A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Ask the expert: Proper fitting hiking footwear prevents sore feet

Two people hiking in the woods.How can I prevent sore feet when hiking?

Proper fitting hiking footwear is crucial.

Foot or ankle pain can occur because of a pre-existing condition, poor fitting footwear or inappropriate preparation.

The pain can be aggravated by the terrain and the weight of a backpack.

The overall shape of the shoe or boot should be evaluated for proper fit.

This can vary between styles and manufacturers, so it’s important to try on different types.

The bottom of the shoe should have a rubber material to protect feet from injury and provide shock absorption and traction on varied terrain.

Typically, boots intended for more aggressive backpacking will be more rigid to provide better support. However, this may decrease flexibility in the boot.

Hiking footwear you choose is important.

You may want to consider whether a hiking boot or shoe may be more appropriate.

These are usually similar in fit to a running shoe but provide better traction on the outsole and increased support on uneven terrain.

A hiking boot will have more rigidity and added motion control at the ankle.

Hikers are prone to overuse injuries from repetitive motion. These injuries include:

  • Blisters from friction in poorly-fitting footwear or inappropriate socks
  • Deep bruises to the nail plate from hitting the tip of the boot in footwear that is too tight
  • Pain, weakness and numbness from pressure along the cuff of a poor-fitting hiking boot, at the ankle
  • Pain in the forefoot from pressure in the shoe or a thick sock, sometimes from stepping on a protruding rock or branch. Pressure to this area can cause irritation and swelling which are often worse with a stiffer hiking shoe/boot.

When deciding to go for a hike or walk, consider the physical demands of the sport, your individual biomechanical demands, your footwear and the terrain.

If you develop an ongoing foot pain or discomfort, ask your doctor about seeing a podiatrist.

* This post submitted by Dalia Clausen, D.P.M.

Dr. Clausen is a podiatrist, treating foot and ankle conditions. Podiatrists provide care to people of all ages by prescribing medication and corrective devices and performing surgeries. Specialized podiatry services are available at Marshfield Clinic locations including Eau Claire, Ladysmith, Marshfield, Merrill, Minocqua, Park Falls, Stevens Point, Wausau and Weston.

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