Why Do Hiking Boots Hurt My Ankles? Reasons & Suggested Solutions

Ankle pain is a familiar complaint among hikers, especially within the hiking boots fans community. I have suffered quite a lot during my first long hike due to that reason. I’ve never really understood why was this happening – so I began to read. Now, I find it necessary to share with you guys some finding my little research came up with. So let’s dive into it – why do hiking boots hurt my ankles?

A couple of hours reading brought up some results. Hiking boots hurt your ankles because of; your foot’s shape, exaggerated ankle support, tongue slipping and wearing inappropriate socks. Moreover, that might be as a result of physiological changes or choosing the wrong size of boots. Later on, I will elaborate on these specifics and offer some solutions for a better hiking experience.

Possible Reasons

Inappropriate Socks

Poor socks picking is one of the most common mistakes hikers make. If they are too thin, your feet won’t be fixed at one place and may slip around on the hike.

That, in turn, might irritate your skin and haste blister occurrence. On the contrary, thick socks may stroke your foot and cause compression which may result with ankle pain.

Some socks feature a seam layer within the ankle area. This is extremely not recommended with ankle pain, because it creates unnecessary pressure.

Choose your socks, so they are not too thin nor too thick. It is also recommended to try walking at home with the pair you chose before taking off. 

If you are not sure what socks to wear and how, please read my article that shows how to wear them properly and why it is better to wear two pairs of socks for hiking instead of one – I’ve spent hours to provide you with the most accurate data followed by pictures and videos for a visual understanding.

This way you may change it to another before it is too late.

The Tongue is Not Seated Properly

That cause, I admit, is not an obvious one. When the boot’s tongue is not seated correctly, it slips to the sides or even into the boot itself.

When placed wrong, the tongue width would compress your feet and squeeze them to the opposite side.

In that case, you should adjust the tongue properly before taking off, by making sure it is pulled all the way straight to the outside.

Take a glance at your boots once in a while when you are hiking. If you notice the tongue moves from its place, maybe you should consider buying boots with a better fit.

Physiological Changes

If you have been hiking for years and just recently began to feel pain around the ankle, that may highly suggest physiological changes.

These may occur to your joints, tendons, muscles or skin. The changes can be unilateral, affecting only one foot at a time.

In that case, you should consult with an orthopedist, which may advise you get specific kind of boots for your condition.

That doesn’t mean you have to give up on hiking; it merely means you have to adjust your boots to ongoing changes happening to your body.

Foot Shape

While boots size is pretty much universal, each one of us has a different shape of feet. 

The foot arch, toes size, width, and height may differ a lot between you and your friend, while both of you share the same shoe size.

A different shape may result in a different posture and weight distribution. In addition to that, your feet themselves are not identical.

That might explain why one is hurting more than the other. In these cases, you might consider foot casting, to get yourself custom shoes.

Exaggerated Ankle Support

Hiking boots are known for being incredibly supportive. This is one of the differences between a hiking boot and training or running shoes.

The support is meant to help you with challenging terrains, such as mountain climbing, river crossing or hiking long trails filled with rocks.

However, that extra support might not always be in your favor. Too much help may increase pressure around your ankles and may cause pain during long hikes. That would be one of the reasons why hiking shoes are suitable for walking indoors while hiking boots should be avoided.

This is more typical of pain which starts toward the end of a long hike. In that case, you might want to consider switching to hiking or training shoes. These would be roomier and less tight.

Wrong Size

Wrong boots or shoe size choosing is a common mistake most of us do. Boots which are on the right size should feature approximately ½ inch between toes and the boot’s front.

Ordering online might be tempting because it is usually cheaper than getting it from the nearby store.

Nevertheless, in that case, it will be hard to assess how the boots are going to fit. Therefore, I suggest you combine the two.

You may try the boots at the store, write down the exact size and order them later on online.

Suggested Solutions

Stretching

Ankle pain, especially a bit above the ankle itself, may be related to the Achilles tendon. If that is the case, the best solution would be stretching it before you start hiking.

Be careful with that though, overstretching may cause even more severe problems. You may also stretch the tendon while making stops during your hike.

When you start feeling pain, take a break for short stretches, and then keep on going. Hiking none stop was, in fact, one of the 15 mistakes that I made during my first hike.

Leather Expander

Boots which feature leather from the top and sides would be ideal for this method.

The thing is that the leather itself might sit too tightly on your foot, causing a lot of pressure from the sides, and ankle pain as a consequence.

The idea with the leather expander is to stretch the leather fibers to a broader form, turning it more foot friendly.

The way this is being accomplished is by covering the boots with a special liquid and then expanding it with a proper device.

Professionals could do that at shoe repair stores closest to your home. You may also buy it from Amazon if you wish to do it by yourself.

Have a Correct Fit

Most of us know our shoes and boots size. However, the needed size may differ between brands and boot types.

Two different boots at the same size could fit way differently on our feet. If you choose your shoes at the store, you might consult the sellers, even if you are sure about the size you should get.

That is because they might know something that you don’t, and advise you something different and more suitable.

The gap between your toes and boot should be around half an inch, and you should be able to bend your toes freely. If you can’t, you might want to consider half a size larger.

Make sure you try the boots with the socks you are planning to wear during the hike.

