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  1. #1
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    Question long mileage + pack weight = growing feet?

    two little questions for my helpful thru-hiker veterans:

    1) did your feet grow during your hike?

    2) i'm told to size up (some folks recommend by more than 1 full shoe size). i wanna avoid blisters, and don't wanna slide around, so... what would YOU do?

    i should mention that i'm 46 yrs old, and, for the last 3 years or so, i've hiked/ran almost every day on mountain trails, but the mileage is relatively low (usually about 5 miles). i've used primarily minimal shoes, but have recently switched to altra lone peak 2.5s in prep for a thru-hike. i think my foot has expanded already by at least a half size in the last few years because of the minimal shoes and the wide foot-bed of the altras.

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    Feet often get a bit bigger after age 20, and with time on them anyway, so its hard to say.

    Feet dont really grow, the bones end plates are hardened, they cant grow longer. However the feet do spread and get larger, by whatever mechanism, but its a soft tissue phenomena, not the bone.

    Your feet will swell after being on them 10 hrs a day every day, your shoes need to be able to accomodate that. This is the reason they need to be 1/2 size larger or so. Not just to anticipate growing feet.
    "Inevitably, a long distance hiker must choose between travelling light, and not travelling at all." - Earl V. Shaffer

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    My feet grew just about 1 full size in the last 4-5 years, when I started doing some serious long distance hiking. Permanently. They don't shrink back after a long layoff (like this winter).

    I used to wear 9.5, now I need 10.5, plus I buy up another half size (11) for my hiking shoes.

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    Registered User KDogg's Avatar
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    I gained two sizes in my 40s when I started doing marathons. I'm assuming hiking will do the same thing.

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    If you want to avoid blisters, you need a shoe which fits well and keeps your feet dry.

    It takes a while for the feet to "grow", so don't over size your shoes too soon or that will be a problem. A shoe which is too big is as bad as one too small. Your going to go through several pairs of shoes along the way (4 to 5 is typical). So just adjust the size if needed as you replace shoes.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

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    I wore size 12 shoes. On my AT hike, I sized up to a 13 trail runner. I wore med-wt wool socks (no sock liner) & only had 1 blister on the hike (heel; 2 days after the first replacement pair on the trail).

    Now, some size 12 shoes fit okay & some are tight. I've got a traditional hiking boot that I can now longer wear.
    2013 AT Thru-hike: 3/21 to 8/19
    Schedule: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets...t1M/edit#gid=0

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    I'm planning an April flip flop thruhike in 2019 and have been trying out the newer trail runners on market today as Montrails had worked well for me on section hikes before....a word of caution to those who want to use the new Altra lone peak 3.5 series....I bought a pair and find the zero drop feature a little rough on my calves. I have had Achilles surgery on one foot, so I'm switching back to shoe that has a bit more of elevated heal. I really loved the fit of the toe box on the Altra and how light they are....and the heal was nice and tight....even though I know you need to work ur way slowly into a zero drop....I just don't want the risks....trying oboz sawtooth breathable low top next in a wide version.....on fit I've heard you want about a thumbs width between your big toe and front of shoe....that's always worked well for me when carrying loads.

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    also if you blister between your toes a lot try the injinji toe sock liners under a light hiking sock from Smart wool or Darn Tuff....that's solved a lot of my toe blisters

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    some of it is swelling, some extra muscle bulk, and some just spread

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    Quote Originally Posted by robby View Post
    two little questions for my helpful thru-hiker veterans:

    1) did your feet grow during your hike?

    2) i'm told to size up (some folks recommend by more than 1 full shoe size). i wanna avoid blisters, and don't wanna slide around, so... what would YOU do?

    i should mention that i'm 46 yrs old, and, for the last 3 years or so, i've hiked/ran almost every day on mountain trails, but the mileage is relatively low (usually about 5 miles). i've used primarily minimal shoes, but have recently switched to altra lone peak 2.5s in prep for a thru-hike. i think my foot has expanded already by at least a half size in the last few years because of the minimal shoes and the wide foot-bed of the altras.
    Good questions.


    "I think my foot has expanded already by at least a half size in the last few years because of the minimal shoes and the wide foot-bed of the altras."

    I agree that can and does happen well after feet tend to stop "growing" among the general pop with the Altras and your situation.

