we don't move that way when hiking, in part because the ground is rarely as smooth and "sticky" as that of a modern dojo floor. I've never heard of Japanese having significant foot problems in traditional straw mat (tatami) dojo floors, so I'm wondering if the hard plastic floors that are common in the States might be part of the problem.

Here in Japan I go barefoot all the time when at home. In the summer I try to wear sandals (Chaco's... or Gecko's as the used to be called... since 1994) most of the time. When in the States I used to spend most of the summer afternoons after work barefoot. I think when you spend enough time developing the feet that way they strengthen and a lot of the problems that people encounter are eliminated.

Edited by butuki on 01/01/2010 17:58:41 MST.

LaRiena Ralph
(lnr103) - F
uncomfortable tingly toes - in need of mid-weight hiking boots and sneakers on 01/15/2010 04:12:15 MST Print View

Hi. I'm relieved to find your thread. I'm an amateur hiker.

I'm currently living in China and doing a lot of warm weather hiking in Eastern Asia. I usually get by with my Chacos just fine. I never carry more than 30lbs with me and usually my treks aren't more than 5-6 hours. When its steep rough terrain luckily I haven't had more than 15lbs on me.

However, this week I'm headed to the Great Wall, which I've done once before but it's winter now and we've chosen an unmaintained somewhat restricted area to climb (lots of rumble on the way up/down) It's about -15C in Beijing. I'm not sure of the weather on the wall but its much colder and the winds get pretty high. I am looking for a boot (or trail shoe) that will support me for about 5hrs up there. It may be icy and I'm sure there's a bit of snow (but not much).

The reason I've gone this long without "proper" foot gear is that sneakers and boots tend to bother me. I think I have a high foot volume??? My toes always go numb and get all tingly in sneakers (or any closed toe shoe) even if they feel loose in the foot bed area. I tend to get knee pain very easily and lower back pain in sneakers.

When I bike or use something like the elliptical indoors I can only go 5 minutes before I take my shoes off and workout in my socks for the next 40 minutes. I used to run outdoors (just about 4 miles, 3 times a week) but again my sneakers felt like they cut off my foot circulation and they get tingly and cold so I stopped.

Any recommendations???

I've been told the heel has a lot to do with both my knee and back pain but I'm not sure what to do about my toes falling asleep.

Any recommendations for both running/biking sneakers and hiking boots (for both cold and warm weather wet condictions)?

Thanks so much!!

Keith Selbo
(herman666) - F - M

Locale: Northern Virginia
Re: uncomfortable tingly toes - in need of mid-weight hiking boots and sneakers on 01/15/2010 09:24:36 MST Print View

Yoiks! Your problem sounds complicated and not exactly like any complaint I've heard before. I think I'd talk to a podiatrist or a doctor if I were you.

bill smith
(speedemon105) - F
insoles on 01/15/2010 22:24:20 MST Print View

I've had a similar problem with my right foot. Pain in the ball of the foot (couldn't push off with any pressure on my big toe), and my shoes (Keens) felt like rocks. At the recommendation of a local shoe store, I bought a pair of New Balance Pressure relief insoles with the metatarsal pad (IPR3030). They feel weird at first, but after awhile you don't even notice it and they feel amazing. The pain was gone from the first step. Apparently it causes your foot to redistribute your weight, taking pressure off the ball of your foot.

Keith Selbo
(herman666) - F - M

Locale: Northern Virginia
Re: insoles on 01/18/2010 10:01:13 MST Print View

Bill, My podiatrist recommended pretty much the same thing for me, but it didn't help. It just goes to show how many seemingly similar foot problems are different at their core. I hope we continue to collect peoples symptoms and solutions here. Thanks for your submission.

Jeffs Eleven
(WoodenWizard) - F

Locale: Greater Mt Tabor
Re: This might seem absurd but... on 01/18/2010 10:53:48 MST Print View

>I have duck feet with bunions

Ouch! You should see a doctor about that;)

Is that like extreme pigeon toe?

sorry, sorry... just bustin your Mcnuggets

Edited by WoodenWizard on 01/18/2010 11:01:17 MST.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Shoe/boot research on 01/18/2010 14:40:34 MST Print View

I might stir up some controversy over this, but what the heck...

Are people with feet problems over weight? This could be a problem with some folks, but obviously not everyone. I have never had a foot problem, other than an injury like a stubbed toe or sprained ankle. I don't even think about my feet when hiking. I am one of those lucky few that haven't gained much weight since I was a teenager.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Shoe/boot research on 01/18/2010 14:52:00 MST Print View

"My toes always go numb and get all tingly in sneakers (or any closed toe shoe) even if they feel loose in the foot bed area."

See the 2nd post.
You are compressing the nerves running between the metatarsal heads.
Get WIDE shoes.
Do not screw around with this.