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Maybe the boots don't fit?

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Maybe the boots don't fit?

Postby Jaskic » Tue Jul 16, 2013 12:33 am

Two years ago I purchased a pair of La Sportive Makalu boots. Overall they have been great. I've used them on class 4 rocky hiking in the northeast and with crampons in the Cascades. They've been with me on three climbs now. But this last one I noticed, more so than the first, that my toes hurt (pretty bad) on the descent. When I am finally done the big toe on each foot feels like the nail or nail bed is bruised. As in very painful to the touch.

So, I was initially hoping to get an easy solution for this, i.e. wrapping my big toes before I put the boots on or orthotics or some other solution. Someone mentioned to me that this actually means that the boots don't fit. Unfortunately, I have a climb on Shuksan scheduled for a month from now. I know these boots, and they are well on their way to being broken in. So I am afraid to get new boots now and try to break them in just walking around in them for the next few weeks and them jump right onto a serious mountain with them.

Looking for thoughts/advice/guidance from the experts!!

Thanks!
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Re: Maybe the boots don't fit?

Postby Ben Beckerich » Tue Jul 16, 2013 1:26 am

I've never broken-in mountain boots.. If I do my diligence and find a boot that fits, there's no pain for the life of the relationship. I think people stubbornly pick boots they want, despite the fact that they just plain dont fit and never will.

I tried and quickly gave up Sportiva entirely last year... they just plain don't fit. I tried sizing down, up, layering socks, different kinds of socks... as much as I wanted Sportiva boots to work, I could not get around pinky-toe pain. Finally giving up, and selecting boots by fit instead, I have had exactly zero pain from the boots themselves.
where am i going... and why am i in this handbasket?
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Re: Maybe the boots don't fit?

Postby anita » Tue Jul 16, 2013 1:42 am

I have the same problem with my toe but it's because of a tendon that keeps it from flexing properly, so after every hike, my toe nail is totally busted up.
right now, the nail is detaching and I've just cut it right back to where it's still attached. it's a pain in climbing shoes but worse in runners/hiking boots going downhill. I'm going to be putting a lot of mileage on it by this weekend so I don't know how I'm going to manage other than taping the toe in question before going downhill, making sure the boot is laced up real tight and then just soaking it in any cold water I can find.

mind you, in my ice climbing boots (scarpa cumbres and ls spantiks) I don't have this problem. maybe it's the layering of socks that helps cushion a bit?
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Re: Maybe the boots don't fit?

Postby ExcitableBoy » Tue Jul 16, 2013 4:07 am

Do they hurt on the way up? When you kick steps or front point do your toes touch the front of the boot? If so, the boots don't fit. La Sportivas generally fit narrow feet better and your feet may be too wide for them.

If they only start hurting on the descent, and only occasionally, you may be able to fix the problem by adjusting the lacing or wearing a thinner sock combination. Also, make sure to keep your toe nails trimmed.
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Re: Maybe the boots don't fit?

Postby Tonka » Tue Jul 16, 2013 4:53 am

Boy are these words to listen to.
I think people stubbornly pick boots they want, despite the fact that they just plain dont fit and never will.
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Re: Maybe the boots don't fit?

Postby Yury » Tue Jul 16, 2013 5:20 am

Jaskic wrote:... my toes hurt (pretty bad) on the descent. When I am finally done the big toe on each foot feels like the nail or nail bed is bruised. As in very painful to the touch.

So, I was initially hoping to get an easy solution for this, i.e. wrapping my big toes before I put the boots on or orthotics or some other solution.
...
So I am afraid to get new boots now ...
In case everything is OK except your nails - it means that these boots are too small.
The only solution is to get the same model at least half a size bigger.
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Re: Maybe the boots don't fit?

Postby Jaskic » Tue Jul 16, 2013 1:19 pm

Thanks all- first off, I have no issues on the ascent. And last year, when I used them for the first time with crampons, I didn't have any issues with kick-step. It literally wasn't until the descent (and even then, only on rocky terrain...boot skiing didn't seem to cause an issue). I did a lot of due diligence before this purchase (primarily because of the cost), and at this point, if the solution is to get bigger boots (either this model bigger or another model all together) I am OK with that. My primary concern is doing that right now, 30 days out from a major (for me at least) alpine climb on Shuksan. My current pair, despite the descent pain, do great on the ascent and keep me warm and comfortable. Brining a foreign pair of boots to Shuksan, for my first climb in them, seems daunting and risky.
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Re: Maybe the boots don't fit?

Postby ExcitableBoy » Tue Jul 16, 2013 2:41 pm

You may try lacing the boots tighter across the top of the foot to lock the foot in it doesn't slide forward. I had pretty sore toes in a pair of boots I know fit very well on the descent because I had not tightened them properly. Are there any hills you can hike up and down to experiment with lacing and sock systems?