Lace Less Tightly

Lacing your boots or shoes too tightly may be the reason for your pain. Some of you may feel more secure with a tight feeling. It might help you avoid leeches while hiking, for instance. Nevertheless, that may also cause serious problems.

Your feet shouldn’t be entirely fixed while hiking, it is better you leave some looseness. One of the reasons people tie their laces too tight is because the boots are on the wrong size.

That makes sense because if your boots are too large, you will try to compensate that by tying the laces more tightly.

That is a bad solution because the compensation is made the wrong way, causing unnecessary pressure in the ankle area.

Make sure you lace your boots less tightly. Alternatively, you may loosen it a bit just when you are about to start a hike.

Why Do So Many People Hike With Such Light Footwear?

With lightweight footwear becoming more and more popular, the natural question would be – what is so special about them?

Before you proceed, I highly recommend you read my article regarding the top rated lightweight hiking boots on the market. I’ve gathered information and reviews from countless consumers over the internet. 

Well, lightweight hiking boots would be more comfortable to hike long distances with. That is because they make you more agile, and therefore you can walk faster. 

A proper perspective would be to look at them as running shoes for tougher terrain. In addition to that, they deal sweat better comparing to heavy boots.

They are usually made by breathable leather that evaporates moisture, preventing blisters from occurring. Some hiking shoes feature that as well – that would be one of the reasons why hiking shoes are necessary.

When it comes to water resistance, they may serve as good as heavy hiking boots, turning them ideal for unexpectable puddles or river crossing.

A good example for these would be the KEEN – Durand Waterproof Mid (Men / Women) and the Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX (Men / Women).

How to Properly Lace Hiking Boots?

Inappropriately lacing may cause your boots to cover your feet too tightly. That, in turn, may cause severe ankle pains, especially while bending over.

One method to lace your boots properly would be a gap lace (see the first video below). That could be done over your foot arch, featuring a loosen feeling and decreasing ankle pressure.

A segmented lacing (see the second video below) is another technique that would accomplish the same thing and might be easier to do.

https://youtu.be/HGMQfdpAEhIhttps://youtu.be/8lA0K-xj-H0

Is Ankle Support a Myth?

There is a big debate around ankle support between those who prefer shoes and those who would favor boots.

The boots manufacturers tend to describe them for being more ankle supportive comparing to shoes. Is that true?

Well, the answer to that question depends on the current condition of your ankle. On healthy, usually young people with well ankle physicals, ankle support won’t matter that much.

That would be more beneficial for those with previous injuries, who need that extra support. For them, I would advise on buying the boots over the shoes when it comes to performance.

Either way, extra support may be in your favor when you hike in severe weather conditions. That is one of the factors which make hiking boots suitable for walking in the snow.

Painful Leather Hiking Boots – Persevere or Give Up?

While hiking boots being a bit expensive for some of us, giving up on them may be difficult. Ankle pain does not necessarily mean you have to throw them away.

I advise you first try the methods mentioned above. Try leather stretching, a better lacing or a new pair of socks at first.

If the problems continue, that would suggest a problematic boot, and it would be better to replace it with a new one. 

If you own a heavy pair, try getting yourself a lightweight hiking boot instead.

Are Cushioned Socks Necessary For Hiking Boots?

Many people tend to buy cushioned socks to prevent blisters or ankle pain. Is that helpful?

Well not really. A cushioned insole would serve these goals way more efficiently. While most boots feature a removable insole, you can as easily buy a more cushioned one.

The bottom line would be getting thin socks with a proper insole for maximum performance. You might be surprised, but exposing your feet to more friction may harden your feet and even prevent blisters.

Why Do My Socks Keep Rolling Down While Hiking?

We all know that annoying feeling of socks getting rolled down every couple of minutes on the hike. That usually indicates a movement inside your shoe. 

When your feet slide freely within your footwear, that would eventually bunch your socks up. Actually, that could also be the reason why your hiking boots squeak.

The reason for this might be a worn up insole that needs replacement. You can also overcome that issue by purchasing socks that would anchor the rim of your boot.

Should I Wear One Pair of Socks or Two?

There are a lot of variables within that particular question because it depends on the type of socks and personal preference.

However, the big picture is about friction forces. Friction causes irritations, and irritations cause blisters.

When you are wearing one layer of socks, they usually stick to your shoes while hiking. That would create friction forces between your skin and the socks themselves.

With two pairs, that friction would be between the two socks, sparing your skin.

The bottom line would favor wearing two socks layers over one – as I said at the beginning of this article. Besides that, you should most certainly try this at home before going on a hike.

Conclusions

Ankle pain might be horrible and damage your hiking experience significantly. The main reasons for that pain are related to the shape of your foot, appropriate fit, and physiological changes.

However, it does have different approaches to solutions. You may try out some stretching, leather expanders or lacing your boots differently.

Besides, socks may have their role in this situation. You should choose them in a way they are not too thick, nor too thin.

Try avoiding socks with a seam on the ankle part that might compress your feet and cause even more pain. If nothing works, you may have to get a new pair.

I hope my article answered some of your questions. If it hasn’t, make sure to leave a comment below, and I will do my best to help you out. The pain is manageable, don’t give up on hiking!

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