What am I doing wrong with shoe selection?

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Joined
Jul 3, 2019
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Hello

I was hoping to get some feedback on shoe selection. In regular shoes, I am usually am around an 11.5. I primarily hike in Florida (very flat terrain) and had logged a few hundred miles on the Florida Trail with some Asics trail runners (size 12) that had served me well. Last year I hiked about ~150 miles or so on the AT and found that when I had to descend, my toes would hit the front of my shoes and after a while resulted in bruising and general discomfort. Fast forward a few months later, I was going to do the Skyline to the Sea trail in California (nearly a constant descent for 30ish miles) so I went to a running store and told them about my situation and they recommended 12.5-size Altra Timps. From nearly the first hour of that hike I knew it was going to suck. The tips and bony bottom portions of my toes were in excrutiating pain. So much so that by the last day, I was hiking in my flip flops.

Now I am getting ready to hike ~75 miles in Yellowstone and have no idea what else to do in terms of shoe selection. Might I be tying my shoes wrong? Do I need to get an even bigger size?

Any help or advice would be appreciated.
 

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Pianomover

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Best advice I ever got was to buy the biggest size shoe that didn’t slip.
Re: Altras I’ve found that their sizing is all over the place.
 

Bob

Trailmaster
Joined
Mar 3, 2013
Messages
2,268
Hello

I was hoping to get some feedback on shoe selection. In regular shoes, I am usually am around an 11.5. I primarily hike in Florida (very flat terrain) and had logged a few hundred miles on the Florida Trail with some Asics trail runners (size 12) that had served me well. Last year I hiked about ~150 miles or so on the AT and found that when I had to descend, my toes would hit the front of my shoes and after a while resulted in bruising and general discomfort. Fast forward a few months later, I was going to do the Skyline to the Sea trail in California (nearly a constant descent for 30ish miles) so I went to a running store and told them about my situation and they recommended 12.5-size Altra Timps. From nearly the first hour of that hike I knew it was going to suck. The tips and bony bottom portions of my toes were in excrutiating pain. So much so that by the last day, I was hiking in my flip flops.

Now I am getting ready to hike ~75 miles in Yellowstone and have no idea what else to do in terms of shoe selection. Might I be tying my shoes wrong? Do I need to get an even bigger size?

Any help or advice would be appreciated.
Shoe size varies brand to brand. Have to try them on. I get 1/2 bigger than shoe size....but then depends on brand for actual size. I have found Salomon, Scarpa and la sportiva close to best fit
 

Outdoor_Fool

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I'd consider buying some light GTX hiking boots, even in mid height variety. With shoes, I am rarely able to comfortably tighten the laces enough to prevent foot creep on the long downhill sections. Having a little "wrap" at the ankles allows me to lace comfortably but tight enough at the lower ankle to prevent this.
 

DownPour

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Joined
Feb 13, 2019
Messages
14
Hello

I was hoping to get some feedback on shoe selection. In regular shoes, I am usually am around an 11.5. I primarily hike in Florida (very flat terrain) and had logged a few hundred miles on the Florida Trail with some Asics trail runners (size 12) that had served me well. Last year I hiked about ~150 miles or so on the AT and found that when I had to descend, my toes would hit the front of my shoes and after a while resulted in bruising and general discomfort. Fast forward a few months later, I was going to do the Skyline to the Sea trail in California (nearly a constant descent for 30ish miles) so I went to a running store and told them about my situation and they recommended 12.5-size Altra Timps. From nearly the first hour of that hike I knew it was going to suck. The tips and bony bottom portions of my toes were in excrutiating pain. So much so that by the last day, I was hiking in my flip flops.

Now I am getting ready to hike ~75 miles in Yellowstone and have no idea what else to do in terms of shoe selection. Might I be tying my shoes wrong? Do I need to get an even bigger size?

Any help or advice would be appreciated.
My last two pairs of running shoes have been Brooks. I go to the the "old" shoe stores where they still size your foot before going and bringing you out a pair to try. Maybe it's the 12.5 4E's that make me do it that way but it works. And as stated by the other member, I would get a 1/2 size bigger if you are getting bruising/discomfort from your toes hitting the front of the shoe (probably from going down hill/mountain and not enough room for your feet to slid in your shoe). My thought any way.....
 

