shoes for sore feet

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    Shelly Skye


    I am hoping someone has some information for me on this issue.

    Some years ago I switched from hiking in Lowa hikering boots to a succession of trail runners, or shoes like that. I have hiked in Saucony Shadows, Vasque 7609’s and am currently wearing the Saucony Grid. I used the Vasque 2 years ago when hiking the JMT and while I like the lightness of the shoes, my feet suffered greatly by the end of the trip. By then I was walking 14-18 miles a day.
    It took 6 months for my feet to recover from the Plantar Faciatis I developed during that time.

    I am planning to do another long trip this summer and am training in the Saucony Grid. My feet are starting to give me fits again, even with consistant stretching, etc. Big question. Would someone like me benefit from regular hiking boots? If so, what are the lightest hiking boots out there that have deep and soft footbeds, which is what feels the best to my foot.

    Thanks in advance for any and all thoughts.


    Frank Ramos


    Yes, you can certainly find boots that will allow you to walk successfully despite having weak foot muscles and bad posture, but then end result will probably be knee or back problems. In any case, you certainly shouldn’t be asking for advice on this forum. You have to go to the store and try the shoes on yourself to see what works. The brand name means nothing.

    As for plantar fascia, that is an overuse injury due to weak muscles and tendons. You pushed yourself too hard too soon. You should have trained more in order to gradually build up the tendon and muscle strength before setting off on a long hike.

    Having suffered various foot ailments over the years and finally cured them, I have come to the conclusion that for 90% of the population, shoes are a problem rather than a solution, and the remaining 10% of the population should not be walking long distances and certainly shouldn’t be walking with a pack on their back (this 10% is the people with severe structural problems in the feet). Our ancestors didn’t have fancy shoes. Also, even today people in the third world don’t have fancy shoes and many of them routinely walk 20 miles a day carrying heavy loads. And not with fancy backpacks either, but rather using a big bag connected to a tumpline around the forehead (no shoulder straps) or else a stick over the shoulders or else a heavy jar of water on the head.

    For walking on most natural surfaces, barefoot is best. If you find yourself developing callouses and fissures in the heels or ball or big toe when walking barefoot, that means you are banging your feet too hard or walking improperly or else the skin needs more time to learn to lubricate itself properly–take your time, learn to walk softly and properly and there won’t be any callouses. You don’t need fancy lubricants or pumice stones or anything of that other junk. Coyotes and mountain lions have skin on their feet similar to our and they walk in the dryness of the desert without getting problems–we can do likewise.

    For walking on broken scree or concrete, use loose-fitting sandals, since the human foot is not designed for extended distances on surfaces like that. For walking in snow, use breathable neoprene socks from with sandals. (Avoid sealskinz socks as these are hard to clean and they become useless if they spring a leak, as they surely will when used outdoors with sandals.) Humans, unlike coyotes and mountains lions, are not designed for cold, so it is reasonable to bring along equipment to deal with that.

    Walking on broken rock of the size used for railroad beds will force you to walk properly, since banging your feet and walking improperly will be extremely painful on rock like that. Note that the foot has 5 toes–all of these have a function. If you are not actively using each of your five toes to grip the ground as you walk, then you are walking wrong and will develop problems. Likewise, all of the smaller bones inside the foot and all of the muscles and tendons must be actively used. Also, the knees and hips should be loose. The end result of all this muscle usage is to compensate for different leg lengths, which everyone has to some degree or another, since it is impossible for the bone on both sides to absolutely identical in length. If you don’t use all the foot muscles properly, then stress of walking is transferred to the joints and tendons, which are not designed for stress and which have poor blood supply and hence heal slowly–this is the underlying cause of so many foot and knees problems in people who walk or run a lot.

    jacob thompson


    being a well seasoned barefooter I can safely say that the benefits for feet by walking barefoot are numerous. Ive hiked for many years barefoot and not had a problem even with huge loads. distance is the only thing that gets me. if i do 20miles it hurts a bit the next day. even if you just walk barefoot at home and on short paths, your feet will benefit. eventually your feet become accustomed to the different surfaces and your gait automatically corrects itself. if you get used to walking barefoot when it comes to wearing a good pair of shoes you will notice how much more comfortable they will be. maybe there isnt a need for big boots, you could escape in light sandals as many others have realised.

    jacob thompson


    I would say that my feet are tougher than most peoples. however they are not unusually tough. i know what your talking about when you mention peoples feet from barefoot cultures. this doesnt really happened to me. i do take care of my feet by adding moisturiser and using a pumice stone to soften skin. for the most part i can walk on crushed rocks and even glass and not suffer. i think it has something to do with your body getting used to the discomfort, after this it becomes easy and is not painful. i think by not exposing your feet to this kind of thing most peoples feet become overly sensitive and weak because you rely on a shoe to give support. i used to have lots of foot problems, going barefoot stopped nearly all those. Ive only started weaning myself back into wearing shoes regularly in the last few weeks. i understand how age could be a factor, im not saying that your old but im only just 21 and its a biological fact that my body should have higher tollerances of and recovery rates than someone who is towards the latter end of “their Prime”. i say just try barefooting more often and see if its fixes some of the problems.

