“How-To” Hiking Feet

I used to run cross country, so I know the importance of investing in shoes. I’ve gotten blisters, blisters and bruises under my toenails, and of course I’ve lost a nail. The whole yuck.

I dealt with these problems when I first started running, so my coach sent me to Dave’s Running to get properly fitted for a pair of trainers. Prior to setting out on the trial, I had a little bit of foot anxiety. I reached out to Dave’s and explained that I used their services when I was a high school athlete, so I trusted their expertise. They sponsored me with shoes and insoles.


Get your foot Measured…Properly

I’ve had issues buying shoes the last year or so and I learned that’s because I’ve been buying the wrong size. My foot was about a half size bigger than I thought it was. I have been running and walking much more intensely the past year and the associate (thanks Steve!) explained to me that feet can flatten with exercise, which can increase your shoe size. To be honest, I felt a little silly that I had been wrong about my shoe size, but it offered some explanations. I bet a lot of people would be surprised after getting a fresh measure of their toots. Just like the rest of your body, your feet change with time and activity. Who knew. Get your foot measured!


Invest in your Shoe

This is the obvious investment. But what type of shoe do you get? Trail runners? Boots? And what about a zero drop*? Or high tops?

I really recommend going to a store and trying on as many shoes as you can. Ordering shoes online is complicated. If you’re going to be hiking for extended distances, finding out what fits the best is a priority. Even if a shoe ~fits~ it might not be the best or most comfortable option. I tried on about 10 pairs and now I have a pretty good idea of what I like in a hiking shoe. I went with the Brooks Cascadia trail runner. This is a popular thru-hiker shoe. It’s a trail runner, so it’s pretty light weight. It is sturdy, and offers protection from stubbing toes on rocks. It’s also water retardant–I’ve walked through a few puddles, and my feet stayed dry. Huge.

Zero drop means that there is no drop between the heel and toe of the shoe, so there is the same amount of cushioning from toe to heel. People tend to love or hate them.


Do you need Insoles?

I had never used or considered using insoles prior to the trail. During my measurement, I found out that I have an overpronation when I walk. I’ve always called myself flat footed, but the official word is overpronate. In other words, I transfer weight to my inner foot instead of the ball of my foot. Dave’s also fitted me for a pair of Superfeet insoles. The insole helps protect my foot from rolling inward excessively. Insoles also offer foot and ankle support.


Do your Sock-Research

Socks are a huge part of the game! Working out in cotton socks often leads to blisters or hot spots. I did my research before investing in a few pairs of pricey socks and I’m happy that I did. Smartwool and Darn Tough are thru-hiker favorites. I got a couple pairs of the Darn Tough crew socks. The added length is good for extra warmth and protection from ticks. I also invested in a pair of toe-sock liners (also frequently worn by thru-hikers). I went with the brand Injinji. The liner is worn first and the crew sock is worn right on top.


Don’t be afraid to get your shoes a little dirty before you hit the trails.

I ran in my shoes for a couple weeks before I went out on the Appalachian Trail. I wanted my feet to be familiar with the new shoes. The good news is–when you truly have a shoe that fits correctly, you don’t really have to break it in.


Care for your feet after a long day of hiking

Be sure to get your feet out of your shoes after a long day of hiking. I prefer to totally air out my toes, but some people might prefer to change into their dry camp socks*. Use a cold river to “ice” your feet (be mindful of the current and other people that might be trying to filter water. No toe juice please). And absolutely use a cork ball! Cork balls are lightweight and they do a really nice job massaging the foot. Plus you don’t have to bend over or touch your dirty feet. They run you about 10 bucks.

Camp socks are not used for hiking.

In conclusion…

I was very happy with my shoe, insole, sock situation.

This has been a friendly reminder to take care of your toes. And don’t worry about what size shoe you are. Your comfort is way more important 🙂

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Comments 1

  • Dawn : May 3rd

    Fabulous posts. Cannot agree more on shoes. Love my Cascadias. However, I did not know they were water resistant. So, every time I have hit water and came out with dry feet I have thought boy my socks are doing a great job? I had a total “duh” moment.
    Nice to hear from a fellow Ohio girl.
    You may have missed your other calling Journalist .


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