MSR Snowshoes and foot pain

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Well-known member
Jul 29, 2005
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The Hinterlands of North Central MA
Hi -- did a quick search and found nothing.

Just wondering if anyone else find that the balls of thier feet start to ache after several miles on MSR snowshoes??

Not sure if my issue is my foot, or foot placement. Pressure point seems to be caused by "claw" on snowshoe.

Thanks for any input.

I have, apparently, bruised the top of my right foot under the strap closest to my leg. It happened on Owl's Head, probably because it was not tight enough and I kept sliding forward.

Otherwise, no foot pain elsewhere.

I have, apparently, bruised the top of my right foot under the strap closest to my leg. It happened on Owl's Head, probably because it was not tight enough and I kept sliding forward.

Otherwise, no foot pain elsewhere.


I have done exactly the same -- and this was alleviated by proper tightening.

I've also over-tightened, and caused similar pain/bruising. :(
I developed a painful area on the top of my left foot just behind my big toe which became quite black and blue after a 6.5 mile Catskill mountain hike this past weekend. I'm trying to figure out if the strap of my MSR Lightening Ascents was too tight, or perhaps my boot laces in conjunction with the snowshoe strap were too tight. I used the same snowshoes last season but use different boots this year.
Hmm...all good thoughts...the issue seems to be the ball of my foot, though, and I suspect its the way my flexible boots are pressing into it...although I've hiked with others with flexible soled boots who don't have the same problem, for most people its a strap issue across the toes.
I've never had a problem but I took some students out for a short hike to the Roost Saturday and one of them mentioned ball-of-the-foot pain. It was the first I'd heard of it and passed it off as it being her first time on snowshoes. sounds like there could be more to it than that. I'll ask her more about it.
for most people its a strap issue across the toes.

That's what it was for me too, the strap over my foot would cause some pain on the descent.

Since there's no defined stop for the front of your boot (like there is on Tubbs snowshoes), have you tried positioning your feet a little farther forward or farther back in the shoes? Seems like there's some room to play around with that on the MSRs....
Top of foot

I haven't had the ball of the foot pain, but I have had the top of my foot pain. Severe, so much that I hiked to Isolation in microspikes when I probably should have had the shoes on. Not sure what to do about it. Too tight causes the pain and too loose makes other issues.

I'm thinkin' I will not be buying another pair of MSRs. The lightning ascents break and now I'm having this pain issue.

Do you center the ball of your foot over the marks on the snowshoe? I use soft boots (North Face) and have not had this problem even over long hikes. Do you walk (hike) with lots of foot flex so you are up on the ball of your feet more? One last thought, have you had snow bunching under that part of your foot. I did this with my old snowshoes and had the pain you are describing.
Thanks, everyone. I'm thinking I need to push my right foot back a bit, that's the one that gives me the most pain, its also my leading leg.

No, not a snowballing issue but that's a good thought.

I wore Koflach's yesterday and began to feel the pain even with those on after the end of the day, so maybe I've got a bone spur or something forming. Doesn't sound like this is a common complaint.

I'll play around with where I put my foot and see if that takes the pressure off.

Next snowshoes will be the new Tubbs Flex, though, they really have some nice features!
I have had the same thing you are describing, but in ice climbing boots. The insole is super thin and the boot is so stiff that the ball of my foot starts to hurt from the pressure and I can occasionally feel like the bones in my foot rotate or whatnot when I walk. Quite painfull when putting in some serious mileage. I am going to try different insoles, hopefully I can find a decently thick pair for some cushion without cramping my toes.
Not sure how that really helps you in your case, except to say I know what you are talking about. I don't really notice it while snowshoeing, but only because I have an older set of tubbs with the strap across the toe and it usually makes my feet get fairly cold and numb depending on what boot I am wearing. It is suprising that you are having the problem with your koflachs as well considering the thickness and cushion present in them. Perhaps your liners are broken down enough that is isn't providing the cushion you should have.
Hopefully not this, but for what it's worth...

I've had trouble with pain beneath my bigtoes of my feet - I was told by a foot doctor that I visited afew months back it's abit of arthritis (hammertoe forming). His suggestion was looser foot wear, and of course, shoe/boot inserts at $$$. Thankfully, he made some temporaries for me using a 1/4" wool fabric pile with an adhesive backing, cut to fit around my existing running shoe foot beds in a small circle beneath my big toes. They worked like a charm - I'm relatively pain free - until I put on my plastic boots (which don't have the inserts)... ...but that just might be plastic boots! :rolleyes:

I've since found and ordered the same wool blend pile material on a medical supplier's website. I made my own inserts for other shoes - they stick to the existing footbed, and are not permanent, but if I have to make new ones on occasion, it's still less expensive in $. It seems to help when I'm walking - I haven't yet tried it on my kofach's and other pack boots, but I will and I'll post results.

