Running from Bears is Tough on Sore Ankles: Choosing the Right Shoes for Hiking and Backpacking
Posted by Jenn F. on Wednesday, March 13th, 2013
I love hiking. There’s something about a day spent in the woods, scrambling over fallen trees, examining strange mushrooms, and spotting flitting birds that just gets a person in touch with herself. The quiet, solitude, and physical challenges are all meditative and empowering. It’s almost enough to inspire me to pursue a nomadic lifestyle, relying on my trusty feet to take me to far-flung remote places where I can commune with the universe. But it’s something rather pedestrian that holds me back from following that hippie dream: my rotten ankles.
Once, I turned my ankle in a hidden rock and felt the ligaments pop as I fell. The ankle swelled immediately and was so painful I couldn’t put even the slightest bit of weight on it. Fortunately a park ranger strolled by about ten minutes after the incident and helped me limp back to civilization. Who knows what might have happened to me if I hadn’t had help! I have chronically weak ankles from a lifetime of soccer injuries and should have known to invest in some real heavy-duty hiking boots before my first excursion. This is good advice for anyone with foot problems (and even for those with healthy feet): great shoes can save you from a world of hurt, and if they help to prevent an injury, they can even save your life. Maybe some nomadic travel is ahead of me… provided I can find the right shoes.
So what shoe is right for you? Well, it all depends on your feet.
I’ve heard great things about this shoe: it’s a great hiking boot for women with a wide toebox, thick sole, and excellent grip. You can even remove the supportive insert and replace it with custom orthotics. The manufacturer recommends these shoes for women with a wide range of foot problems including metatarsalgia, bunions, hammertoes, hallux limitus, hallux rigidus, tendonitis, hypermobility, Morton’s neuroma, capsulitis, osteoarthritis (osteo and rheumatoid), plantar fasciitis, and for people recovering from foot fractures. This isn’t the best shoe for ankle instability, however.
If you’re like me and your ankles are shot, this boot will provide excellent support. It’s recommended for all of the above problems but has a strong high top, perfect for those with ankle hypermobility or instability and with ankle arthritis.
In addition to investing in well-made, supportive boots, you can decrease your odds of injury with some regular training. “For hikers, I suggest stabilizing exercises for prevention,” says our own Dr. Nadia Levy (interviewed here). These include using a resistance band to flex and point to build muscle tone, standing on one foot to strengthen the ankle and calf, doing calf raises on a stair to build tone and flexibility in calves and in your Achilles tendon, and static toe flexion to strengthen the small muscles in the toes and feet.
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.