Some folks here in the Cascades wear running shoes on the approach and deproach and carry their boots, wearing them only when they hit the glacier. I saw a guide on Rainier hiking in flip flops even. That could solve your problem for your Shuksan climb while you find a pair of boots that fit better for the long term, if fit is truly the issue.
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Re: Maybe the boots don't fit?

Postby jdenyes » Tue Jul 16, 2013 2:48 pm

I would check out this page, I had a different issue (bruising on the top of the foot) but they have solutions in here for more than one problem
http://sectionhiker.com/hiking-boot-lacing-techniques/
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Re: Maybe the boots don't fit?

Postby brrrdog » Wed Jul 17, 2013 9:12 pm

I have the same issue. Never thought about different ways to lace.
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Re: Maybe the boots don't fit?

Postby Damien Gildea » Thu Jul 18, 2013 2:29 am

Ben Beckerich wrote: I think people stubbornly pick boots they want, despite the fact that they just plain dont fit and never will.


True. I see a lot of nice Scarpa boots around but they're just too wide and too short in my 'regular' size so I just can't use them. Whereas pretty much every LaSportiva boot fits right out of the box.

Different lacing patterns/tensions can work but can cause other problems, such as increasing pressure on the top of your foot that can lead to numbness and/or cold feet from compression of veins and nerves. This depends on the shape and build of your feet too, of course. But it's worth trying. Google 'box lacing' - I think Andy Kirkpatrick did a blog post on it, though it was more to keep heels locked in than stopping toe damage.

Likewise, do you have high arches? Buy the cheapest thermo formable insole you can find and form it so it has a pronounced arch section. Most stock insoles do not have a pronounced arch section - even green Superfeet etc. This can stop your foot sliding forward on descents by locking your foot in place with your heel held back. Obviously if you have very low arches or flat feet this will not work and will apply too much pressure under your foot. It works for me though, as I have very high arches. If the cheap formed one makes a difference, look at a custom orthotic insole. Much more expensive but a good one is worth it.
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Re: Maybe the boots don't fit?

Postby Steve Pratt » Thu Jul 18, 2013 6:33 am

Yury is right. Too small. I had the same problem with the same boots. Those boots will soften and flex a little with break-in, but will not lengthen in the toes. I had to sell them off to a buddy and get something bigger.

Tough problem, because if you go bigger, it will be hard to climb class 4+. But if you size your mountain boots tight for climbing you're gonna get toe-bang.

You might need to try a few different brands. LaSportiva tends to run small and narrow. Lowa too. Zamberlan runs roomier. Garmont is in between and maybe fits more feet than the others.

For this trip, if you dont want to get new boots, you can try swapping out the insoles for a really thin pair and just go with liner socks on the downhill. Wont be comfy but will give the piggies a little more space.
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Re: Maybe the boots don't fit?

Postby dan2see » Tue Jul 30, 2013 1:13 am

You can not break in your boots. Instead, the boots break in your feet.

They will not change in size or shape. The sturdy soles will never change either, they can only wear out on the bottom. Eventually, after a million steps, some of the leather or construction will break down and disintegrate, but meanwhile it won't stretch to conform to your foot.

What happens is, your foot conforms to the boot. That's not really bad, because your feet are flexible and alive. But sometimes the joints of your arches, or toes, or heel will thicken or thin as a result of the constant pressure-changes and movement of the boot. Possibly some joints will expand to form a bunion or other bump.
If your toes are hurting on the descent, you're also likely to over-stress your big toe-nail with each down-step. You can bruise the nail pretty bad because it's a repetitive-stress injury. Very repetitive.

In my own experience is different for each pair of hiking boots I've owned. I always buy sturdy hiking boots or backpacker's boots. Not cheap ones: brands with good reputation in my own community. Usually all leather, usually Vibram.

Boots #1: totally wore out the Vibram tread, then the toe leather cracked.
Boots #2: the toe outer (top) flexed against the boot-lace, so the internal support wore out, and chafed my toes.
Boots #3: although these boots felt good, in fact the body was too soft. On scree they'd often roll with the rubble and I'd stumble.
I lost a lot of blood before I realized how they weren't working for me.
Boots #4: light-weight hikers, a little too roomy in the toes, so the down-hill pressure pressed against my toenails with every down-step.
I lost one big toe nail. Also, if I tie the laces tight, the down-pressure on my arches prevent the foot joints from flexing.
But otherwise they're so comfortable I continue to use them, but only below the tree-line.
Boots #5: Again, leather upper, Vibram sole. Still hiking. These things really work on rough terrain.
Really expensive, but so light-weight that I love them above tree-line, on ridges and summits.

If your boots fit, and if they work for you, then you should accept that they are what they are, and you can't change them.

But the tricks I use is socks.
The first trick is "wool socks". This compensates for a lot of conformity and movement. Try different brands. If you hike on snow, the bonus is they keep you warm.
The second trick is "liners". These thin, light-weight socks are meant to be worn as inners. They help you by isolating the foot flex from the boot movement. They don't always help, and you can't always find them. But if you can get a pair, try it. They might help you, or they might not.
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