Most of us know how important it is to get the right fit dialed in for our ski boots, but when it comes to hiking boots, we often try on a few pairs, then quickly deem our footwear good to go. But if you’ve ever rubbed a spot raw hiking the steep Ute Trail or experienced knee or back pain after an outing to Cathedral Lake, it’s time to tune into how your hiking boots fit.
No surprise, blisters and hot spots come from ill-fitting shoes. Your foot moves around inside and skin gets irritated by the friction, or a pressure point in the shoe continually clamps down on your foot. Likewise, knee and back issues, as well as hard-to-pinpoint pains and soreness, can all come from boots not optimized for the best fit.
Aids like insoles or shims can help. “We highly recommend after-market insoles,” says Sam Barg, footwear buyer for Aspen’s Ute Mountaineer. “The footbeds that come in these shoes are just foam, with no structure or support.”
In addition to selling insoles from Superfeet and Sole, the Ute recently started working with Sue Ann Latterman, who assesses the topography of a client’s foot right in the store. She’ll then choose a good match from a stock of some three dozen premade footbeds she’s developed for her company, Agiliti Orthotics, and send the client home with an instant semi-custom insole.
Superfeet makes a range of off-the-rack, trim-to-foot footbeds that can improve the fit of a boot up to 90 percent, claims Jeff Gray, the brand’s director of outreach and fit. Benefits include more support and stability, which translates into no toenail bang when hiking downhill and less blister-causing friction. “It cradles the foot from the bottom like the bucket seat in a car,” he says. Gray recommends starting with a Superfeet Green insole and trying out a couple of pairs in the store to see which feels best.
Aspenite Erik Ward, who’s become known as an expert ski-boot fitter through his company The Foot Foundation, has more recently turned his attention to hiking and walking footwear. Ward’s method involves measuring the foot’s pronation, then bringing it into a more neutral position with a customized rubber wedge that lies under a standard footbed. “The more you pronate, the higher your chances of injury,” Ward notes. “We figure out what degree the foot needs to be for you to have your most relaxed balance.”
Ward and his team are currently working on consumer-friendly technology for people to self-measure their pronation and then buy the appropriate wedge. In the meantime, DIY kits ($100) are available through the Foot Foundation’s website (footfoundation.com) that include four medium-density wedges of varying degrees that you can play with to find the optimal fit.