Jul 18, 2020 at 7:29 am #3665053
Help, this is second year in row I will lose my right big toe nail completely. First time, I had standard fit, light boots with a decent toe cap – Salewa Firetail. It was Grand Canyon so I figured it was just that the toe box was too small and I stub a lot. Then I’ve been wearing a pair of Altras locally (PA) but they didn’t seem to have enough support for a Sierra trip, so after some review reading, I decided to try a Topo Ultraventure, half size up. Just completed 7 days in SEKI. Very comfortable shoes, zero blisters over 70 miles on and off trail, support was fine. Insoles basically dissolved, but I did Muro Blanco with lots of water time. However …. I will lose toe nail again from repeated but not abnormal toe banging. Is there a good combo for length and toe box with a protective cap that works well? I’m thinking a full size up in “normal” width and find a shoe with extra tough toe cap. My logic is that will give me more distance between toe and hard objects but the narrower fit will lock feet in place from sliding down the shoe. I am wide fit normally and I do need a wide toe box itself as it cuts my blisters rate to nothing on any trip. Does anyone have the same problem with toe nails? I’ve tried just not banging toes as much, but for me it takes only 2-3 good stubs a day for 4-5 days in a row and it’s a problem. Thanks !Jul 18, 2020 at 9:30 am #3665063Chris RBPL Member
Probably not what you are looking for but if you are having problems with your foot sliding forward due to too much mid-foot volume try cutting a piece of closed cell foam and putting it between the laces and the tongue. Helps you lace up tighter to secure your foot in place.Jul 18, 2020 at 10:28 am #3665069JacobBPL Member
I will lose toe nail again from repeated but not abnormal toe banging
I hope others with more experience chime in, but I think any toe banging is abnormal.
Look for shoes that feel too big in the forefoot but you can still tighten around the ankle or heel.
Since shoes you pick out for yourself have led to you losing toe nails I would suggest you take a look at “The Soldier’s Foot and Military Shoe” by Army Major Dr. Edward Munson.
After Napoleon everyone thought marching a bunch of armies in clever maneuvers was the key to winning battles and as a result much attention was paid toward soldiers’ ability to march; including fording rivers and scrambling up hillsides with lots of gear, etc.
In 1908 Army Major Dr. Edward Munson was ordered to figure shoes out (spoiler: he figures lightweight, breathable, quick-drying shoes to be best way back in 1912). He was given all the resources he needed and with a team spent the next 4 years marching army battalions around in controlled experiments, x-ray scanning 2000 feet inside and out of shoes, and studying the footwear in use at the time worldwide, including studying barefoot peoples. In the 1912 “The Solider’s Foot and Military Shoe” was printed and circulated for military use. Trench warfare in WWI made Munson’s recommendations worthless and more or less forgotten.
But the part of “The Soldier’s Foot and Military Shoe” that seems relevant to this thread is that Munson discovered that picking shoes out by comfort doesn’t work. He ran experiments in which he marched battalions in shoes the soldiers chose for themselves (with full knowledge of the march) and with shoes fitted by the soldier’s officers using Munson’s method. The soldier’s feet were inspected at the end of each day’s hiking (it was a 2 day march) and the shoes the soldier’s picked out themselves based on comfort caused way more problems. Eventually Munson’s methods were good enough to fit shoes to every solider, march them, and not get a single foot injury.
“By far the most common fault of shoes which have been
selected by the men themselves is insufficient length. Reno
found 425 men out of 609 wearing shoes which were too short
for them. With shoes of this sort, the toes of the foot,
elongating under pressure, are jammed against the front of
the shoe in marching, and toe blisters, abrasions and corns are
inevitable (See Fig. 39). The next most common fault is insufficient
width; of the series of men just mentioned, over
twenty-five per cent had mis-fitted themselves in this respect
in the probable production of injury in the form of bunions,
corns, ingrowing nails, clubbed toes and other defects. (See
Fig. 40). Only an insignificant fraction of soldiers, say one
or two per cent, tend to select shoes too large for them. These
comparative tendencies toward misfit in too small sizes the
officers in direct supervision of shoe fitting should bear in
mind, so that they may be properly combatted.” Munson, Soldier’s Foot and Military Shoe, 1912.
