Getting ready for a hike? Make sure you have the right shoes to support your feet and ankles.
Fall is a great time for a hike. The weather is cooling down, so it’s neither too hot nor too cold to enjoy an invigorating trek in nature. But if you don’t choose the right footwear, your hike could be ruined by heel and ankle pain.
A common ailment among hiking enthusiasts is plantar fasciitis. Along the bottom of your foot is the plantar fascia, a band of tissue connecting the toes to the heel. Walking on rocky or uneven terrain can stretch this ligament beyond its natural capacity, inflamming it and causing pain in the heel. Hikers are also vulnerable to ankle sprains or injuries, as navigating a challenging path may cause them to lose balance and twist an ankle.
If you’re ready to hit the trails this fall, it’s important to protect yourself from injury. Here’s how to keep your feet and ankles stable by finding the right hiking boots.
Choosing the Right Hiking Boots
Specifically made for rough terrain, hiking boots are durable and waterproof. They are generally heavier than regular footwear to absorb the pressure on your feet when you hike. When picking your footwear, consider these important design features:
- Sturdy but Flexible. You need sturdy soles for good support, but also ones with just enough flexibility to accommodate the bend of your natural gait. The front of the boots should allow room for your toes to move, and there must be strong support for your heel in the back.
- Ankle Support. Most hiking boots are made with a band of padding around the ankle. How high that ankle band goes depends on your hiking trail. For smooth hiking paths, a boot with a low- or mid-level ankle band is fine. For more arduous hikes, choose a pair with support at ankle height or higher.
- Proper Padding. Padding around the top of the boot supports the ankles and maintains their alignment so you’re less likely to twist your ankles. Padding also prevents chafing and blistering. But the ankle isn’t the only place you should look for padding. A well-padded tongue cushions your foot when you hike steep downhill or uphill inclines.
- Good Traction. You’ll notice hiking boots have ridged, stiff soles. That’s not a fashion statement; they’re made that way to provide solid traction on rugged, steep, or possibly slippery paths. For more difficult terrain, a heavier boot is needed. But for hikes along paved trails, you can go with a lighter pair.
- Comfort. As with any shoe, comfort should be a top priority. If the boots don’t feel right when you buy the pair, it’s unlikely they will be more comfortable with repeated wearing. When you try on the boots, slip on the pair of socks you’ll wear when hiking so you’ll have a better idea of the overall fit.
Never hike on boots right out of the box. Before you head out on the trails, break in your boots by walking around the house, doing errands, or strolling in the park. This will loosen up the boots to make for a comfortable hiking experience.
Treatment for Hiking Injuries
Some soreness is normal after a long hike. Icing the foot and a period of rest is usually all that is needed to clear up the pain. But if you find the pain persists in your feet or ankles, see an orthopedic doctor. It could be a serious condition, especially if the pain radiates along the heel and ankle, which could indicate a rupture of the Achilles tendon. In addition, your doctor may prescribe inserts to provide extra support for insoles if you’re experiencing plantar fasciitis.
The physicians and physical therapists at New York Bone & Joint Specialists want you to enjoy your hike and other outdoor activities. If ankle or foot pain makes your favorite trek uncomfortable, we can diagnose the problem and recommend effective treatments. Contact us today for a consultation.