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Hiking Boots - Selection and Proper Fit

Brad Parkinson

These are probably the most important equipment for hiking. The following aspects are important:

Comfortable fit.
Good Traction – lugs that reduce slipping.
Waterproof – allow stepping through small puddles without leaks.
Adequate ankle support – particularly for uneven pathways.
Ample toe room – helps prevent “hikers- toe” – including loss of toenails.

I particularly like “Keen” boots.  They have very large toe-boxes as well as the other listed attributes.  The REI store in Madonna Plaza area has them in stock. (I do not own any stock in Keen).

From the “Health Hiker”:

“A black or bruised toenail is a common trail souvenir. The discoloration under the nail comes from trauma and bruising to the toenail bed. Known as a sublingual hematoma, this malady can happen due to an acute episode of trauma or be the effect of cumulative stress on the area. Usually, this discoloration resolves on its own, although it may take a while. In some cases, the bleeding can be enough to raise the nail from the bed and cause pain. You'll want to consult with your doctor if this happens so that they can drill a few holes in the nail to drain the blood and relieve the pressure.


The most common cause of toenail bruising is ill-fitting shoes. Sure, your shoes might be comfy at the start of the trail, but your foot likely swells after a few miles, and suddenly, the shoe is too small. Trauma occurs when the nail continues to hit the end or top of the shoe. The foot is most vulnerable to this when hiking downhill. Sliding the foot to the rear and snug lacing can reduce susceptibility.  Conversely, if the shoe is too big, the foot will slide down toward the toe, and the same mechanism of injury will occur.

Prevention strategies include buying hiking shoes at least a half size bigger than usual. Also, consider your need for a wider size based on how much your feet typically swell. Another strategy is to lace your shoes using a runner's loop or ankle lock to keep your heel well-seated in the back of the shoe. Lastly, keep toenails trimmed so that they don't extend over the toes and hit the inside of the shoe.”

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