Do Your Shoes Fit? Common Problems and Solutions

I have worked at REI for the past two years and in my time there I have seen a lot of messed up feet. Blisters, bunions, and busted toes are common occurrences. What’s worse is that most of the time such issues are completely preventable with correctly fitting shoes and socks. So here I have assembled a helpful guide on how shoes should “pragmatically” fit, along with common footwear issues and how to solve them.

How Shoes Should Pragmatically Fit

Let me begin by saying that you should always get both feet measured when you get new shoes.  Most often people have a half  or full size difference in their feet. If you have a size difference in your feet, always size to the larger foot. You can make shoes that are too big fit way easier than shoes that are too small. With this in mind, here are two guiding principles in determining if your shoes fit:

1. Your toes should not touch the front of the shoes at any point, especially downhill.

This is the most common problem I see. Someone buys a pair of shoes they think fit great, and neglect to try walking downhill in them. Most outfitters, including REI, have some sloped surface (be it a rock or ramp) that you can test a new pair of shoes or boots on. If your toes touch the front of the shoe when walking downhill go up a half-size until they do not touch the front of the shoes.

2. Your heel should not slip in the back of the shoe.

Heel slippage is another common issue and is easily fixed. People that have two different-sized feet usually have heel slippage on one foot. Most often tightening the shoe or a thicker sock on the smaller foot will fix the issue if the shoes are properly sized. If heel slippage still occurs after a thicker sock is used and/or the shoe is tightened, learn how to tie a heel lace lock. I have a helpful YouTube video on how to tie one here.

A Quick Note on Blisters

I do not know a single hiker who has not experienced blisters at some point. These little buggers are formed from a combination of moisture and friction. Removing either the moisture or friction can decrease blister occurrence.

Moisture Management

Feet sweat a lot. Yours do, and mine certainly do. Waterproof shoes and boots often increase the amount of foot sweat, so consider switching to trail runners that breathe and dry quickly. If that is not an option some antiperspirant spray, rub, or powder should suffice. Liner socks are another way to wick moisture off your feet.

Friction Management

Friction is a little harder to deal with because your feet are constantly moving. Using products like Body Glide or a good pair of liner socks is a great way to deal with friction. I have been using Injinji toe liner socks on all my hikes since 2015 and have yet to get another blister since.

Going Further

Want a more in-depth look at shoe fit and how to solve other problems? Head over to my YouTube channel “Jack Climbs Things” or follow this direct link to the video here.

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Comments 4

  • Avatar
    Ruth Morley : Feb 13th

    All good suggestions. I also swear by Injinji tie socks. Not just for hiking, but also for everyday life as well.

    Quick question: what have you finally decided about hiking or skipping GA?

    • Avatar
      Jack Paulk : Feb 14th

      For the time being I’m skipping Georgia. I do intend to hike the full length of Georgia after reaching Katahdin if time permits. I’m going to law school this fall so my thru hike is already on a tight schedule as is. I’m trying an alternate form of a flip-flop thru hike.

  • Avatar
    John : Feb 13th

    Lace lock idea was great . I started with a size 13 at rei and hav had to return them twice and now have size 11 1/2. They feel fine in the store but on the trail the heel lifts. I can’t go back there a third time. I think you have solved my dilemma and I greatly appreciate the video.

    • Avatar
      Jack Paulk : Feb 14th

      Glad to be of service with the video, consider subscribing as I’m posting more helpful tips soon! You can always go back to REI if you want to. We understand that boots/shoes are an investment and we want you to be comfortable. Return them a third time if you want to!


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