    Shelly Skye


    Do I understand you to be saying that I shouldn’t be asking for advice about gear if it related to issues of foot injuries?

    My post was intended to ask about the lightest possible suggestion of boots, because of foot pain. I assumed someone else out there might have had a similar issue and was asking for their advice. If that wasn’t clear, or if I wasn’t supposed to address questions related to past injuries on this forum, then I apologize.

    BPL Member



    I read your posts and the responses. I did not detect any hint that people didn’t want you to ask your question. Indeed, I thought it was good of them to share their experience (walking barefoot in this case) with you — and with the rest of us readers.

    The responses obviously were not what you expected… you may even see them as useless (and that’s fine), but occasionally, one can benefit from “odd” responses too — maybe it’s part of thinking “outside the box”.

    Why be do defensive?

    Mike Storesund


    I believe the initial post for the thread was asking for input from people that may have had similar issues, and if they knew of or could suggest a lightweight comfortable boot/shoe.

    I believe footwear is something that needs to be discovered by trying them on in person. I have heard many extols on the Montrail Vitesse in posts here and almost bought them site-unseen. Thank God I did not. I went to the local store and tried them on. OMG they were painful! The heel cup was set too far back that it dug into the front third of my heel.

    I am sure there are many quality, lightweight pieces available, but I also believe that the wearer needs to try them on to be sure.

    I think Shelly was asking for assistance in brand names and styles of footwear that might acommodate her needs rather than getting a sidetrack of diatribes on the pros and cons of hiking barefoot.

    I find Asolo’s and Merrell’s the lightest and most comfortable shoes for my feet.

    Paul Grube


    Locale: Above Cache Creek, CA

    I have had Plantar Faciatis in the past, so I know your “pain” quite literally. What worked for me was to get a check-up from my doctor who refered me to a podiatrist who made me custom insoles for my shoes. In addition I lost about 15 pounds of body-weight, once I was able to excercise without having to stop prematurally due to foot pain. Now I wear Addias or Teva brand trail hikers pain free. Walking barefoot on railroad rocks may work also, but this is just worked for me…In fact, until my plantar faciatis healed (it took about 3 months) walking barefoot, even on carpet, was very painful. Either way, I agree with the previous responses in that you may be best served finding a solution to CAUSE of the problem. Until you solve that riddle, simply experimenting with brands of shoes will likely just be an exercise in frustration.
    Best of luck

    Shelly Skye


    Sorry if I sounded defensive. I was indeed asking for names and yes, fit is something so individual that what works for one would never work for all. I think I was feeling overwhellmed by the shear vastness of possible shoe options that I was hoping to get some ideas to help narrow down the search. I will look into the suggestions made here and go from there.

    Also thanks for the suggestion as to what to do for the plantar faciitis. My doc hasn’t been helpful (HMO) but I am sure losing weight would help. That part I do have control over:-)

    Thanks again for the suggestions

    Chris Moore
    BPL Member


    Locale: Texas

    I would suggest use any shoe you want, but get some custom orthodic inserts. They helped a friend of mine.

    Also check out these guys to help with the cause of the symptoms:

    Good luck!


    paul johnson


    Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest

    Like a prev. poster mentioned, this is really the way to go. Expensive, but I’ve known others for whom custom orthotics worked a miracle.

    jacob thompson


    Sorry about the digression. I have a tendancy on forums to drift away from the question at hand. I’m going to agree with what other people have said you might be better off finding a trail runner or boot that fits you then see a podiatrist to have custom inserts made. Like I said before I think a lot of foot problems come from over wearing shoes, but thats just my opinion. I have superfeet in my vittesse II’s and even I find it much easier to walk in them with the arch support than with the regular inserts that were in them.

    I appologise once again for not sticking to the topic.

