I have very little hiking experience and have never purchased or worn hiking boots before. The reason I’m considering them is to protect my feet while doing landscape maintenance on steep slopes (30% – 75%) having surfaces of bare dirt, shale-like rubble, gravel plus dirt, bare rock, tall grasses mixed with seedlings, short grasses, and dead leaves. I’ve suffered 2 incidences of over-stretched tendons and muscles, plus some bruising on the soles of my feet (specifically the ball and heel) after wearing high top work boots, and running shoes. The first instance took 2-3 months to heal. The second time I experimented, changed foot position often, sat down to work, stopped working after only a couple hours, and still suffered heel pain which has taken 3 weeks to heal. The position that seems the most strenuous is standing and walking cross-slope; I end up walking on the outside seam of the shoe or boot (where the sole meets the top). My question is, will a hiking or backpacking boot help alleviate this issue? Would crampons help? Another factor to keep in mind is heat; I’m working in the Caribbean. Thank you for any thoughts and advice you can give.
-Beth, U.S. Virgin Islands
Thanks for your question, Beth, and here’s to helping you have happy feet!
I definitely think you should try a pair of backpacking boots instead of work boots or running shoes – here’s why:
- You work on varied terrain, so need a versatile shoe. Backpacking boots are much more versatile than running shoes and work boots.
- Your running shoes provide very little support on the surfaces you described. They are designed to cushion your feet when you run on smooth asphalt or concrete surfaces. That is completely unsuitable for rubble, gravel, and bare rock. I can only imagine how easy it must have been to bruise the soles of your feet!
- Work boots are good if you are on a construction site and kicking down doors with the steel toe. However, they are far less flexible than hiking boots, so I could see how they could end up straining your calf muscles and heels as you walked up and down the steep slopes. Plus, they are generally much heavier than backpacking boots.
- I’d recommend trying a pair of Asolo Stynger boots – they are my personal favorites because they are relatively lightweight, yet provide very good support. Be sure to wear moisture wicking socks so you don’t get blisters in the hot Carribean sun!
- Backpacking boots have stiffer shanks than running shoes, which have no support. That will help you when you walk on the edges of the slopes because your foot will remain flat in the boot, rather than contorting to bend with the angle of the slope.
As far as trying crampons, that would be more of a hindrance than a help! They are fantastic at providing traction on ice, but are nearly impossible to walk in on rock and gravel.
Hope that helps your feet!
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