Aug 9, 2019 at 2:56 am #3605313
Having read Ryan’s July blog post about choosing footwear, I realized how many of those lessons I’ve learned the hard way, yet I still struggle to find shoes that truly fit me well and are trail worthy. For the most part, my needs align with the article completely, except that I differ in needing a larger heel-toe drop. (I very likely did too much too fast, but my foray into minimal, low drop shoes left me with a significantly damaged right Achilles that has taken me the best part of 3 years to get (almost) fully recovered.) So, with that said, what I’d love to find:
- Wide toe box (I have a very shallow angle across the fronts of my toes when viewed from above)
- Likely a wide shoe even on top of the wide toe box (2E in US sizes – my most recent and very welcome discovery, given that I measure a dead standard ‘D’)
- 12 mm or similar drop from heel to toe
- Enough volume to accommodate custom orthotics (addresses my high arch and significant supination)
- Cushioning… something more than minimal is probably a good idea, as my orthotics have almost no padding on their own, but I’m not hard over on this.
- No heel cups that curve inward significantly at the top (to avoid pressing on the sensitive tissue above my bone spurs)
- Lightweight, breathable, good tread… the usual
I know, quite the wish list…
While I’d all but given up on New Balance, I recently purchased a pair of their 860v9 shoes in 9.5 2E for my daily walkers, and they’ve been fantastic. I did a 12 mile test hike with them when brand new and had only one ‘warm’ spot so small that I didn’t notice it for 3 days. Despite this test, the 860v9 shoes are heavier than I’d like and don’t have the tread of trail shoes, so I’m looking for a trail equivalent. NB doesn’t make one with the same last – I’ve emailed them and hit stores to be sure – so I’m back to looking for other options.
Many thanks!Aug 9, 2019 at 4:53 am #3605324
“I still struggle to find shoes that truly fit me well and are trail worthy.
“(I very likely did too much too fast, but my foray into minimal,…
Put two statements from your post up above to show the contrast between “struggle” and “too much too fast.” There may be a contradiction there. And you may be focusing overly on a scientific approach where only trial and error will work.
Except for a few custom boot makers, most of whom may have retired, there is no science about fitting hiking footwear. What works for one person, many not work for many others. So what can a hiker do? Will share what I did, and maybe it will help.
Back when trekking every chance I got, my feet just started to hurt. There were all kinds of hurts, so won’t try to analyze them. But the future looked grim.
First, I happened to meet a lady at a bar at a concert who told me about a fantastic podiatrist who helped her to walk comfortably again. It may be significant that this came by word of mouth, because every other podiatrist I saw was not at all helpful. The one she recommended made me orthotics, or footbeds, for street shoes, and later for hiking shoes. The hiking ones were carbon fiber, a brand called PAL, that were more flexible. These footbeds were similar to the ones like Superfeet seen in the stores, and that come in several different types, but are not custom designed for your feet. So, to the extent that science is involved, it came from the one podiatrist who studied and worked for many years to master his craft. Most important, my street shoes were suddenly comfortable with the footbeds, and that provided some assurance that the doctor knew what he was doing. I have a woman PCP, but for fitting a man’s foot, I prefer a male podiatrist.
Next, I visited numerous large outdoor stores, like EMS, REI, and a some similar stores that do business from just one location, like Farmway in Bradford VT, Kittery Trading Post in Kittery Maine, and the camping JAX store in Fort Collins Colorado. They were chosen because they carried numerous different models of hiking shoes, and had plenty of sizes in stock. At each such store, I tried on shoes first out of the box to see if they were comfortable walking around for a while. If so, would try them on with the custom footbeds, and compare. If the custom footbeds improved the comfort, I’d go back another day and try the shoe on again, because feet change. It was a problem being constantly interrupted by salespeople (guys, mostly), but would explain why it would take a few hours to shoe shop, and after a while, they’d let me focus on the task. Some stores have ramps that are indispensable for trying on hiking shoes.
