Education

Benefits of Wide Toe Boxes for Hiking

Posted By Marty Hughes, DC

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Comments
April 22, 2015
Karen

Can you recommend any hiking boots that have a wide toe box and also vibram soles (for hiking and backpacking)? Thank you.

April 22, 2015
Natural Footgear

Hi, Karen,

Thank you for your message. As you might suspect, we don’t really support the use of conventional hiking boots, as we feel they injure the foot more than assist it. We do have a few suggestions for alternative hiking shoes that allow your foot and ankle to support themselves. The options are all minimalist in one way or another. I’ll briefly mention/describe them here:

Luna Sandals (www.naturalfootgear.com/pages/luna-sandals): These minimalist running and walking sandals are built in the style of huaraches used by the Tarahumara of the Copper Canyons in Mexico (and similar to the style of shoes I saw mountain porters wearing in Nepal). These “hiking boots” have a semi-lugged Vibram sole and they work well on a variety of terrain. They are primarily summer footwear, unless you want to use them with a thick toe sock in the cooler months (which a lot of people do).

Altra Shoes (www.naturalfootgear.com/pages/altra-shoes): Altra shoes can work well as both trail running and hiking shoes. Most models possess great, grippy soles and are quite comfortable. All models have a toe box that’s wide enough to accommodate natural toe splay and Correct Toes, and a completely flat sole from heel to toe. Altra shoes are my go-to winter hiking shoes. Note: I remove the included (optional) footbed to make the shoe a little more minimalist, but this is just a matter of personal preference.

Lems Boulder Boots (www.naturalfootgear.com/pages/lems-boulder-boots): The Boulder Boot is a Lems product, and is the only above-the-ankle option in this short list. It’s a minimalist boot, which means that it covers your feet and ankles but stays out of the way of your feet, allowing them to look and function as nature intended. It’s got a grippy sole (not Vibram, though), and many people actually use this as their principle trail running and walking shoe.

Another option that’s not on the Natural Footgear site is the Otz Troop Boot, which, though coming in at a higher price point than the above-mentioned options, does include all the design features we typically look for in healthy footwear, including boots. It has a water-resistant upper and anti-slip sole, and it works well in a variety of climatic conditions and terrain. Just a thought.

Kind regards,
Marty Hughes, DC

April 22, 2015
Chris Donnelly

Having worn heavy UK Army boots for years yomping mountains, eventually my toes required surgery and it went well. After leaving them 12 weeks for the scarring to heal, I have started regular toe spacer wear and a pair of Lems casual shoes, and I cannot recommend this product enough, as it works.

April 22, 2015
Natural Footgear

Hi, Chris,

Thank you for your message. And thank you for your report! I’m thrilled to hear that your natural footgear is helping you out. Best wishes to you for continued success.

Kind regards,
Marty Hughes, DC

April 22, 2015
Andy

Having experienced symptoms of Mortons neuroma for several years, I recently started using Correct Toes and wearing Altra Superiors (when I can). The benefit has been lifechanging. I wouldn’t say my symptoms are gone, but I am able to do many things pain free that had begun to be problematic, such as walking, hiking, and treadmilling.

Recently, my wife and I decided to try out backpacking. We did an overnight trip that was pure downhill/uphill, a good test for my feet under heavy load (40# pack). The Superiors kept my feet happy.

I’m about ready to get some Lems Boulder Boots, but the cotton/leather has me worried about keeping my feet dry and the soles don’t look aggressive enough, one thing I really like about the Altras. Are there any other hiking boots like the Boulder Boots in the works that would address my concerns?

April 22, 2015
Natural Footgear

Hi, Andy,

Thank you for your message. I’m thrilled to hear that you’ve experienced some positive changes since adopting Correct Toes and foot-healthy footwear.

In terms of the Lems Boulder Boots, I think you’ll find that they work quite well on a variety of terrain (and in a variety of conditions). I recently used the Boots on a 3-week trek around the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, and the Boots performed really well. Although not as aggressive as the Superiors, the tread pattern on the Boulder Boots worked well for me personally on the trek.

Thanks again for your great comment, Andy!