“The average soldier may be expected to object more or less
vigorously to the size and width of the shoe given him under
his first fittings by his company commander. Accustomed as
he has been to shoes which constantly bind and compress his
feet, he will regard the new shoe given him as too long and
too loose. The squeezing of his feet by the shoes he has himself
habitually chosen has been so long continued as to appear
to him to be natural and necessary. Hence any complaints that
the shoes are unduly large should be looked upon with doubt,
and should be disregarded unless corroborated by the officer
in charge by the actual manipulation of the shoe and foot
by the method already described. In the fittings made by the
Shoe Board, a large number of protests of this nature were
made at the time that the shoes were issued and during the
first day or so of the march test. It was noted that these complaints
practically disappeared by the time the march test was
half over ; and in no single instance during the foot examinations,
when the man complained of his shoes being too large,
did his feet show any evidence of injury whatever.” Munson, Soldier’s Foot and Military Shoe, 1912.Jul 18, 2020 at 3:09 pm #3665113
Thank you. That was an interesting read. It actually sort of confirms what I was thinking. I need more extra length even though I already sized up half a size. The comments of width were similar to what I was already doing. My only concern is too much width if I go that much wider. But I’m definitely trying a longer shoe on the next big elevation change hike. Also, I’m sort of getting fascinated with World War I history so that info “fit” great. Thanks againJul 18, 2020 at 3:44 pm #3665116David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
Chris and Jacob are right.
Your toes shouldn’t touch the front of shoes AT ALL, even when standing on a down slope. That’s why any decent outdoor store will have a ramp for you to test the fit of any hiking shoe/boot. All REIs do. If any toe touches AT ALL, you need a longer shoe. If you get a lot of upward heel slip (1/4″ or less is okay, less is better), you need a smaller size. If you can’t find a size that does BOTH, you need to try a different model, or more helpfully, a different brand of shoe.
If in doubt, go a 1/2 size up and bring two pairs of socks of different volumes. (Different socks is also a way to balance out slight foot-size differences without buying two pairs). REI clerks, almost uniquely among shoe sellers, always check that you’re buying a matched set. Clueless customers think this is to help the customer from making an unintentional mistake, but it is actually to protect the store from customers who “customize” their fit by buying different right and left shoes and leaving the mismatch behind. 80% of people have a slightly larger left foot, 80% of left testicles hang lower and 80% of left breasts are slightly larger. I learned that 40 years ago and it does match my observations. Take your own survey, but prepared to get punched/slapped.
In the 1980s, I had a backpacking customer who had size 7L and 10R feet. He was resigned to always buying two pairs, but a (pre-internet!) matching service had paired him to someone across the country with the opposite sizing so they’d send each other hiking, dress, and casual shoes which would otherwise go to waste.
Add to that, foot “growth” during a through hike (much of which is your arch lowering), and you may need a full size (or more!) increase after weeks on the trail.
For uterus-having backpackers, permanent foot growth / spreading during pregnancy is often observed. People tend to think their height and shoe sizes don’t change during adulthood, but that’s wrong. Sorry, but most body parts “get bigger, hairier and closer to the ground” with age.
If you’re having trouble adjusting the mid-foot volume to cup your metatarsal and cuneiform region, one trick is to use two shoelaces per shoe – one for the front and one for the back, letting you adjust their tension and the resulting volume independently.Jul 19, 2020 at 6:57 am #3665230JCHBPL Member
Good points so far, especially so David’s reminder that your feet swell on the trail. What might seem “too big” a size in the store may be exactly right on the trail.
