Best Hiking Shoes to Avoid Ankle Pain

To really enjoy fall hiking, you need more than colorful autumn vistas — you need the proper footwear.

Woman hiking trail in woods

If you find yourself hiking in the wrong pair of shoes or boots, it could not only ruin the day of your hike, you could develop foot and ankle pain that could last for days, weeks or longer. To avoid this, make sure you have the proper footwear before you start any fall treks. Here are a few things to look for when selecting the proper footwear for fall hiking:

Hiking Boots/Shoes:

While you may have a pair of shoes that is comfortable for everyday wear, that pair will not offer the extra support you need when you are hiking in the great outdoors. Neither will your athletic shoes be the best choice. Instead, look for footwear that has been designed specifically for hiking.

Height/Weight:

Low-cut or mid-cut hiking boots are best for trails that are well-maintained and for day hikes. If you are doing light backpacking, look for hiking boots that are ankle height for additional support. If you plan to do more intense hiking on rougher terrain and are carrying a larger pack, try styles with above ankle support.

Fit/Comfort:

Any boots you try on should fit snugly at the heel, but your toes should have enough room for some movement. Look for styles with a wide enough toe box for comfort. Also, consider these two comfort-related factors:

  • Padding: Make sure there is enough padding in the tongue of the hiking boots. If not, long downhill or steep uphill hiking could become especially painful. Proper ankle padding is important too, since it helps ensure a secure fit and minimizes chafing and blistering.
  • Socks: When you test the fit of new hiking boots, try them on with the same type of socks you will wear when you are hiking.

Quality/Durability:

Think quality and durability over look and style when shopping for hiking boots. Any style you choose should be made of high-quality materials and should be able to withstand a variety of weather conditions. Also, make sure the boots are waterproof and have some insulation, so your feet will stay both warm and dry.

Stability/Traction:

Think of the terrain where you will be hiking — will it be slippery or steep in places? If so, pay special attention to the sole of the boot and the traction it will offer. Also, be aware that hiking boots offer stiffer soles than regular shoes, but some will be stiffer than others, and this may make them heavier. If you are taking a simple day hike on paved trails, you may be better off wearing a lighter weight, low-cut boot with a sole that is not as stiff as a hiking boot.

If You Need Guidance

Fall hiking is wonderful for both physical and mental health. But be wise before you go — don’t risk foot pain by heading out with improper footwear. If you’re unsure of what is best for you, make an appointment with an orthopedic doctor. He or she can recommend hiking boots or prescribe custom-molded orthotics (shoe inserts) for you if needed.

One final tip: make sure you break in any boots. That means wearing them for a day or two before your hiking trip. This way, you can identify problem areas with the boots, so you can avoid discomfort when you are out on the trail.