    I was a basketball, tennis player, and unorganized non team sport asphalt road runner(for fitness) in H.S. and College. I continue to be a tennis player and now off and on trail runner. My feet had stopped growing in my fresh or sophomore yrs in college at size 12 - 12.5 depending on the shoe and brand. That was more than 20 yrs ago. When I got serious into LD backpacking my feet not only spread wider but grew in length over a rather quick period of 2-3 yrs so that I now require a size 13.5 - 14 even in Altra Olympus, Keen Targhee 2 or Keen Voyaguer Mids, or various HOKA's such as the new Stinson ATR 4(on a wider last than ever) or Challenger ATR 4. As an UL backpacker I was averaging 3600 trail miles for 7 yrs straight. Now I crank out 1400-2400 per yr the last several yrs on off trail routes and on maintained trail.

    My feet have always had the second and third toes longer than my big toes. That has never changed. I'm neutral and have been analyzed by multiple docs and running/walking mechanics physiologists as having no issues.

    I tend to vary my daily distances but I do hike, actually move, for longer durations than I'd say I observe most. I will hike through the night doing 14-48 hrs before sleeping(crashing). I'm a hiker not a camper. I will do weekend and day hikes though.

    My feet still swell on LD hikes. I combat this by going with a 1/2 to full size larger in trail runners depending on brand and model at the start of a LD hike. I make up the extra volume with different volume socks, different volume footbeds, and perhaps different modular orthotic devices of greater volume. At some pt into the LD hike when my feet are trail toughened I switch to lower volume alternatives.

    When first going to Altras with their exceptionally wide(splayed) and anatomical forefoot design I had issues with toe blisters because their was too much play in the toe box. It helped to go to Injinji toe socks which are not my preferred backpacking socks. I also found relief in gel toe wraps like these:https://www.protherapysupplies.com/P...=Ad+group+%231 OR https://www.pharmapacks.com/products...n-Wraps-3-Each

  11. #11
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    10.5 most of my life... stayed about that my first longer hike (1000 miles) in my early 20s and then up to size 12 (pretty much permanently) in my early 30's.
    Though I technically do allow a half size for thick socks (darn tough) and a half size for swelling/splay.
    Basically, I measure roughly 10.5/11 on the shoe block but wear 12 or even 12.5 in some Altra shoes.
    The point being... what you measure and what you wear are worth noting and considering beyond simply what size you find works.

    I always wear the heavier darn tough socks, even in summer, when hiking. I keep a pair or two of merrell's a half size smaller for day hikes or day use with normal density or thin socks.
    I think having the larger volume merino blend helps with both maceration and blisters. Merino draws moisture in... but doesn't overheat my feet in any but extreme heat. The extra cush/density of the sock not only allows more absorption of moisture but also gives you more air movement within the sock itself with each step you take.

    Besides the wide toe box I like on Altra and Merrell minimalist shoes... the caveat is that they fit well in the heel cup, ankle and mid-foot.
    This locks in the rear 2/3rds of my foot and I've never had black toe/lost a nail as a result.

    So I'm in that 1 or 1.5 size up from measurement camp too.
    And all for extra width and volume in the toe box/forefoot provided you can maintain good fit in the mid and heel of the shoe. My wife calls them clown shoes for good reason.
    I say to keep pushing them until it gets too sloppy. So long as your heel isn't lifting or your foot slamming into the toe box give them piggies all the room you can.

    Topo shoes are next on my list to check out.
    I've been wearing Luna's around town and for light walks but don't think I'm ready or willing to commit to a serious hike in sandals. Though I used to portage in sport sandals often.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Just Bill View Post
    10.5 most of my life... stayed about that my first longer hike (1000 miles) in my early 20s and then up to size 12 (pretty much permanently) in my early 30's.
    Though I technically do allow a half size for thick socks (darn tough) and a half size for swelling/splay.
    Basically, I measure roughly 10.5/11 on the shoe block but wear 12 or even 12.5 in some Altra shoes.
    The point being... what you measure and what you wear are worth noting and considering beyond simply what size you find works.

    I always wear the heavier darn tough socks, even in summer, when hiking. I keep a pair or two of merrell's a half size smaller for day hikes or day use with normal density or thin socks.
    I think having the larger volume merino blend helps with both maceration and blisters. Merino draws moisture in... but doesn't overheat my feet in any but extreme heat. The extra cush/density of the sock not only allows more absorption of moisture but also gives you more air movement within the sock itself with each step you take.

