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Thread: Advise for toe-heel hiker - calluses and pain...

  1. #1
    Senior Member ^MtnMike^'s Avatar
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    Question Advise for toe-heel hiker - calluses and pain...

    I'm naturally a toe-heel walker (i.e. my feet tend to strike the ground toe/ball first) and I also overpronate when walking.
    Because of this I quickly develop fairly serious calluses around my big-toes and the balls of my feet when I increase the frequency and length of my regular hikes.

    When hiking anything over about 8 miles, especially on long, rocky, down-hill sections, the calluses will actually split from the softer skin, causing an extremely painful condition that lasts for a few days until things begin healing up again. It makes multi-day hikes hard to do, and it is standing in the way of accomplishing larger hiking goals that I am trying to work up to (e.g. single-day Presidential Traverse).

    Careful selection of boots (Merrell has a last that tends to be the most foot-friendly for me) and a liner sock inside my wool sock are two things that have helps put some extra miles on my hikes, but the more frequently I hike the worse the problem gets.
    Nothing has solved the issue entirely. Hiking with orthotics has helped a little, but they also are painful/uncomfortable over long distances so they limit my mileage in other ways.

    I'd appreciate feedback from anyone who has experienced a similar issue (and what, if anything, helped in your situation).

    Thanks!
    Last edited by ^MtnMike^; 07-23-2018 at 12:18 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Tom Rankin's Avatar
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    Would it be possible to train yourself to walk differently?
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  3. #3
    Senior Member bignslow's Avatar
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    I walk on my toes exclusively, my heals almost never hit the ground during a normal stride. I actually supinate (roll outwards) more than pronate due to my gait (very tight hamstrings and achillies). The only thing that started making my foot issues tolerable was switching from boots to trail runners. This allowed more flexibility of the foot through the stride (versus a rigid shank found in a hiking boot).

    I currently hike in Sportiva Raptors, though I have been considering switching to the cushy-foam maximalist shoes (e.g. Hoka or Altra)
    Warning: BigNSlow may not actually be all that slow

  4. #4
    Senior Member TJsName's Avatar
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    If you haven't tried already, I would suggest playing around with some lacing techniques. For example: http://archive.spright.com/news/ways...eve-foot-pain/ (just a quick good found that - I don't have a recommended site). I am a toe-heel stepper going downhill, and I have a wide foot, so I've found that skipping the first couple eyelets, then tying off with a surgeon's knot allows me to secure the heel but save the pinching and rubbing along my ball and big toe. I also wear Merrells (low cut Ventilators) as they are the only thing close to wide enough I have found. Good luck!
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  5. #5
    Senior Member Raven's Avatar
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    Ideas:

    1. The best blister or callus protection I've ever found was called Compeed. It's now marketed as Hydroseal by Bandaid for blisters. It's worth it and other than creating my own protection with a mole foam doughnut, it's as good as I've found.

    2. It sounds like you would benefit from more flexible feet skin. Calendula oil daily does incredibly well on feet, for healing wounds and softening calluses. You're not buying it in a store, you'd need an herbalist, gardener, medicinal plant specialist. In the meantime, I'd run olive oil on your feet daily and put socks on over.

    3. As an outside suggestion, maybe a trail runner with bigger toe box so less rubbing (?). Keen and Oboz are two that fit that description. I wore Keen exclusively for 5 pairs in a row before switching. Comfortable shoes.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member JoeCedar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bignslow View Post
    I walk on my toes exclusively, my heals almost never hit the ground during a normal stride. I actually supinate (roll outwards) more than pronate due to my gait (very tight hamstrings and achillies). The only thing that started making my foot issues tolerable was switching from boots to trail runners. This allowed more flexibility of the foot through the stride (versus a rigid shank found in a hiking boot).

    I currently hike in Sportiva Raptors, though I have been considering switching to the cushy-foam maximalist shoes (e.g. Hoka or Altra)

    Mike, take a look at the LaSportiva TX3 (fabric upper) or TX4 (leather upper) approach shoes. I left the Raptors because of poor upper durability and poor wet traction with the Ultras. The TX series have similar fit and great full lacing. Two years and they are holding up well. Wet traction on rock is as good as dry.

  7. #7
    Senior Member ^MtnMike^'s Avatar
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    Thumbs up Thanks for the feedback!

    Thanks to all for the suggestions,

    @ Tom - When I saw my doctor about orthotics, he gave me some pointers on retraining myself to walk differently - I have tried, but I tend to go into 'auto-pilot' on the trails and fall back into my old habits.
    @ bignslow, Raven and Joe - I actually haven't tried trail runners, I've tended to go the opposite way - toward tighter and more rigid soled boots to keep my feet firmly in place - so maybe I've just been exacerbating the problem all these years.
    @ TJsName - I'll try some of these lacing techniques on my next few hikes.
    @ Raven - I'll try these to soften up and protect the existing calluses until they go away. Thanks!

    Mike
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