Hiking brings you closer to nature, but it also creates a big challenge for your feet. Uneven terrain. Up and down, carrying a pack, long hours on the trail. Ensure your feet make it to the end of the trail by taking precautions before to the start of your journey, beginning with your shoes and insoles.
Quick Summary ---
Hiking on uneven terrain can be tough on your feet. The weight of a pack can add to the wear and tear. Comfortable footwear will let you focus on the experience, not on your feet.
Choose your footwear carefully. You need comfort, protection, traction and stability. Make sure that your fotwear fits well and has enough room to accomodate your feet as they swell later in the day.
Choose wool or polyester socks and bring at least 2 pairs. Change them during the day to keep your feet dry and blister free.
After-market insoles are worth a try. Look for strong arch support and an insole that fits your feet. A light hiking shoe with a great insole is more supportive than a heavy hiking boot with flat footbeds.
Even the healthiest feet will take a beating on thru hiking adventures. Common foot complaints on the trail include blisters, sore ankles, heel pain, metatarsal pain, swollen feet or toes, pinched toes, flattened arches, and more. Beyond your feet, your legs will feel the impact of the hike too. Hikers often experience pain or soreness in the Achilles tendon, calf, knee, hips and lower back.
While there are many potential threats to your feet, legs and back on the trail, you can minimize the chances of developing any of these conditions with carefully chosen footwear and quality insoles.
Choose Your Footwear Carefully
The most important thing you can do before you begin your hike is purchase quality footwear. After all, your feet are what will be supporting your weight and your pack mile after mile. Look for lightweight, flexible footwear with insoles that are designed to provide your feet the cushioning and support they will need to take you where you want to go.
Hiking boots are heavy and stiff—not ideal for long treks that may involve a variety of terrains and trail conditions. Cross-training shoes or trail-running shoes will give you flexibility and stability without the added weight. Whichever shoes you pick for your thru hiking expedition, you’ll want to replace the standard factory insoles with hiking boot inserts that improve your comfort and support.
Hiking Boot Insoles Make Life on the Trails More Comfortable
Strong, flexible arch support can make a world of difference in your comfort on (or off) the trail.
Hiking boot insoles will spread the weight more evenly over the bottom of your feet decreasing the possibility of ‘hot spots’.
By controlling pronation, hiking insoles will make your footwear fit more consistently, minimizing toe banging. (Make sure your shoes are long enough. No insole will prevent toes from jamming if your shoes are too tight.)
Less motion in your shoes means less friction. Keeping your feet cool always helps comfort.
Strong arch support stabilizes softer, lighter weight hiking shoes. A light hiking shoe with a great insole is more supportive than a heavy hiking boot with flat footbeds.
Pure antimicrobial treatment reduces foot odor for fresher footwear.
What To Look For In Hiking Insoles
Be sure you are prepared to support your feet before you begin your journey. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind:
Proper Fit Find insoles that come in a variety of arch heights for a perfect fit. Remember that your feet will swell over a period of days on the trail, so make sure you choose shoes and insoles that will fit long term. A good rule is to leave at least a thumb’s width at the toe of your boot or shoe to allow for your foot’s expansion.
Firm Support Choose a firm arch support that will absorb the impact as you walk and distribute your weight evenly without allowing your arch to flatten. A light hiking shoe with a great insole is more supportive than a heavy hiking boot with flat footbeds.
Heel Cups Deep heel cups in your insole will reduce the impact your feet experience as you hike. The extra cushioning helps to absorb impact and offer greater comfort on the trail.
Replaceable Cover Your feet get hot and sweaty when you hike. Changing weather and trail conditions on thru hikes can contribute to moisture inside your shoes as well. Bacteria and fungi thrive on moisture, so be sure your insoles come with a replaceable top-cover—preferably one that features antimicrobial properties.
Durability You’re ready to go the distance on the trail. Make sure you purchase durable insoles that can stand up to the mileage.
Blister Free Look for a low-friction surface to help reduce blisters caused by the movement of your foot within your shoe. Quality hiking insoles will spread the weight more evenly over the bottom of your feet, helping to prevent hot spots and blisters as well.
Foot Irregularities.If you have foot irregularities like overpronation, high arches, flat feet, or plantar fasciitis, it’s even more important to ensure you are using quality insoles. Small foot problems can become big foot problems when you’re racking up the miles.
Hiking Foot Care Tips
Treat your feet with a little tenderness, and you can spend more time taking in the scenery than worrying about any pain or soreness. Don’t forget these foot care tips while you’re on the trail:
Pack Extra Socks Pack at least two pairs of good-quality polyester or wool socks for the trip. When one pair gets moist, swap them out for a clean pair. This will help to prevent blisters, which are often caused by the combination of moisture and the friction of your feet moving in your shoes. You can air out your wet socks on the outside of your backpack during your hike.
Rest Your Feet It’s important to rest whenever your feet feel hot, tired, or sore. When resting, remove your shoes and socks to let your feet breathe. Stick your feet in cool water or prop them up above your head to help reduce any swelling.
Practice Good Hygiene. Clean your feet with a damp washcloth when resting. Remove any dirt, pebbles, or debris that gets in your shoes as soon as you notice it.
Be Worry-Free On The Trail
Hiking can put even the hardiest feet to the test, but choosing the best insoles for hiking will help you stay worry-free on the trail mile after mile.
Mark has always believed exceptional footwear can change lives. He's been in the footwear industry for over 30 years, working with podiatrists, pedorthists, foot care experts, and footwear makers. Mark started Chaco sandals in 1989 and developed a game-changing sport sandal that delivered comfort and durability. After Chaco sold in 2009, Mark ultimately started Tread Labs to continue transforming people's footwear so they can walk better, feel better, live better.