    Besides the wide toe box I like on Altra and Merrell minimalist shoes... the caveat is that they fit well in the heel cup, ankle and mid-foot.
    This locks in the rear 2/3rds of my foot and I've never had black toe/lost a nail as a result.

    So I'm in that 1 or 1.5 size up from measurement camp too.
    And all for extra width and volume in the toe box/forefoot provided you can maintain good fit in the mid and heel of the shoe. My wife calls them clown shoes for good reason.
    I say to keep pushing them until it gets too sloppy. So long as your heel isn't lifting or your foot slamming into the toe box give them piggies all the room you can.

    Topo shoes are next on my list to check out.
    I've been wearing Luna's around town and for light walks but don't think I'm ready or willing to commit to a serious hike in sandals. Though I used to portage in sport sandals often.
    The down side of wearing oversized shoes of extra length, IMHO, is the wearer is more prone to catching the toe on s rock or root.

    Just increasing my shoe from 11.5 to 12 caused me to fall forward four times in 500 miles.

    After switching to Altras with their stubby toes, never had that problem.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deacon View Post
    The down side of wearing oversized shoes of extra length, IMHO, is the wearer is more prone to catching the toe on s rock or root.

    Just increasing my shoe from 11.5 to 12 caused me to fall forward four times in 500 miles.

    After switching to Altras with their stubby toes, never had that problem.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro

    While many like the pointy toe shoes... the problem you point out increases even more.
    Foot shaped toe box is just as important as the other features of an Altra in my opinion... though they are unfortunately changing the last in many of the road shoes.

    So was your issue the sizing or the shape?
    But fair point regardless.


    Switching between a low stack and high stack shoe causes an issue for some as well in their gait... but any switch up can throw you off for a bit really.

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    I forgot to add that it's good to know different lacing schemes to tweak interior shoe volumes, brand and model trail runners, and personal foot characteristics... and, for foot characteristics as they change on a LD hike. https://runrepeat.com/top-10-running...ing-techniques

    I find stretchable shoe laces helpful too. https://www.rei.com/product/811544/y...-lacing-system OR https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PGDN89G...3-a194229cc61a

    On a LD thru hike weather tends to change if doing a longer duration thru. This affects foot characteristics. If a new backpacker kits and load have a tendency to change also that can have an effect on foot traits. I find I still have to be conscious of what I've spoken going into town with a lighter lesser bulky pack and leaving with a 5-8 day resupply and/or changing to a much heavier water carry as this can affect my feet. It can affect the center of gravity having physiological consequences that include feet. It's why UL backpacking has to include careful observation of consumable wt and bulk. If all this sounds too extreme maybe it is. BUT, I've never permanently been taken off a hike due to foot problems. The backpacking "system" I probably spend the most time getting right is what's going on with my feet(shoes, socks, gaiters, orthotics, snowshoes, crampies, skin care, etc)...or I'm not backpacking.

  15. #15
    Registered User Just Bill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    I forgot to add that it's good to know different lacing schemes to tweak interior shoe volumes, brand and model trail runners, and personal foot characteristics... and, for foot characteristics as they change on a LD hike. https://runrepeat.com/top-10-running...ing-techniques
    That's the best article/most complete collection of those options I've seen yet.
    Excellent resource.

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    The foot shaped toe box is what appeals the most to me with Altras. But, as the OP said, switching to Altras from a different narrower foot box designed trail runner can leave too much room. The little or second little toes can than roll over leading to transitional issues just as much as the changing stack heights. Another problem with the Altras is for those like myself with a high arch coming from a trail runner/orthotic designed for such people to a one that really isn't. Finding after market high arch support orthotics/footbeds for lg sized feet like my own THAT FIT Altras has been a learning and searching process.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Just Bill View Post
    So I'm in that 1 or 1.5 size up from measurement camp too.
    Does sizing up require an increase in tightness of the shoelaces?

  18. #18
    Registered User Just Bill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Recalc View Post
    Does sizing up require an increase in tightness of the shoelaces?
    Fer me... not really.
    I'm lucky in that my feet fit pretty well in shoes like the Lone Peak or Merrell minimal shoes.