Finally, I’d purchase a pair and wear them at home for longer periods, maybe an hour when doing housework or making meals, etc. Aside from comfort, the focus was also on whether the shoe held the heel solidly, without slipping upwards or sideways. And whether the toe box did not impinge on the toes, either from the sides or from the top. And whether they pressed to hard on the front of the foot when laced up. If they did not remain comfortable, or did not pass the above tests, they went right back for the refund promised by the salesperson so long as they’d not been worn outside.
This process went on for several years until I settled on shoes to take dayhiking. If they were not up to task, they were set aside to be sold on consignment, and the hunt went on. Wouldn’t call this a “struggle,” but a long systematic process, requiring a lot of patience. Have made mistakes along the way, like the time a day into a week backpack, when it dawned that what I thought fit perfectly for day hiking, pinched the toes after a day wearing a pack, to the extent of causing inflammation and infection.
Drained the infection, rubbed crushed iodine water pills into it, wrapped up the big and second toes with colloid bandages, and was able to go on without pain. But most of the time, nothing bad happened. Note that I use watershoes to otherwise keep the feet dry (a little extra work), and do not get blisters on the heels or soles with shoes that fit well.
After a few years, found that there were certain brands that tended to fit me, and focused on those. Tried some models of Superfeet on those, and found one model of shoe that worked. The rest worked better with the doctor’s footbeds. So now I know exactly what models and brands to use when the old ones wear out; so there was a big pay-off from all the time spent. This has been a long post, but so was the process. Good luck to you.Aug 9, 2019 at 5:35 am #3605329
I appreciate the response, Sam, though I intentionally kept the details of my ‘journey’ somewhat limited in order to focus my post a bit. Whether you call it a struggle, a process, a journey, or something else, I’ve certainly completed most of it, and thus have a very good idea of what I’m looking for in a shoe (as described)… I’m just having a hard time finding one that meets that description. Thus my request for specific product recommendations from those that may have hunted for similar products.
(Note that my orthotics were custom fitted by a very talented DPM that I see regularly for treatment of my injured Achilles. I still use certain SuperFeet myself on occasion, such as in my mountaineering boots, but I now wedge them with adhesive backed felt strips to approximate the lateral tilt that my custom orthotics provide to address my supination. Thus my expressed preference for a higher volume shoe.)
Re-reading my post, I realize that I referenced the 860v9 rather than the 880v9 that I meant to specify. Same basic shoe, but the 860 is the stability (pronation control) version, vs. the neutral stability 880. I don’t want the shoe working against my orthotics. If New Balance would just use that last in a trail shoe with 10-12mm of drop, I’d be home free!Aug 9, 2019 at 5:40 am #3605331Bill in RoswellBPL Member
@roadscrape88Locale: Roswell, GA, USA
Check out the Salomon Odyssey Triple Crown. Almost as wide as my Altra Timp Trails. I think heel drop on the Odyssey is 10 mm. Odyssey is softer in regards to fit and trail feedback, whereas the XUltra 3 feels like sports car and put you in contact with the trail. The Ultra 3 is excellent for feel and foot control, loose rock and talus. The Odyssey is lighter and possibly more breathable. I can wear think Darn Tuff hikers and fit the Altra Timp and Salomon Odyssey quite well.
The Salomon Ultra X 3 is a more traditional fit and pushing narrow for some long distance runners. I get by fine wearing thin socks that breathe very well. I love the feel of this shoe, wish Wide was offered in non-Goretex version.Aug 9, 2019 at 6:16 am #3605332
Good reference, Bill – thanks!
(I didn’t think to mention socks, but I usually wear either Darn Tough or the Icebreaker anatomically sewn hikers.)
