You’ve bought a new pair of hiking boots and they seemed to fit really well at the shop, but now when you’ve actually started hiking in them, you feel that your feet keep sliding forward. That’s one of the worst feelings that you can have as a hiker, which is why in this article, we’ll teach you how to stop your feet from sliding forward in hiking boots.
Why Do Your Feet Slide Forward in Hiking Boots?
There are two ways how your feet can slide in hiking boots. They can slide up and down, which will usually result in blisters on the back of your heels. But they can also slide forward and backward, which will result in your toes hitting the toebox and damaging your toenails in the long run.
Your feet keep sliding forward in hiking boots because the boots are too long or too short. If they’re too short, you’ll feel a lot of pressure on your toenails. But if they’re too long, your feet will slide forward and backward.
Although most commonly heel slippage is caused by improperly sized hiking boots, it can also happen due to other reasons, such as you wearing the wrong socks, the arch support wearing out, and improperly laced hiking boots. Even if your boots are too large, heel slippage can be fixed with various techniques, such as adding new insoles, using tongue pads, changing to different socks, or lacing the shoes with a different technique.
What Is Hikers Toenail and Why You Should Be Afraid Of It
If you’re new to the world of hiking, you probably haven’t heard of “hikers toenail”, but if you have, you’ll agree that it’s one of the most disgusting aspects of long-distance hiking. Essentially, “hikers toenail” means when your toenail eventually becomes black and falls off completely. It’s a very painful experience, but it doesn’t mean that you have to stop hiking. It’s just a part of long-distance hiking that eventually happens to most people.
If you’re walking very long distances every day, no matter how comfortable shoes you have, eventually you’d get hiker’s toenail. But if you’d be walking for just several weeks, it could be avoided by making sure that your toes aren’t pressured against the toe box. Feet slippage just accelerates hiker’s toenail, so if you’re planning to start your first long-distance hike, you absolutely must keep your toes comfortable at all times.
Another important aspect of avoiding hiker’s toenail is to regularly cut your toenails as shortly as you can, which will reduce the pressure from your toenails brushing against the shoe. So bringing a multitool or a swiss army knife with scissors is really important.
How to Keep Your Feet From Sliding Forward in Hiking Boots
There are many ways how you can avoid foot slippage in hiking boots. Usually, a combination of all of them is a good way to make sure that your feet won’t slide forward in hiking boots.
1. Wear More Layers of Socks
When your feet are sliding forward or up and down in hiking boots, chances are that they’re a bit too large for your feet. You could try fixing that by wearing two layers of socks or wearing thicker socks. The best combination that you could choose is wearing a thinner, moisture-wicking sock underneath (polyester, nylon) and a thicker, cushioned merino wool sock on the outside. This combination is great for comfort, breathability, blisters, and keeping your feet dry. When your feet are sliding forward, just try adding an additional wool layer on the outside, which should, hopefully, keep your feet in place.
2. Double-Check That Your Laces Are Tied Tightly Enough
Without getting into any complicated lacing techniques, sometimes the hiking boot just isn’t tied tightly enough. If your feet are sliding up and down, try lacing the part closer to your toebox tighter. And if your feet are sliding forward and your toes are pushing into the toebox, try lacing the upper part around your ankle tighter. In combination with thicker socks, this should probably stop foot slippage issues for most people.
Read next: Why Do People Wear Cowbells When Hiking?
3. When Walking Downhill, Always Tie Your Shoes More Tightly
Did you know that you should tie your hiking boots more tightly when walking downhill and more loosely when walking uphill? This is a tried and proven technique to keep your feet comfortable at all times and to reduce blisters. You should keep the lower part of the laces at roughly the same tension, but before long downhill stretches you should tie the upper parts around your ankles more tightly, and more loosely before long uphill stretches.
When you’re walking uphill, your ankles need to be looser, otherwise, you might get some bruises around the ankles. And when walking downhill, your feet are naturally sliding forward, so adjusting the laces more tightly helps. This is actually the main reason why most hiking boots have quick-tie mechanisms on the upper part of the boot.
4. Try a Different Lacing Technique to Keep Your Toebox Loose and Your Ankles Tight
There are many lacing techniques for hiking boots, but here are the three most common ones that you should know when you experience any discomfort in hiking boots. The main idea behind them is that with specific knots, you lock in some parts of the laces more tightly than others. The easiest one is the “surgeon’s knot”, which is essentially a regular knot with one additional loop, as shown in the picture above. You just need to learn how to do a surgeon’s knot, and you’ll be able to do all of the techniques mentioned below. It’s a very valuable thing to learn if you’re taking hiking seriously.