Georgia Yankee

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Tropicalwanderer--

On descents with a pack I am always more comfortable with over-the-ankle hiking boots rather than shoes. I also tend to prefer a slightly stiffer sole than many other people. There is a weight penalty for sure but I willingly pay it. The ability to lace the boot snugly against my ankle while leaving the lower laces relatively loose prevents my toes from hitting the front of the boot. The relatively stiff sole also adds protection. And fit is critical—too small and your toes are smashed on even a minor descent; too large and you can’t stop your toes from sliding forward or your heel from lifting—so be sure to try on different sizes and different brands. At REI stores they used to have a sloping ramp thingie where you could simulate climbing and descending to better check fit.

In the end it will come down to what works for your feet and your gait so try different things. Good luck!
 

fossana

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Jan 11, 2018
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I always size up 0.5-2 sizes for trail/running/approach shoes depending on how big the brand runs. Your feet swell and you need room for your toes on the descents, as you discovered. For example, when I used to run ultras my Montrails were a size 9 even though I wore a street shoe size of 7. Some other things that may help are a taller and/or wider toe box and enough cushioning in the forefoot.

I've only had problems with blisters and foot pain when the shoes were too stiff/tight or not cushioned enough in the forefoot, the exception being an older generation of La Sportiva Ultraraptors that are exceptionally wide/tall and allowed too much side to side movement (which I solved with thicker insoles).
 

Wanderlust073

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At REI stores they used to have a sloping ramp thingie where you could simulate climbing and descending to better check fit.
I'll second this. Even if you don't buy from them, get on that chunk of fake rock and really slam your feet around like you're hitting the brakes on a steep descent. With a good fit your heel should be locked in to whatever you're buying, and feet sliding forward should be minimal/nonexistent.
 

Hiker Seth

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May 15, 2019
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As others have said, bigger shoe, should fix toe issues. I do a fair amount of trail running and can get by in less supportive souls for that. However, when I backpack or hike in very technical terrain I need a sturdier soled shoe. So basically I want the sole of a light boot with the upper of a trail runner. Last year I finally found it in the La Sportiva TX3. Wide toe box, drains well, doesn't hold heat, and bombproof sole. You can find them on sale for < $100 at times. Mine are blue, they change the color. At least you'll never loose sight of them.

Here's a a place in PA that is selling them for $81. I may get another pair.
 

Miya

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I think you have a lot of good advice to go over, but guess I will throw in my two cents.
Don't get discouraged and keep trying different footwear till something works for you.
Definitely size up for the toes, make sure your laces are snug higher up on the shoe to keep your foot in place.
I am on my 5th different brand and type of hiking shoe and am still searching. Goodluck!!
 

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Pianomover

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I wear a 16 shoe which really limits the choices I have for footwear. I’m sold on any shoe that advertises as a “wide toe box”. The wide toe box has solved most of the problems you describe.
 
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Thanks everyone! Tons of good info to digest. Definitely going to visit REI in a couple of weeks when I am up in Orlando to hopefully try some different options. I'm also considering boots (especially since I'm on the heavy side). I tried a heel lock knot and it helped somewhat but it's still a problem. It hurts to have spend 150 bucks each time on a pair of shoes only to discover when I'm several days' hike from my car that they kill my feet. I'm terrified that I'm going to be knee deep into a hike to the Thorofare in YNP and have foot issues when I'm so far from a TH. I'll definitely report back what the outcome is!
 

Titans

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I’m sold on any shoe that advertises as a “wide toe box”. The wide toe box has solved most of the problems you describe.
yep and a few brands (like Merrell ) even sell some models in a WIDE width.

@tropicalwanderer : Have you ever tried 1) a mid-height shoe in 2) a WIDE width (for instance one from Merrell ) & used 3) an insole like Superfeet ? (I agree with @Outdoor_Fool 's suggestion about the mid-height shoe, I love them, though many incl. my hubby prefer trail runners and dislike hiking in mid height shoes)
 

Reef&Ruins

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Get a pair of Hokas. I have three pairs. They run a size larger. I'm usually 11 but in Hokas, I'm a 12.
One issue I do have is that with my hikers one of them is a little snug on the front smaller toes. Probably should have gone with 12.5, but it's not enough to make me unhappy when I'm hiking.
 

Sullyute

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yep and a few brands (like Merrell ) even sell some models in a WIDE width. )
If he has EEEE size feet, then steer clear of the euro brands like La Sportiva , Scarpa, etc. Look at Merrell, Oboz, and Keen, or any brand that has “wide” width. Good luck.
 
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yep and a few brands (like Merrell ) even sell some models in a WIDE width.

