Dick Wills

Dick Wills

Hiking Boots & Feet

My feet are everything on an expedition. For hiking I wear the Asolo TPS 520 Gortex boots. They list for up to $275 new. But, since I intend to beat them up on rocks while I dig on my knees, I buy used pairs for $60-$70 on the internet. These have a very firm structure and give me super support so that my feet don’t slide, and my ankles stay put when I walk sideways on slopes. They are so comfortable and become such a part of my foot that I regret taking then off at night. They seem to last forever. I do have a newer back up pair that I may never use.

Asolo Boots

Even with great boots my toes can take a beating after a few days hiking. I can develop sores from abrasions and impingements between my toes that would never develop at home in my normal daily routine. I always take a Toe Kit with nail care tools: scissor, clippers or other. I also carry a tube of Oragel, which contains benzocaine. It is generally used for canker sores or for a child that is teething. But, it can also temporarily sooth the pain on toes if they develop.

Western states have much lower humidity than the East. I find my feet dry out quickly and will begin to crack and split if I do not also have a daily supply of lotion or Vaseline.  I try to be prepared for the unexpected and anything that could slow me down.

For Those with Flat Feet

I have flat feet, and if you do also, the following may be of interest to you.  On a hike I develop sharp hot spots under my heal and big toe. I have tried many types of inserts or insoles without success. The rubber or gel type inserts simply raise my foot above the bottom of the shoe a quarter inch, but I still have the same hotspots.  I now make my own custom inserts from semi-ridged closed cell foam as follows.

  • I buy the blue “Ozark Trail” camping mattress for $8-10 from Wal-Mart.
  • It comes in a roll 20” wide and 72” long. The foam is 3/8” thick.
  • I unfurl the mattress and set it in the sun awhile to warm up, relax and lie flat.
  • I take a standard shoe insert as a model and trace the outline image onto the foam.
  • I reverse the image back-and-forth to leave no space in between tracings.
  • This way I can get about 50 inserts per sheet at a cost of 16-20 cents each.
  • I hand cut the inserts with a scissors and put them into small bags.
Boot Pads from Camping Mat

I use these inserts year around in every shoe I own, which are also Asolo brand. To make room for the thicker inserts, I always buy my shoes at lease a half size larger than normal. The inserts go in my shoe in the morning and usually last two days depending upon the degree of hiking. This is the only thing I have found to make my flat feet comfortable on a long hike. I usually keep take 2-3 dozen along with me in an expedition. They are so light I carry a spare set in my backpack.

When the inserts no longer offer even support they develop deep dimples formed my heel and toes. Just for fun I take a dozen used inserts and toss them into the dryer on high heat. They begin to shrink, shorten, become more dense, and the dimples fade. You must watch them before then stick to the dryer or curl up. When they are cool find I can use most of them a second time. They are a bit more stiff, which I prefer. I often even preheat or preshrink and densify unused inserts. What we will not do for foot comfort….your feet are everything on a roughed hike.

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