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Best Hiking Boots (and socks) for Metatarsalgia???

Original Post
Scott V · · Lakewood Ranch, FL · Joined Oct 2019 · Points: 23

When I hike with a heavy pack and get about 3-4 miles in I start getting a pain in the ball of my foot that at times can get so bad that it feels like my toes are on fire.  Forces me to sit down, remove my boots and massage my feet until it subsides.  Once I get it, it really doesn't go away, just lessens when massaged.  Looked online and appears to be metatarsalgia but I don't have it all the time, just when hiking distances.  I have a pair of Merrell Moab boots (wide foot box) and I have tried at least a dozen different insoles including JobSite Gel Sport Insoles, Pcssole's 3/4 Orthotics Shoe Insoles, Physix Gear Sport Full Length Orthotic Inserts, Topsole Flat Feet Metatarsal Orthotic Insoles, Timberland PRO Men's Anti Fatigue Technology Replacement Insole, and more.  What I found helps the most is the Physix insoles that I cut donut shaped foam inserts and glued under the ball of my foot.  Still not perfect.  Went to Good Feet and found that's pretty much a scam, one type of insole in different sizes with a 3 stage set of insoles for the economical price of $1,200.  Nope, not doing that just for partial foot arch supports.

The waterproof liner of my Merrells has come loose from the inside of my boot and they developed an extremely annoying "squeak" that seems to be between the liner and the top of the sole, a place you can't get to in order to try to fix.  I wear inner socks and had been thru Darn Tough extra cushion socks, Darn Tough Merinos, Wigwams wool, but read that thinner outer socks are better so started wearing Injinji Liner Crew NuWool Socks with separate toes and Darn Tough Light Hiker Micro Crew Light Cushion Socks but not sure if that's the best choice either.

So, to try to save my sanity (hate squeaks but I seem to be plagued with Osprey pack squeaks and now boot squeaks), I need to get some new hiking boots.  Was looking to see if anyone had some suggestions on what might be the best bet to save my feet as I'm thinking the lack of cushion from the sole might be what's irritating my feet.  Was thinking about Keen Targhee III Mids but not sure.  And also looking for recommendations for socks as what boot size fits with thin hiking socks is a lot different than what fits with heavy wool socks and inner liners.

Planning on shopping this weekend so all help greatly appreciated.
Thanks in advance for your help,

Joan Pendleton · · Almaden Valley, San Jose, CA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 9,310

Wow!  Sounds VERY similiar to my experience - same place and symptoms on my feet, after carrying a pack for what should be an acceptable time - a few hrs, once it starts, it takes a long time (ie months to COMPLETELY go away unless i just don't walk, which is of course impossible).  I also have the same boots Merell Moab, but maybe slight difference in details - 1) Started happening after several hundred miles on the boots and i could tell the insoles and even soles were very thin (would especially feel sore on gravelly trails, felt like my foot was rubbing on the trail) and 2) my feet are narrow and the Moabs don't come in narrow, so some sloshing around from side to side did not help matters. Tried what you tried (all helped some, but not enough to be accepetable) - insoles, pads (with the cuttouts), 3 layers of socks, keep feet dry, etc.  Anyway, i declared my Merell's to be toast, worn out, need new boots (but after only 2 yrs???)  So i started researching more, looking for insoles/midsoles in them that are made out of tougher material (PU), reading a lot of reviews, made my wish list of characteristics - tougher insole/midsole material, Vibram (or equivalent) for the entire sole (no islands of other stuff (slipperyer)) in the sole, narrow, full leather with no seams uppers (so easier to waterproof/snow seal).  Hard to find all these in new boots today AND so i did revisit my ancient 40yr old boots that i had barely used in my closet.  And the more i looked at them, i could see they met all the wish list (and i could not remember why i went and bought new boots 3yrs ago when i started hiking again).  So with huge doubts, i cleaned and did 3 rounds of leather conditioner on these old, barely used boots and went hiking every week - my feet are SO happy.  They are Danner.  So i checked the Danner website and they do have a Danner retro boot the Mountain Light series (full leather uppers vs their newer less expensive). If for some reason, my new old boots start not working, i would probably get these Danner boots, BUT i can not say if they are your solution because 1) i haven't tried them, and 2) boots are such a personal thing.  All i know is my ancient hardly used Danners are so comfortable, my feet are so happy, and slowly but surely the foot soreness is going away completely, FINALLY!

If you find a solution, please share it.

Scott V · · Lakewood Ranch, FL · Joined Oct 2019 · Points: 23

Thanks Joan, great advice.  Looked at Danner and the lightweight Trail 2650 looks like it might be a good bet.  I had a pair of Brooks trail running shoes I absolutely loved and wore them until the sole was almost totally gone.  They were light as a feather.  My Merrells are quite heavy so maybe a lighter weight alternative might help my feet.  Heading out Sunday to shop so I'll check them out.

Scott V · · Lakewood Ranch, FL · Joined Oct 2019 · Points: 23

Great, no local places carry the Danner 2650 and cannot buy shoes without trying them on first.    

Joan Pendleton · · Almaden Valley, San Jose, CA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 9,310

Agreed!  Do they accept returns?  Although that can get to be a nuisance....

Donovan Fisher · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2019 · Points: 0

I have a pair of Hoka One One Sky Kaha boots and they are amazing. Hoka definitely knows how to make comfortable footwear. I love mine so much that I was wearing them everywhere. . . On walks around the neighborhood, to all of our zoo trips with the kids, to the point that i was really wearing down the tread! Anyways, I would definitely reccomend giving them a try. They have them at REI

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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