4.1 Lacing Technique 1: When Your Feet Are Sliding Up and Down
When your feet are slipping up and down, usually the lower part of your boot is too loose, so you need to tighten up the lower parts. To keep your toebox comfortable keep the first 1-3 loops somewhat loose and then use a surgeon’s knot 2-3 times to keep the middle part of the laces tight. You can keep the upper parts around the ankle loose or tight, depending on your preference.
4.2 Lacing Technique 2: When Your Feet Are Sliding Forward and Backward
When your feet are sliding forward, the parts around the ankle are usually too loose. Keep the laces around the toebox somewhat loose for comfort and just before your heel, where the laces turn vertical, use a surgeon’s knot 2-3 times to keep the part around the ankles locked in.
Read Next: How To Tie Hiking Boots For Narrow Feet
4.3 Lacing Technique 3: When You Feel Too Much Pressure on the Toebox
When you feel too much pressure around your toes, usually the laces at the bottom are too tight. To compensate for this, you can skip several loops at the bottom, and then use 1-3 surgeon knots at the top to keep the rest of the boot laced tightly.
Read Next: How To Lace Hiking Boots For Wide Feet
5. Get a New Insole With Better Arch Support
When hiking boots get worn down, usually, the arch support of the insole gets too thin, which can cause your toes to start pushing against the toe box. When the arch support is in a good condition, the insole is curved to the shape of your feet, and when your feet are curved they’re a bit shorter. But when the arch support wears down, the bottom of the shoe becomes flat and your feet become a bit longer in that position, which pushes the toes forward.
That’s why it’s important to regularly replace the insoles, and preferably, invest in high-quality ones with a lot of cushioning around the arch support and around the toebox. Getting a high-quality insole often fixes most issues with foot slippage in hiking boots.
6. Use a Thicker Insole That Fills the Gap at the Bottom
If your feet are sliding up and down, a thicker insole might help with keeping them in place. There are special insoles made for this purpose, so you might want to try them out if a regular insole with good arch support doesn’t help.
7. Use a Tongue Pad
Another accessory that helps with feet sliding forward is a tongue pad. It’s attached to the hiking boot tongue, and keeps the hiking boot closer to your heel, instead of the toebox. Tongue pads are a good idea even if there’s no foot slippage because they act as additional padding around the tongue. Often the tongue is too thin and you can feel your laces brushing against your feet, so having a bit of padding there helps.
8. Get Your Shoes Fitted by a Professional
Although this isn’t a solution to any boots that you currently own, this is something that you should keep in mind the next time you’re buying hiking boots. Purchasing boots online can sometimes work, but it’s really a gamble because no matter how good the reviews are, everyone’s feet are unique.
So the next time you buy hiking boots, make sure to go to a reputable hiking store and get help from a professional. Ask the store employee to help you find a hiking boot that’s a good fit for you. They’ll usually know which boots are more comfortable and which have issues with feet sliding forward. Make sure to try out many different pairs and to walk a few minutes around the store to see if it’s really the right boot for you. Also, make sure to wear your hiking socks, instead of your regular ones.
Another thing that helps is properly breaking in your hiking boots, which will improve the overall comfort levels and reduce blisters.
9. Try Different Types of Hiking Footwear
If you’ve tried all of the points mentioned above and your feet are still sliding forward in hiking boots, maybe it’s time to try out other hiking footwear instead. Next time you go to a hiking gear store, try on various hiking shoes, lower or higher-cut hiking boots, and trail runners to see if maybe some of them feel better on your feet.
Although boots provide the most support and generally are better for mountains and when carrying heavier loads, hiking shoes can often achieve the same results. That said, it’s a good idea to do some ankle mobility exercises if you’re switching to lower-cut hiking boots or to hiking shoes, as they are more likely to cause an injury if your ankles aren’t mobile enough.
10. Getting Slightlighty Oversized Boots Can Fix Feet Slippage
And lastly, the next time you buy hiking boots, you should get 1/2 oversized hiking three-season hiking boots and 1 full-size oversized winter hiking boots. It’s very common knowledge for experienced hikers but if you’re new to hiking, you might not know this. Getting oversized boots to accommodate feet swelling on longer hikes, and proper lacing techniques help you keep certain areas of the boot wider and more comfortable, which reduces blisters. In winter, you can just add more layers of socks, which will add an additional layer of insulation.
When your feet are sliding forward or up and down in new hiking boots, you might think that it isn’t fixable, but in reality, there are a lot of things that you can do. You can use various lacing techniques to keep certain areas tighter than others, add insoles with better arch support, add tongue pads, or wear thicker socks. Most likely, it isn’t the end of the world – you just need to adjust certain things and your hiking boots will feel comfortable again.