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FWIW, I used to get pressure spots on certain spots on the soles of my feet after cramponing in my K-boots. (K-boots are flexible.) No such problems after I switched to my rigid mountaineering boots.

I think it mostly had to do with the pressure distribution. Also crampons and MSR snow shoes enable you to put much higher side forces on your boot than bare booting allows.

I am fairly sure my issue is caused by my foot "wedging" under the strap. I'm not sure why that particular trip caused this problem. This is new this year. It could be the boot sliding in the binding or my foot sliding in the boot - probably the former. I've since made extra certain to tighten the first toe strap, but I must say the binding on the Tubbs looks good because it wouldn't allow for any boot slide at all.

I had a similar story with ski boots with foot pain that made me cry and the way around it was to
have the lower buckles loose and tighten the upper ones securely around lower legs..this might work to a point with the plastic hiking boots as well

for me I think the cause of the foot pain is not the footwear but rather the tightness of the boot over the arch of the foot.
while I never had problems except for straps coming undone with msrs I can say the tubbs distribute strap pressure well with little movement and feel very comfortable even after a long descent

I wear soft boots..(north face 4 shadows)
My friend had similiar pain that got worse over the years and it eventually was identified as Mortons Neuroma. Some times after a day of hiking especially with snowshoes, every step was incredibly painful. After it got worse and suffering with it for a few seasons and seeing a couple of doctors, he found a good podiatrist who made him a custom insert and told him to wear wider shoes which solved his problem. It generally occured when he wore plastic boots or ski boots (which tend to be on the narrow side). Given that most snowshoe bindings tend to clamp the foot into the binding side to side, this effectively is acting like a pair of narrow shoes by compressing the foot side to side.

Several years ago, I designed some custom snowshoe bindings for Tubbs that were sized for a specfic width and size of boot (size 13 wide Scarpas that were too big for a binding). I built them so that the majority of the side to side support rode on the sides of vibram soles rather than on the sides of the boots. They worked well but due to my lack of fabrication equipment, I had to make them out of stainless steel, so they are not really light. Even with a standard binding, I suspect that stiffer vibram sole would keep the foot from getting squeezed on a standard binding. My other concept, never tried, was to retrofit a triple N BC ski binding onto a snowshoe and hike with backcountry boots. I have seen the 3 pin binding conversions, but contrary to Doug Pauls experience (expressed on a recent thread) most folks I have talked to dont like to hike with the tab on the front of the boot. The triple N BC concept would take away all the side to side clamping force that a standard binding inevitably creates while still being capable of transferring side hill loads to the snowshoes.If it works, there is probably a future business model out there making custom bindings for snowshoes.:)

The general caveat applies that I dont think anyone in this thread is a skilled foot doctor/podiatrist and we dont play one on TV, so its worth seeing someone that specializes in foot issues. If they say cortisone, find someone else.
I've had sharp, burning pain on my forefoot by my toes. The pain seems worse when I'm wearing less flexible boots or the wrong (not Green Superfeet; they are the best!) inserts. The pain sometimes feels like bones (nerves?) snapping or crunching and when it happens it is with the leading foot, usually going uphill. Some days the pain is intermittent, sometimes it lasts longer, other times not at all. I don't have the pain at all when I'm wearing my street shoes.

From my research it appears to be a Morton's Neuroma, but I haven't had a medical opinion on the problem yet. Since the pain comes and goes, I've wondered, also, if it might be one of the aches and pains that roam around my body from Lyme disease. It surely is unpleasant, but it's nothing I've talked about when it is happening on the trail. I hate being a complainer.
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The general caveat applies that I dont think anyone in this thread is a skilled foot doctor/podiatrist and we dont play one on TV, so its worth seeing someone that specializes in foot issues. If they say cortisone, find someone else.

Point well taken. It's definitely worth consulting a podiatrist if you're having foot pain not relieved by obvious things like: changing or repositioning snowshoe or crampon straps, foot beds, etc. It's NOT worth crippling yourself to save the time, effort and expense of visiting a medical professional.

I visited a Podiatrist first before making changes to my foodbeds / inserts.
Ditto with ankle problems - I saw a Ortho PA and MD, and then under went months of physical therapy before settling on a set of exercises that ensures that I'm less likely to injure my ankles or feet.

It happened to me yesterday on the Kinsmans. Maybe it was the hard packed trail. Only on my left foot --right under the base of my middle toe. Tells me maybe that shoe strap was a little too tight??
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