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I talked to a lot of hikers this year about shoes. The NB 800 series is
probably the most popular shoe out there, particularly among thru-hikers.
Since I've never worn them, I asked everyone how they liked them. Most
loved them of course, but some did not. Many of the dissatisfied had wide
feet. I noticed this after hearing several people say that they loved NBs
because they can be ordered in narrow sizes.
It _may_ also be true that NBs don't have good arch support as some have
said. Wider feet tend to have higher arches, so that could explain why
those with wider feet were more likely to have problems. Superfeet insoles
were recommended to solve this problem in a recent post. That's good advice
for people with narrow feet. But I have wide feet and I learned in '97 that
the heavy plastic Superfeet were too narrow for me.
My solution to my high arch problem was to lighten my pack and strengthen my
arches by running. I no longer need "extra" arch support.
For those like me who have medium-wide feet, the Montrail Vitesse may be a
good choice. It's basically a very light-weight low-top boot. They are
better than any shoe this side of Vibram-soled boots at keeping me from
feeling the sharp rocks. When I switched to them on the CDT this year
almost all my foot pain and swelling ceased! For those who think boots
would be even better, the boots I've worn in past years didn't flex enough
and that concentrated all the pounding on the one configuration of foot
bones the boots allowed. The key seems to be a shoe that flexes enough to
spread the wear and tear on the foot bones, but is stiff enough to keep
sharp rocks from doing too much damage.
Another tip for shoe fit is the socks. If your shoe is a little too wide
for your feet, thick or layered socks will help. If it's a little too
narrow, thin socks will work better. Always use non-cotton wicking socks to
keep your feet as dry as possible.
How can you tell if your foot is wide or narrow? Shoes that are slightly
too narrow will cause rubbing on the sides of your feet. If you get a
blister or callus on the side of your heel, try thinner socks or a wider
brand of shoes. If your shoes are too wide your foot will tend to slip
forward and irritate the tips of your toes even if you get a bigger size.
Thick socks will help, and tighter lacing will also help but may aggravate a
high arch problem. Try shoes that come in widths.
The bottom line has always been this. Wear shoes that fit YOU. Don't wear
somebody else's favorite. Keep trying different shoes, socks and inserts
until you find what works for YOU. There's no more important comfort
Calendar Triple Crown '01
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