    David Olsen


    Locale: Steptoe Butte

    I developed the same problem in the JMT wearing
    full hiking/mountain boots. We took too much food. Orthotics helped, stretching made things worse until things healed which took about a year.
    Aside from the rest the thing that helped the most
    was accupressure to a muscle in my calf that I didn’t even know was sore till they dug in there.
    Also throw away any shoes you have that make your
    feet hurt at all. For me I had to go to wearing only
    new running shoes all the time until things healed up. Then the stretching and exercises will help. Don’t push it. What ever shoes you get, make sure
    they have enough arch support, cause thats what
    flattens and pulls on the attachments to the bone.

    As to folks from other countries carrying large loads with a tumpline etc. this often leads to premature crippling and arthritis. I got to visit a Tibetan village last year and all the Grandmas were
    so stooped and crippled they didn’t leave the house. This from all the water they carried every day.


    Here’s a site on heel pain:

    They say, in part:

    Wearing shoes that are too small may cause plantar fasciitis. Shoes with thicker, well-cushioned midsoles may help alleviate the problem. Running shoes should be frequently replaced as they lose their shock absorption capabilities.

    “Studies have shown that taping the arch, or using over-the-counter arch supports or customized orthotics also help in some cases of plantar fasciitis. Orthotics are the most expensive option as a plaster cast is made of the individual’s feet to correct specific biomechanical factors.”

    Before you buy heavy boots, you might try Montrail Enduro Soles in lighte3r trail runners. These are padded cushioned soles that you put in the oven at 225 degrees for 3 minutes, then put in your shoes. Stand in them for two minutes then walk around a bit. They mold to the foot and, in my experience, provide exceptionally good arch support. About $35.

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    I see various people are still believing the myth that you need ‘arch support’. Strangely enough, about 3/4 of the world today, and 100,000+ years of our ancestors, don’t (didn’t) use arch supports. And the Olympic marathon gets won by Ethiopeans who run barefoot.

    ‘Arch supports’ do help crush the muscles under your foot against the bones, causing massive RSI problems. Well-made Italian boots have a totally flat inner surface. I never permit any ‘arch supports’ in my shoes.

    The major cause of sore feet and blisters, for both housewives and walkers, is simple: shoes that are too small. Your feet will expand at least half a size while you are walking. What feels ‘snug’ in the shop will cripple you in the field. I do not get sore feet, and I do not get blisters. But then, I wear loose-fitting lightweight cheap joggers.

    But it’s a free world (although expensive boots aren’t), and the boot makers and the retailers need your money.

    Tip Ray
    BPL Member


    I just completed the 185 mile C & O Canal Towpath Trail from Georgetown, DC to Cumberland, MD. It’s essentially flat terrain on a towpath that is either packed dirt or, mostly, crushed stone and fines. My pack weight was around 30 pounds and I wore Montrail Hardrock trail runners with Superfeet insoles for the distance. I averaged nearly 17 miles/day. I liked the shoes because they were lightweight and a lot like my running shoes for comfort. The heel was snug and the toe box generous enough. I also bought them 1/2 size bigger to account for swelling. The only real foot problems I had were blisters on the outside edges of my heel pads due to excessive rubbing on the heel cup of the Superfeet. I trimmed those down which helped stop more blsitering, but by then the damage was done. I think the plastic supports of the Superfeet played a role here and I’m debating whether or not to try them again. In addition, my feet did swell and hurt, along with my lower legs. I was able to loosen the laces sufficiently to remain comfortable without loosing integrity of the fit (particularly in the heel). That’s a good thing to look for in any shoe purchase – ability to modify lacing depending on how your feet are doing on any given day. The other piece of advice I read about and practiced was to stop every hour or 2 to take off my shoes and elevate and let my feet BREATHE and dry off. Wash and change your sox daily, too. I believe that by the end of my trip my feet were truly getting stronger (like any muscle you’re exercising daily) and I could have gone onward for many more miles. But, the jury’s still out on whether or not this is the shoe for me if I attempt a hike on the AT next year. Good luck!