    I use a version of the heel slip/lace lock style.
    In the merrells I skip the first hole at the toe, but use the lace lock at the tounge side to help lock in to prevent any slip. Because these are minimal shoes with little padding in the upper... they require the laces to do a little more work.
    In the Altra's... unless I'm on the AT or steep trail... around here I leave them loose enough to slip off. That does prematurely wear some of the padding (slipping on and off) but using high volume socks like the Darn Tough hikers helps fill the void enough they stay on fine. The extra padding in the upper, compared to the socklike fit of the Merrell, gives me a little more buffer to play with too.

    On steeper trail I do lace Altra's a bit tighter mid foot.. but usually the heel lock is enough for me.


    Something to keep in mind...
    https://shop.gkservices.com/store/te...shoesizing.pdf
    https://i.pinimg.com/736x/48/21/8c/4...free-shoes.jpg

    While 1 or 2 sizes sounds dramatic... it's really not.
    Unless you are shopping a shoe that has a width- you're mainly talking length.
    Ideally a shoe last is 'scaled' up or down from a baseline size across the whole shoe.
    Economic reality though means that 10,11, and 12 may all be the same 'shoe' with an extra 1/4" or so plugged into the length in the middle of the shoe.
    Some shoes may retain the same heel and midfoot and change the toe box slightly for each size.


    When you measure your foot in the Brannock device you put your heel in the same place... your big toe (or dogwood's middle toe) tells you how long your foot is. In my case my big toe and middle toe are the same.
    For the most part that's it... you either like the shoe or not as few shoes are sold that allow you to use the rest of the device to determine width or instep.

    A good running shop can and will use these numbers and everyone should get fitted by a pro at least once.
    If your big toe is longer than your other toes... you may get directed to a pointy toe shoe.
    If your toes big toe and first/middle toe are about even... you may get directed to a 'foot shaped' toe box like the altra.

    Your width and instep may lead the pro to select one brand over another.
    A standing and walking gait analysis will further inform them to send you to a specific brand or even style within a brand.

    Those issues are all more important than anything else; so once you find a good shoe that works for you... then work on sizing up until it doesn't make sense and the fit gets too sloppy.
    That advice is for LD hiking... and can run counter to your running minded professionals opinion on fit. So if possible, get the fit right for a run... then size up for flexibility.

    Most advice is for short term activity fitting... in a match with Dogwood on the tennis court I'd trip on Altras, step right out of them on a hard pivot, or even injure my foot. They'd be horribly fitting shoes for an hour of tennis.
    Rock climbing shoes for a sport or boulder route are worn with toe crunchingly painful fit for just long enough to send a route. While I certainly don't mind a bit of rock hopping... a hiker isn't bombing a downhill at deadly speed like an ultrarunner would either. So even advice on fit for that sport is somewhat questionable.

    Hiking all day, for days on end requires a nice loose shoe (in my opinion) that you can fine tune a little if needed throughout the day or week. Decent loft/density in your socks keeps air moving with each step.


    Having those lacing options is an amazing way to fine tune a good shoe into a perfect shoe.
    It's also a great way to adapt to changing conditions on trail or day to day.
    So save those tricks for the trail and do your best to fit well in the store with 'stock' lacing techniques.

    Ideally your fit is at the middle of the adjustment range of a shoe... so you have room to snug them up on cold weather days or when frequently wet (stretched upper).
    And room to open them up a bit on long hot summer days when you're swelling. The weather conditions or mileage variation isn't the shoe's fault.
    I own shoes between size 11 and 12.5 at this time... partially because of different lasts... mainly because seasons and activities change.
    Last edited by Just Bill; 07-27-2018 at 15:18.

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    My mother always told me running and long distance walking would give me big feet. She was right. I can’t wear lady’s fashion shoes with heels anymore. My altras work very well. I consider this an acceptable exchange.

  20. #20
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    A lady in Altra's is likely to turn certain heads more readily than heels... though debatable if this is of any practical use.

    A thing I always found funny when these new fangled 'zero drop' shoes came out- the gals who love wearing 'flats' but were skeptical of the concept when it was marketed as 'zero drop'.

    If I recall the original chuck taylor converse were (and still are) zero drop shoes as well.

    Really it should be a testament to Nike how effectively they erased this 'zero drop' technology from the market so completely.
    Same with the 'foot shaped toe box' found on every flip flop and most sandals. On an Altra this is a stubby and blocky invention... looking odd next to that sexy pointed toe on proper running shoes.

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