This might seem obvious, and you may already be doing this, but make certain to trim your toenails before a hike. I would say “as short as possible” but that may only be what works for me, and that will mean different things to different people. If the meat of your toe tip contacts the shoe, it is must less painful and destructive that if your toenail touches first and is driven backwards!Jul 19, 2020 at 8:58 am #3665241MJ HBPL Member
Hypothetically, if I had a big toe nail with some fungus and I wanted to get rid of it without paying a doctor, I could just buy too small shoes and not cut just that one nail? I’ve lost toe nails before after hiking, but never the big one.Jul 19, 2020 at 9:54 am #3665245HkNewmanBPL Member
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
On top of the previous advice, think aftermarket moldable insoles would help. I got lazy about it and, switching back to the stock insoles, started having various foot problems with my closed toe footwear.Jul 19, 2020 at 7:58 pm #3665311
Thanks everyone. I do need to remeasure my right foot – as it is only my right foot. I may need to do two pair and suck it up. My nails were short, the one just finished being fully grown back! Didn’t hurt when it was off, have a trip planned with son to Sawtooths for fishing in a couple months. I tweak approaches. Did think the Topos were a good step up in support from the Lone Peaks. And I normally do aftermarket insoles, but the reviews were so positive on the Topo insoles, I let it roll. I’m getting insoles for them! Thanks again everyone. Learn something you really didn’t think about on here every time.!Jul 20, 2020 at 11:18 pm #3665702Cameron MBPL Member
@cameronm-aka-backstrokeLocale: Los Angeles
You have to try different things. I actually had to dremel off the rubber at the front of my Wildcats. Then for the next pair I went 1/2 size up and the problem went away. I think a slightly larger, but narrow shoe, laced up well to hold your foot back, is best. Insoles and extra socks will elevate your toes a bit, so yes, your foot will be arrested in place, but with the toes ever so slightly higher, which might aggravate the problem. I try to do at least one practice hike with a 4,000 ft descent before trusting any new shoe. I have returned several shoes to REI.Jul 21, 2020 at 9:33 am #3665713Brad WBPL Member
All good points by others-enough room in front of toe is as important as keeping the foot from sliding forward on descents. Also, cut your toenails as short as the pain will allow you. I cut mine extremely short and this has help tremendously.Jul 21, 2020 at 11:17 pm #3665816Luke SchmidtBPL Member
I lost my big nail last year. A large metal target fell on it immediately before a bear hunt and it slowly came off over the next couple weeks. I scrapped my backpacking plans but did day hike hunts trying different shoes. Here are my thoughts after that.
First stiff shoes protect your toes from bumps. But if you have a toe nail in the process off falling off or already injured it gets complicated. I found that when my shoe bent it would contact my toe nail even if the shoe seemed big enough. It was the top not the end jamming my (painful) toe.
Soft shoes didn’t protect as much obviously but the shoe itself didn’t hurt them. If I recall even my sized up Altra boots did this.
I’d start with trimmed nails and roomy shoes. Normally that’s enough. But if your nail is already sensitive I’d look secondly at how the shoe feels bent going up a slope.
I might take another look at the Altras. I did many big mile days with a heavy (packraft) load without problems. They suffer on off trail work a bit but for normal backpacking I like them. Might need to train your feet a bit by weaJul 22, 2020 at 1:12 pm #3665852Barry PBPL Member
@barrypLocale: Eastern Idaho (moved from Midwest)
From David “If you can’t find a size that does BOTH, you need to try a different model, or more helpfully, a different brand of shoe.” Oh so true.
I could never find a shoe that does that. So that’s why I’m a sandal hiker for the last 15 years. Teva Terra Fi to be exact. I’m one of the few sandalers on this board. Sandals eliminates all the backpacking shoe problems. Buy them ½” longer to protect toes against rocks and root stubs. Cinch tight when walking. Loosen up at camp for the slipper feel. I wear socks with sandals which eliminated my blisters, stink, and itch. I had to try a couple dozen sandals to finally accept the expensive Terra Fi which has excellent lateral support. The backstrap allows me to center my arch. Sandals shrink or grow with you on the trail. Great design. They’ve been great on 13k ft mountains and hiking through rivers on slippery granite. Eight of my hiking buddies also wear sandals. I could go on…
Good luck in finding the perfect sole.
The Rockies were made for TevasJul 22, 2020 at 10:57 pm #3665936Sam FarringtonBPL Member
@scfhomeLocale: Chocorua NH, USA
Not clear if the “banging” of your toes is on the front of the big toe or on top of the nail.
Sounds more like on the nail. You can protect the nail with a CVS hydrocolloid bandage wrapped around the toe that should last for a couple weeks of trekking.
