Tips & Tricks
Find the right size and try them on
Choosing the right size for your footwear depends on what you’re going to use it for and your own personal preference. As a general rule, you should allow a thumb’s width of space in front of your big toe for shoes or boots that you’ll wear in the mountains.
This might be a bit more than you’re used to for normal footwear, but it’s important because when you’re walking downhill, your feet always slide forward. If your shoes or boots are too small, you’ll quickly be nursing a blue toenail.
The following tips might help you in finding the right size:
- Always try on both the left and the right shoe. Your feet almost always have two different sizes so there’s no guarantee that the left shoe will fit, even if the right one is perfect.
- If you use orthopedic insoles, always bring them along when you’re planning to try on a new pair of shoes or boots.
- Always take advantage of the test parcours if the store has one. This is a like a trail inside the store with a variety of terrain and inclines. It’s especially helpful for testing the size and fit of your footwear for walking up or downhill. If there’s nothing like this available, you can just stand on the edge of a step or raised area in the store and point your toes downward – this will help you determine how far your foot is going to slide forward. Make absolutely sure that your toes don’t hit the front of your shoes.
- Wear hiking socks – either ask for test socks or bring your own. Hiking socks feature extra reinforcement at the heels and balls of the feet which often makes them thicker in those areas.
- Take your time! The shoes should fit comfortably even when you’ve been wearing them for a while, so don’t hesitate to take a few rounds through the shop.
- The best time to try on new footwear is in the afternoon or early evening. Just like when you’re hiking, your feet swell throughout the day – trying them on later in the day is the best way to ensure that you get a realistic idea of how they’ll fit on the trail.
Breaking them in
These days with modern synthetic materials for linings and insulation, you no longer need to break in hiking boots like you used to. Nevertheless, if you’re buying leather shoes – especially full leather shoes – a break-in period is still helpful. Leather is a natural material that adapts to your feet over time.
Before heading out on a half-day or especially a multi-day tour, you should wear your new shoes on shorter trips! Of course, blisters are not inevitable when wearing new shoes for the first time. Using the right lacing technique will help you ensure that your footwear is comfortable from the first moment of your first hike.
Blisters are created by ongoing friction between your footwear or socks and your feet while you walk or run.
Making small adjustments to your laces can keep your feet from slipping in your shoes or boots so you don’t get blisters. Anti-blister sticks are great for additional prevention – you can pick one up in any pharmacy. These sticks are used to apply a thin film to your feet that minimizes friction – definitely worth it for high-risk areas like the heels or balls of your feet.
Reducing pressure on the top of your foot
To avoid pressure points at the top of your feet, don’t cross your laces at this sensitive area. Lace your shoes straight across at this point and cross over again at the next eyelets.
Adjusting your laces
Uphill: To avoid pressure on your shins from the shaft of your boots, lace them more loosely at the top. In order to retain a good fit at the heel, keep your laces snug across the top of the foot.
Downhill: Before heading downhill, tighten up your laces at the top to keep your feet from slipping forward and creating a problem for your toes.
Every pair of feet is different – so our lasts, which are designed to cover as wide a range of feet as possible – aren’t perfect for every special case that exists. Hallux, valgus, ganglions, heel spurs or other problems sometimes require individualized adjustment of your footwear.
Hiking shoes can be adapted with the help of leather softeners and mechanical lasts as well as stretching equipment. Many sports shops and shoemakers offer advice and services for these cases.
As with lasts, our insoles have to fit as many feet as possible. If your feet slip in your shoes or if the soles of your feet hurt, an individually adapted insole can help. Sports shops carry sports soles that are adapted to your foot by applying heat. If you have orthopedic problems, which can also affect the entire musculoskeletal system, a visit to the orthopedist is essential.