Looks like Salomon has slim, standard, generous, and wide fits, with the Triple Crown being in the ‘generous’ category (w/10mm drop) and the X Ultra 3 and XA Pro 3D both being in the ‘wide’ category (w/11mm drop). Of course, the width doesn’t guarantee anything about the cut of the toe box, but it narrows the field at least. Maybe I can wander by REI tomorrow and check a few of them out…
Thanks!Aug 11, 2019 at 6:37 am #3605591
Unfortunately cannot agree in toto. I used an analytical approach for a long time, and it just led to waste of money, pain and discomfort. It does seem that we agree on the benefit from a good podiatrist. After that, trial and error was the only approach that worked.
For those with long term fit problems, I think it is an approach worth considering.Aug 11, 2019 at 7:11 am #3605592
Sam, I’m not sure what you’re suggesting. I know exactly what I’m looking for based on having tried shoes with a combination of traits for years, plus the advice of multiple doctors. I have closet full of shoes that failed your suggested “trial and error” that led me to the criteria I specified – I simply have yet to find a single shoe that meets them all. If you have a specific suggestion, I’d very much appreciate it.
Bill, I was able to try on the Salmon X Ultra 3 and XA Pro 3D, both in wide. Despite the 2E designation, the cut of the toe box tapered in too fast for comfort, as you alluded with your “pushing narrow” description. I wasn’t able to find the Odyssey Triple Crown yet, but I’ll keep looking. Thanks!Aug 11, 2019 at 7:47 am #3605595
Regret not getting my point across. Will work on it.Aug 11, 2019 at 4:28 pm #3605617StumphgesBPL Member
This is a tough ask. I’ve long thought that if a company made a shoe with a wide, foot-shaped (oblique, as it used to be called in the shoe industry) toe box in a conventional stability lite-hiker, like the Salomon Ultra, La Sportiva Akyra, etc., they would make a billion dollars. I get why the companies who are committed to more or less foot-shaped shoes (Altra, Topo (kind of)) stick with 0 or very low drops, but not all feet thrive with low drop and not in all conditions. Doing a lot of uphill, for example, is one condition where a large number of feet will be more comfortable with a higher heel.
Unfortunately, no one has made a run at that billion as of yet.Aug 11, 2019 at 5:26 pm #3605619RobBPL Member
Topo is not strictly a zero drop company. They have models in 0, 3, and 5 mm drop.Aug 11, 2019 at 9:24 pm #3605641StumphgesBPL Member
Rob, yeah, but 5mm will increase the wearer’s functional ankle dorsiflexion range of motion about 2 degrees, which is not very much in terms of what the achilles is looking at during walking gait.
Their lasts also tend to be quite narrow. This is a problem with most running shoe companies that do not offer widths. The prototypical runner, thus their stereotypical customer, is ectomorphic in build, and probably possessing a rather narrow foot. One exception is Mizuno – their lasts are pretty wide compared to most companies, but their toeboxes are horribly pointed.
Both Topo and Altra use complicated outsole designs that preclude bringing their shoes to the local shoe repair/pedorthist and having the heel height increased, which is a pity, as that would be a pretty simple solution at relatively low cost.Aug 11, 2019 at 10:53 pm #3605650jscottBPL Member
@bookLocale: Northern California
Keen has a very generous toe box indeed. And they run wide. I fit my orthotics in mine with ease.
I have no notion as to how the match the rest of your criteria.
I’ve heard of a fair number of people who went minimal and ended up with long lasting injuries. This suggests to me that minimal doesn’t work for everyone. I’ve also heard some of those same people blame themselves in order to go on believing the theory. Hmmm…
the point is to have healthy feet that are reasonably comfortable while backpacking.Aug 12, 2019 at 1:48 am #3605687
Thanks for the additional feedback.
Stumphges, we’re having very similar thoughts. I didn’t think that a trail specific shoe with a roomy toebox and larger heel-toe drop would be this hard to find.
