Ask Me: How Do I Stop Getting Battered Toes When Hiking?

Ask Me: How Do I Stop Getting Battered Toes When Hiking?

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Mike,

I know this is a really random question, but when descending mountain trails my big toes suffer immensely. Besides tying the laces up really tight, is there a trick to protecting them without losing a toenail or having them feel beat up?

Geoff
Rexburg, ID

Hi Geoff,

That’s not an uncommon problem. It’s probably that your boots don’t fit quite right. Does your heel or midfoot move around at all when you hike? Does your heel slip even the slightest? Do your toes slam into the front of the boots?

If you have narrow feet or the boots are otherwise just kind of wide or big for your feet, and your feet slip even slightly, over the course of several miles your toes can take a beating—especially going downhill, of course. One way to check the fit is to see whether, when you tighten the laces up, those laces are snugged about as tight as you can make them; in other words, you wouldn’t be able to snug the laces tighter over the boot no matter what size your feet were. If you’re maxing out the lacing, the boots are too big for your feet.

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Long-term solution: Get boots that fit. Go to a shop where they know how to measure your feet and size boots correctly. Try on several different brands because they all fit differently, and by experimenting, you’ll find the brand that fits your feet best.

Short-term solution: Try custom insoles in your boots, replacing the typical thin, stock insoles that come with the boots. Decreasing the inside volume, to create a more snug fit, may prevent your feet from slipping. Also, I always carry some athletic tape when I’m hiking or backpacking, because it sticks to feet pretty well even when you get sweaty. As soon as I feel any rubbing or discomfort, I put two or three overlapping strips of tape over the spot. You could even preemptively tape around the toes that tend to get beat up before you start the hike.

Does that sound like it might help with your problem? Also, check out my “Pro Tips For Buying the Right Hiking Boots” and “7 Pro Tips For Avoiding Blisters.” See my reviews of backpacking boots and lighter hiking boots and shoes at The Big Outside.

Michael

Thanks Mike! I appreciate the advice.

It usually happens when the toe slides and bangs into the front of the boot. I like the hiking boots I have so I am going to give the custom insoles and tape a whirl first.

Thanks!

Ciao,
Geoff

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