To protect from banging from both above and front, agree with comments about sufficient toe space. Also, about firm covering of the toe space. Keen makes light boots, the most popular being the Targhees, all with very robust and wide toe caps that protect the top of the toe as well as the front. The Targhee III’s tend to be wider at the heel, while the EXP’s are more snug, but both provide a lot of toe protection for a light boot or oxford.
Suggest having a podiatrist check for possible mold under the nails – once it gets in there it is hard to remove. I’ve had both my big toenails removed semi-permanently by a podiatrist, and no problems with boots with a wide toe box.
Also avoid boots OR shoes that have flimsy protection OVER the toes. It is amazing how many do. The Keens do not, but many people need to find a boot that fits first, before checking for additional considerations, so the Keens may not work for you. Salomon’s are not bad, and Danner has hiking footwear made from several different lasts with medium and wide widths.Jul 26, 2020 at 2:16 pm #3666518Diane “Piper” SoiniBPL Member
@sbhikesLocale: Santa Barbara
I have trouble with my right big toe. I normally wear shoes with a lot of extra length because my feet are very wide. Some shoes will still bang up my toe from the top, not from the front. I have tried cutting a circular bit out of the insole so that my toe would be lower and there would be more room for it. This has modest success if I can catch it before the damage is done.
I have Altra Timps that I can wear in a size a bit closer to my actual size. But the volume for my toe doesn’t seem to be enough and the action of walking causes my big toe to hit the top of the fabric which after a while seems to give me a blackened toe. I have resorted to cutting a little cross in the fabric so my big toe will poke out as I walk, and sometimes walking without the insoles in (which then gives me blisters on the inside edges of my feet because of the way your feet sink into a little depression when the insole is removed).
I would suggest cutting a little cross in the tops or sides of your shoes if whatever new shoes you get start to give you this problem with any of your toes. Do it as soon as you start to feel discomfort. Better to mutilate your shoe than your foot. It’s a good back-up plan if the shoes you thought fit okay in the store turn out not to fit as well as you thought.Jul 29, 2020 at 1:39 am #3667171Sam FarringtonBPL Member
@scfhomeLocale: Chocorua NH, USA
Ever since running shoes came into vogue for backpacking, there have been problems. Especially because light sneakers are mass produced in Asia, and sold in the outlets in the USA. (I’m not knocking the Asians, only the US companies that outsource everything.) A good light mid that fits does not weigh that much more, and protects the ankles and toes.
There was another thread like this recently, and when the OP finally posted a photo of the shoes in question, they were cheap and flimsy beachware, and obviously not suited for backpacking. Try some of the mids, or even low cuts from the companies mentioned in my above post. Don’t even buy anything until you’ve been to several outlets and shops and gotten a sense of what is on the market, and what not only fits well, but is sturdy enough to protect the feet. Just a thought.Jul 29, 2020 at 6:39 am #3667177JCHBPL Member
“Not clear if the “banging” of your toes is on the front of the big toe or on top of the nail.”
Yes! Same result with the damage coming from a different direction. Sufficient toe room is in both width and height. Untrimmed toenails simply exacerbate fit problems. It can take a lot of trial and error, and a lot of experience to select the proper shoe for your feet.
Shoes and backpacks…everyone is so incredibly different.Jul 29, 2020 at 4:34 pm #3667237Roger CaffinModerator
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
I seem to remember someone I knew having that sort of problem on the top of the nail. Turns out they had got into the habit of walking with their big toe curled right up, which is a bit unnatural of course. (Thorn in ball of toe maybe?)
I got them to concentrate when walking on ‘standing’ on the big toe – making it pull down hard. After a while they lost the curl-up habit and all was well.
CheersJul 30, 2020 at 8:47 am #3667599Diane “Piper” SoiniBPL Member
@sbhikesLocale: Santa Barbara
I have had the toe problem in Keen leather hiking shoes as well as Merrill Moab Ventilators. Not just lightweight trail running shoes. And don’t get me started on the total foot murder that was my old Pivettas.Aug 2, 2020 at 9:59 am #3668125Worth DonaldsonBPL Member
You might look into lacing your boots with a heel lock to keep the foot sliding forward.
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