As many of you may know by now I hold a Bachelors degree in Health Education and a second one in Outdoor Recreation. During my studies at Northern Michigan University I attended many classes and lectures on proper techniques for doing things in a more efficient or healthier way for the human body while studying for my Health Ed degree and then learned to apply those techniques during my Outdoor Rec degree.
Here I want to share some of that knowledge with you in the form of shoe selection and fitting.
This is the shoe I’ve chosen for my AT through hike this year.
I like Merrell because it has a standard arch that matches my natural arch. It is important to find a brand that conforms to your personal arch or can be altered to match your arch with an insert. Not all shoes can be altered due to the design of the outer sole and how it supports the shoe as you walk.
The next deciding factor in my choosing a shoe is the tread type. You want to choose a tread that will give you the proper traction on the type of terrain you will be walking on. If on a multi-surface trail then this tread type is great. if primarily on wet slick surfaces then you may want tread that is not as blocky and if on ice or snow a W shape tread is great to keep you from sliding sideways and gives you good forward traction. If you are going to be walking on submersed wet river rocks then a felt tread might be best.
The more eyelets you have for tying your laces the better. But more on that later.
If you want to have a shoe for universal weather types that will keep your feet dry and you are not worried about weight then leather is the best way to go. You can go with other materials but they are not as waterproof as leather can be even with treatments. Many shoes these days come with a liner similar to Gore-Tex. Remember that you cannot use shoe stretchers to shape or form these shoes because you will risk tearing the liner and destroying its waterproofing ability. Leather shoes can be treated and formed and molded to your foot very easily in most cases.
Note: If you are expecting to be in a warm wet climate such as boating or a rain forest or hiking the Florida trail then your best shoe choice is a non-waterproof shoe that allows water to flow through it easily and dries fast.
In any case the BEST way to go about shoes is to get ones that fit right off the bat. To do this first spend the day up on your feet all day standing and walking around. Then after at least 8 hours of doing this then go shoe searching.
Start by finding the shoes that are appealing to you. Then check to see if they meet your needs via the tread, arch, and style that we have talked about so far.
Now see if you can remove the inner sole. If not then don’t even bother buying the shoe. It is important that a good quality shoe can have the inner sole removed for cleaning and proper sizing/fitting.
The inside of the shoe should look very similar as the one above. Many shoes today cheap out by putting cardboard under the inner sole and gluing the sole in place. Your shoe should not have glue or cardboard here because your foot sweat combined with flexing will just destroy its integrity fast.
Remove the inner sole. It should have a nice heel cup and the sides should curl up slightly as you make your way towards your toes then taper flat.
The inner sole should extend one thumb width beyond your longest toe. This will allow enough room in the toe box area of the shoe for your toes to breath and move freely. This helps to prevent friction and hot spots that cause blisters as your feet swell from hiking etc…
The side of the inner sole should slightly curl up around the edge of the inside of your foot as seen in the LEFT picture. The sole should also meet the outside edge of your foot without to much excess either from the sole or your foot. They should meet nicely as seen in the RIGHT picture. The heel cup should slightly curl up and cradle the heel nicely in place as seen in BOTH pictures.
I also have a few tips to share about lacing that may help you with all kinds of foot, leg, knee, and hip issues you may have. Yep many issues (not all) can and quite often come from something as simple as the way you lace your shoe.
In the event you start to develop “Hot Spots” you can try this technique below to try and prevent them from becoming blisters:
These techniques should help you find the perfect fitting shoes for the occasion. Keep in mind you do still need to determine your personal arch. Not every brand is the same when it comes to fit or sizing or their arch design. A size 13 in Merrell is clearly different than a size 13 in Keen for example and their idea of arch support is drastically different. A great starting point is to use one of those Dr. Scholl’s foot machines found at many Walmarts and get your arch analyzed. Then seek out a brand that has a close match to that.
Also remember that shoes are limited on the amount of mileage they can handle. Just because they may visibly appear to be in great shape doesn’t mean they are still worthy of supporting your feet. The average hiking shoe is trust worthy for providing proper support for roughly 600 trail miles. Street shoes can last around 800 miles on paved surfaces that they were meant for but much less when used on a hiking trail.
Bet you never knew shoe shopping should actually be this in depth lol…
Happy Shoe Shopping 🙂