Dear Hiking Lady,
I am hiking Half Dome and the last time I did a big hike was the Grand Canyon. I lost quite a few toe nails… any ideas? A friend of mine hiked Mt. Whitney and the same thing happened. How do I stop losing toenails from hiking!?
Lisa, Los Angeles, CA
Oh no! This is horrible, Lisa! There is no reason that you and your friend need to lose toenails when hiking.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Buy hiking shoes that are at least 1/2 size larger than your street shoes. Your feet need space in your boots, and in no circumstances should they ever touch the front of your boot. Check out my 10 Tips for Mastering Hiking Boot shopping.
- Trim your toenails. If your toenails are neatly trimmed and filed, you’re much less likely to have them cause problems.
- Make sure your boots are laced properly, especially on downhills. When you’re headed downhill, you need to make sure your heel doesn’t slip forward. You can’t let your toes hit the front of the boot. Check out these pictures where I show how I lace my low top hiking shoes to prevent heel slippage, and also this video I recorded to help another reader who had heel blisters. The key is to keep your heel secure in the boot – it will prevent your toes from hitting the front of your boot (and losing toenails), and it will help prevent heel blisters).
- Make sure you’re wearing the right socks: sock liner and outer sock. I’ve written a lot about this because I find it to be extremely important. My favorites are toe sock liners, combined with a SmartWool hiking sock.
There’s no reason for missing toenails! I’ve done my share of long-distance and steep hiking, and never come close to losing a toenail.
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