Cheers,
Marty Hughes, DC

April 22, 2015
Ryan

An aggravated knee injury pushed me into barefoot and minimalist running nearly six years ago now. The selections have improved as far as foot protection go, without a doubt, but no one seems interested in the least bit in producing a product for the more serious alpinist or mountaineer. I thru-hiked the Appalachian trail in cheap tennis shoes with a minor heel rise and wide toe box … my bare soles just can’t hold up to twenty or thirty rocky, rooty, and mountainous miles per day.

I get by with carefully selected footwear when need be in the spring and summer months, but winter is where I run into problems. It is exceedingly difficult to find a boot that can handle the rigors of winter in the mountains. Minimalist boots are overpriced, not insulated enough, and certainly don’t work out well with crampons or snowshoes. The only boot I’ve found that has offered some help is from Keen, but it’s far from perfect. Does anyone have any recommendations that I haven’t been made aware of?

April 22, 2015
Natural Footgear

Hi, Ryan,

Thank you for your comment. It is indeed difficult to find a minimalist boot that also holds up to the rigors of mountaineering and advanced hiking. With the Lems Boulder Boot, however, we do feel like we’ve found one of the best options available. They’re not waterproof, so we can’t guarantee they’ll stay dry in unpacked snow, but they are water resistant, and they hold up very well on packed snow and in rainy situations. I hike in them regularly, often on rocky, rooty, advanced trails. As with most minimalist footwear, it requires attentive foot placement to avoid stepping directly on sharp rocks or precarious roots, but the minimal sole is very malleable and allows flexion in the foot, which is a key factor in maintaining proper balance and control on the trail.

If we find any other options, we’ll be sure to let you know. If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to let us know!

Kind Regards,
Andrew Potter

April 22, 2015
Julie

Question: I have some congenital structural issues and have had some improvement wearing Soles inserts in good quality shoes. Both feet lean inwards, the right especially so. How can I go minimalist and more natural without a quick decline into the leaning to the inside and the structural issues that come along with that?

April 22, 2015
Natural Footgear

Hi, Julie,

Thank you for your comment. I appreciate you sharing some of your foot health concerns here, but without the benefit of a full health history interview and physical examination, I’m not able to offer you much helpful advice. My best recommendation is to check out this list of healthcare providers to see if any are in your area:

www.nwfootankle.com/resources/122-healthcare-providers

You’ll be able to get a much more detailed answer from any of these providers.

Kind regards,
Marty Hughes, DC

April 22, 2015
Brad

I’m looking for something with an aggressive tread pattern and something that’s waterproof and lightly insulated for winter snow hiking. Any suggestions? Thanks.

April 22, 2015
Natural Footgear

Greetings, Brad,

Thank you for your question. I don’t have any specific suggestions for you at this time, but I will most definitely let you know if the right product comes along. Question: Have you considered the Lems Boulder Boot? It’s not waterproof, but it is water-resistant, and you can use after-market sprays to further prevent moisture inside the boot.

Kind regards,
Marty Hughes, DC

April 22, 2015
Cary

Hey!

I’m a swing dancer and I’m looking for wide toe box dance shoes. So far my search has come up empty. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Thanks so much!

April 22, 2015
Natural Footgear

Hi, Cary,

Thank you for your message. It’s quite difficult to find dancing/dress shoes that are foot-healthy, and unfortunately, we’ve yet to find many options. We can, however, recommend the Lems Nine2Five (www.naturalfootgear.com/collections/mens-lems-nine2five-shoes). It’s a minimalist dress shoe that provides an array of foot-healthy features. If you don’t find those conducive, check out Vivobarefoot. They have some casual options you might be interested in.

I hope this information has been helpful. Best of luck to you on your search!

Kind regards,
Andrew Potter

April 22, 2015
Linda

I have a long foot with short toes, so the ball of my foot gets squeezed in the toe box OR I have way too much empty room in front of my toes (if I fit for the ball of my foot). Suggestions would be so appreciated. Thank you!

April 22, 2015
Natural Footgear

Hi, Linda,

Thank you for your message. Our best advice would be to find a shoe that is widest at the ends of the toes, rather than at the ball of the foot like most conventional footwear. All Lems shoes have exceptionally wide toe boxes that allow for this, as well as Altra footwear, Be Real shoes, and Kigo footwear. You can check them all out here:

www.naturalfootgear.com/collections/womens-shoes

I hope this information is helpful. Please let us know if you have any further questions or concerns!

Kind Regards,
Andrew Potter

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