I looked at Topo in several stores and online, but 5mm of drop is smaller than I’m willing to risk at the moment. I’m finally able to hike almost comfortably again, but will likely have the bone spurs in my right Achilles for life as well as a tendency to re-irritation, so any transitions I do decide to risk back toward lower drops will be very conservative indeed.
No luck at a specialty running store this afternoon, but I did pick up a pair of New Balance 840’s at a dedicated NB store. I’d gone to try the Summit K.O.M. model, but they tapered too fast in the toe box. The 840’s are standard (non-trail) walking shoes, but the fit was the best I’ve found so far. I figure that even without real trail tread I can use them for less aggressive ‘every day’ or training hikes. Same neutral platform, 10 mm drop, and wide toe-box of the 880 model, but with a bit more internal volume that better accommodated the addition of my orthotics. The heel cup seems at risk of being a bit wide, but hopefully I can manage it with lacing if it becomes an issue. Interestingly, 9.5 was the right size in the 840, but 10 was the right size in the 880. The difference was that the layer of supporting/stiffening material around the front of the toe cap was inside on the 880, and outside on the 840. Putting it outside removes the (admittedly minor) seam from the inside, and adds a tiny but of debris protection to the toe cap.
Still open to ideas for true trail oriented shoes that fit the initial description. Many thanks!Aug 12, 2019 at 3:02 am #3605698Daryl and DarylBPL Member
@lyrad1Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
I address all of the fitting requirements by buying shoes that are wider and longer than I need. I ignore the weight criteria but usually end up with New Balance shoes that weigh about 1 1/2 lbs per pair. Good enough for me.
I buy all of my shoes big so I’ve lost track over the years what my actual size is. I think it is about US 10 but I always buy 11.5 or 12.
I slip my feet into the shoes without undoing the laces. This is a great convenience for me because I’m not very flexible. I’ve been doing this for at least 20 years.
I’ve adapted to this type of shoe and loose fit well enough to backpack on the trail as well as cross country. I’m in no hurry, however, and don’t consider it much of a handicap. One time, while crossing a pile of loose shale on a steep slope, I stepped out of one shoe. Had to go back up a few feet and return the stocking foot to the shoe. No big deal.
I use this “bigger shoe than I need” strategy for all my shoes……on the trail and at home.Aug 19, 2019 at 8:51 am #3606688
Apologies for going silent, but the week got away from me…
Thanks, Daryl. As I mentioned, I already size up my trail shoes to a moderate extent, and have been most recently sizing up the width as well, from my normal D to 2E. (This was the more noticeable improvement for me.)
I would prefer a shoe actually designed to have a sufficiently wide toebox, however, rather than sizing up the entire shoe to a more extreme degree. This is especially true as my left foot, which doesn’t have added length due to posterior calcaneal bone spurs like my right foot, would quickly be swimming if I sized up to such an extent to accomodate my right foot. And regardless of size, I still need the 10-12mm heel-toe drop, neutral stability, and to meet the other criteria expressed in my initial post.
As information for any future interested parties searching for similar information… I did get a quick 7.5 miles in today using my new NB 840 walking shoes. It was by far the most comfortable my feet have been on a trail in a long time, though the lack of trail tread was challenging in spots despite the fact that the trail was really quite benign. I couldn’t take my grip for granted and had to be much more deliberate in rockier sections, which did slow my pace. They seemed to hold up ok from a wear perspective, though they are clearly not as rugged as other trail shoes I’ve owned. This is the most my toes have been able to spread out in any shoe, and the benefits were actually most apparent going downhill, but enjoyed everywhere. I’ll keep looking at other brands, while hoping that the Fall refresh of the NB trail shoe lines includes some new options using the same SL-2 last as the 840 (or the descriptively equivalent OL-1 last).
(Though I’m amazed at the number of shoe companies that have removed the use of email as an option for contacting support. Phone and text chat work fine for many things, but the asynchronous nature of email is hugely beneficial to someone that doesn’t have time to reach out during even extended business hours. Bummer!)
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