Showing results for 
Show  only  | Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Welcome REI Co-op Members!
We're glad you're here. If you can't access the Co-op Members section of the community,
click here for instructions on how to join the section that's just for you.

Seeking a downhill hiking solution for sore toes

I recently came back from a backpacking trip and I was a little nervous about going on this trip. Before this trip I went on another hike that was 12 miles roundtrip and my toes were destroyed. I soaked them in epsom salt and after about a week and a half of healing a small corner of the big toe nail turned purple but stopped aching/hurting. I thought that this was fine. I bought new socks and watched an an REI video on how to correctly tie laces on hiking boots but after this trip my toes still kept jamming against my boot and my soles were in pain at the end. The boots that I have I believe I bought them at the REI garage sale back in 2016 or 2017. I'm wondering if I need to get some cushion sole support or if I just need to throw these out and get a new pair? Hopefully I can get some help on this, thank you!

4 Replies

I'm not an REI employee but...

Insoles with correctly positioned arch support might help. A different sock choice can also help.  But it sounds like your boots are too small or not a wide enough fit in the toe box.  One of the main purposes of a boot vs a shoe is to keep your toes away from the end of the toe box when you travel downhill so if it is not working,  it is likely the wrong size or the wrong boot for you.  Toes tend to splay out as we walk so what may seem comfortable at home can become too small after some distance so you may need to size up if that is your experience.

Also unless you are hiking off trail or in snow,  boots are not always the best choice.  Many now prefer lighter weight trail runner style shoes for backpacking on trails. 

Hiking poles can help.  Also possibly lowering the base weight of your pack.

@Suzannc21 yikes, we're so sorry to hear about your toes - sounds really painful. When toes slam into the front of boots on the downhill, we're either dealing with boots that are a bit too short or boots that have too much volume for your feet and therefore aren't holding your feet back in the heel cup properly on the downhill. So, we'd want to explore both of these possibilities:

  • Start by pulling out the insole from the boot and lining your foot up on it, starting at the heel; when you stand up fully, how much room remains in the front of your toes on the insole? We typically recommend about a finger press in front of your toes, so if there's less than that, the boot is probably a size too small and likely can't be altered to work.
  • If there's plenty of space in front of your toes on the insole, the length of the boot may not be the problem so we'd want to explore the volume of the boot compared to the volume of your foot. Adding insoles, as @OldGuyot mentioned, is usually our first suggestion, as they can hold your arch in place, lock your heel in the heel cup, thereby keeping you foot from flattening and sliding forward in the boot on the downhill.

Because footwear fit is tricky online, we'd recommend that you either set up a free virtual outfitting appointment to talk to one of our employees OR bring your boots and head in to your closest REI store (most have reopened) for help modifying them or picking new ones. We hope this helps get you started!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Yikes!  Sorry about your toes!

Sounds like you need a larger size boot, and/or your feet are sliding forward causing the toe jamming.

REI stores normally have a fake rock slope incline for trying on boots, walk to the top and stand with your feet pointed down, allowing your feet to be drawn down and forward into the toe of the boot.  If your toes make contact, try a larger size. A correct lacing job will help prevent too much sliding forward in the boot.

That's what that rock thing is for, it always helps me to decide.

Throw them out.  IMO, start with eliminating the toe jams.  When you're at the store, use some thick socks and some thick cushion insoles (if you're going in that direction, which I recommend), then try the downward rock-slope.

This should fix the problem.

REI Member Since 1979

Thank you!