@tropicalwanderer : Have you ever tried 1) a mid-height shoe in 2) a WIDE width (for instance one from Merrell ) & used 3) an insole like Superfeet ? (I agree with @Outdoor_Fool 's suggestion about the mid-height shoe, I love them, though many incl. my hubby prefer trail runners and dislike hiking in mid height shoes)
@Titans I am nearly certain that my next move is to try mids. Would you go with something more "boot-like" like the Merrells or something more "sneaker-like" like the Altra Lone Peak mids?
 
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I wear a 16 shoe which really limits the choices I have for footwear. I’m sold on any shoe that advertises as a “wide toe box”. The wide toe box has solved most of the problems you describe.

@Pianomover The wide toe box was what first drew me to Altras. I think I just got bad advice at the running store in terms of the sizing.
 

Carcass

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Might be blasphemy, but the most comfy/non-blistering shoe/ I've worn while hiking were........Cheap Hi-Techs. They fit my foot well, toebox was good, and the bottom was strong enough. They just don't last very long in rough terrain, but I can get about 3 pair for the price of a good Salomon to make up the wearing issue.
(For the record, I'm liking my Merrils more than my Salomons right now)
 

Titans

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@Titans I am nearly certain that my next move is to try mids. Would you go with something more "boot-like" like the Merrells or something more "sneaker-like" like the Altra Lone Peak mids?
Good question! If you normally hike in trail runners you will probably like the "sneaker-like" mid height models better. I just hope they are wide enough in the toe box for you!

I haven't tried the Altra and other "sneaker-like" versions, because 1) unless a shoe brand (hiking, sandals,...) is sold in a wide width, the shoe will be too narrow for me and 2) I need a more rigid sole & shoe than most prefer due to an old "turf toe" injury (which I got after playing racketball in shoes wrongly recommended in a sporting good store, sounds familiar?). Even "Keen" which usually has a wide toe box, is not wide enough in my case. For the reasons above, I personally use the Merrell, more rigid, mid height & wide widths available. In the summer it's the Moab Ventilator (least warm). The "Moab Waterproof" (which is warmer, but absolutely NOT waterproof) and the other ones will be way too warm during the summer.

If you like a more flexible running style shoe (like my hubby) then the Merrell mid height Moab Ventilator might be way too rigid for you, but the Moab FST 2 is more flexible with outstanding traction. He has a pair of the mid height Merrell "Waterproof FST" for cold weather use ,which are much more flexible than Merrell's regular Moab Ventilator . Unfortunately the flexible FST model doesn't come in mid height without being "waterproof" and I'm concerned it might be too warm for you during summer hiking. (Merrell "waterproof" really means more warm, but water will still get in, it just take a little longer).

Good luck- you will find the right shoe eventually!
Here is a link to a similar recent shoe discussion with more opinions https://backcountrypost.com/threads/looking-at-new-trail-runners-altra-lone-peak-or-hoka-stinson-atr.8584/#post-111090
 
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Good question! If you normally hike in trail runners you will probably like the "sneaker-like" mid height models better. I just hope they are wide enough in the toe box for you!

I haven't tried the Altra and other "sneaker-like" versions, because 1) unless a shoe brand (hiking, sandals,...) is sold in a wide width, the shoe will be too narrow for me and 2) I need a more rigid sole & shoe than most prefer due to an old "turf toe" injury (which I got after playing racketball in shoes wrongly recommended in a sporting good store, sounds familiar?). Even "Keen" which usually has a wide toe box, is not wide enough in my case. For the reasons above, I personally use the Merrell, more rigid, mid height & wide widths available. In the summer it's the Moab Ventilator (least warm). The "Moab Waterproof" (which is warmer, but absolutely NOT waterproof) and the other ones will be way too warm during the summer.

If you like a more flexible running style shoe (like my hubby) then the Merrell mid height Moab Ventilator might be way too rigid for you, but the Moab FST 2 is more flexible with outstanding traction. He has a pair of the mid height Merrell "Waterproof FST" for cold weather use ,which are much more flexible than Merrell's regular Moab Ventilator . Unfortunately the flexible FST model doesn't come in mid height without being "waterproof" and I'm concerned it might be too warm for you during summer hiking. (Merrell "waterproof" really means more warm, but water will still get in, it just take a little longer).

Good luck- you will find the right shoe eventually!
Here is a link to a similar recent shoe discussion with more opinions https://backcountrypost.com/threads/looking-at-new-trail-runners-altra-lone-peak-or-hoka-stinson-atr.8584/#post-111090
Thanks!
 

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