    dan willhite


    Locale: Southwest USA

    I hike in the desert and can’t imagine not wearing boots considering the sharp rocks, high surface temps and cactus. Barefoot people I bow to you. As for conditions like plantar fasciitis I can sympathize because I’ve had it. Being a Triathlete who has put quite a few miles in over the past 20 years and a Chiropractor who has treated many cases of this I understand your problem. From my perspective it’s really quite simple. You’re not an Aboriginal and you do function in this society so you’re going to have to wear shoes of some type. If you want to stay on the trail instead of being sidelined with injury you have to solve your problem in a functional way. Others have told you it’s an overuse problem. They are right but it’s also a misuse problem. Once you get the right shoe or boot and the RIGHT orthotic foot bed in it you’ll be fine. My suggestion would be to get a pair of Road Runner Sports RRS Ortho Runner Insoles for $40 bucks (1-800-551-5558) and then take them to your local Hiking Shack, REI or whoever has the best selection and then try on different models with the new insoles in them because they take up a little more room. Almost any shoe will work if you have the correct insole in it. Personally I think Superfeet insoles are too stiff. Everyone has different feet but remember you’re looking for lightweight, stable, enough toe room (love Vasque myself) and heavy enough sole to last and not transmit rock feel and also provide the kind of traction you need. Running shoes tend to break down fast, I prefer light hiking boots. Other treatment options include icing, stretching (once pain is resolved), Chiropractic care, ultrasound, cold laser, DMSO, and proteolytic enzymes. The insoles add 2 oz. and that’s a small price to pay for the enjoyment of staying on the trail. Happy Hiking.

    Tim Cahill


    There have been many suggestions in this thread.

    Please report back on what has worked for you.



    Do keep in mind one thing. Anyone who hasn’t had plantar fascitis, has no idea how frustrating it can be or how painful. I’ve got chronic fascitis and hike anyway,but I can’t claim to have answers because I’m still stuck with it. Rigid orthotics from the podiatrist were absolutely horrible. I’d been hiking in Superfeet for years before that so they don’t keep it from happening. What did help a lot was going to a physical therapist who specializes in feet and makes her own orthotics(which insurance does pay for), which are softer and meant for very active people. The podiatrists will also tell you 98% of the problem is having very tight calf and achilles tendon muscles and you should be doing your stretches. That works if you’re not actively in pain! I’ve often thought the stretches made it worse. Giving yourself good foot massages can help a lot. I’ve had pretty good luck with the heavier backpacker boots by Merrill because they have a “rocker” that helps your foot move from back to front and keeps it from being so fatigued. Not sure if they’re still making them that way. I think I gave myself the fascitis from wearing a really strong pair of Tevas all the time-they have no arch support and they don’t flex either(these were the really heavy duty kind). If you get orthotics, keep in mind that when you put your feet in shoes with the right orthotics, your feet should be saying, OOOHHH that feels good, not OHMYGODTHATHURTS!!!! You may need to adjust a bit to them, but it shouldn’t involve major pain. Good luck, I really sympathize.

    Carol Corbridge


    Locale: Southern Oregon

    I have gone though a round of Plantar Faciatis as well. I had a non-invansive sound wave treatment on my left foot which helped. My case was brought on by wearing moccasins for a couple of weeks straight.

    I tried presciption orthotics, which I didn’t like, and many other insoles. But, the best thing I’ve found is Hapad insoles. They have lots of foot products. The one I use is ‘Comf-Orthotic Sports Replacement Insoles’ with ‘Scaphoid Pads’ attached. I wear these now in every pair of shoes I own, except my Rebounds and some sandals.

    I always make sure my sandals have decent arch support, since that is critical to maintaining my feet in a pain-free state.

    I discovered this company by reading the book ‘Fixing Your Feet’ which I highly recommend.

    Anyway Hapad’s web site is

    I’ve been hiking without pain since using these pads. Hope this helps.

    Linda Alvarez
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern California

    I just had to add to this post. I don’t mean any offense to anyone on this thread, but people who don’t suffer from foot pain just cannot imagine how debilitating and frustrating it can be to have to live with the constant pain. It was foot pain that drove me to learn about lightweight backpacking — the more weight I carry, the more pain I’m in. I used to enjoy running but am to this day unable to–it’s just too much pressure on my feet. Until I found the right orthotics for my feet, and spent about 2 years slowly healing, I couldn’t even survive a day at the mall, or a party, without spending every other minute scoping around for some place to sit down. My feet are much better today than they were at the worst of it, and I still hike, but I don’t do it without pain–it’s just something I have to accept when I hit the trail, and something I’m trying to minimize through lightening my load!

    Anyway, I’ve hiked in everything from sturdy leather boots to trail runners, and what I’ve found personally is that sturdy boots don’t help any more than trail runners. It’s all about finding the right inserts, and I just had to experiment around until I found them. I had very expensive ones made at my podiatrist (hated them), tried all flavors of superfeet (ok), and finally found relief with some off-the-shelf prescription three-quarter inserts. I wear these religiously–in my dress shoes, my running shoes, my rollerblades, etc. I sure wish you luck and you have my sympathies!

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