Do you love hiking, but find that your boots always seem to rub your ankles the wrong way? If so, relax – you’re not alone. In fact, this is a common issue that many hikers face. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help stop your boots from rubbing your ankles raw. Keep reading for tips on how to make walking in boots more comfortable for you.
Every experienced hiker knows that a good pair of walking boots is essential for a successful hike. However, even the best boots can cause rubbing and chafing if they’re not properly broken in. The best way to break in new boots is to wear them around the house for a few days before hitting the trail. This gives the leather a chance to soften and mold to your feet. Once you’re ready to hit the trail, be sure to tie your laces loosely to allow for natural movement and swelling. And don’t forget to pack a few pairs of walking socks. Thick socks help to prevent blisters and provide an extra layer of protection against rubbing and chafing. With a little bit of care, your feet will stay comfortable all day long.
Table of Contents
Why do walking boots rub – 6 possible reasons
Here are 6 reasons why walking boots may rub your ankles. If your boots are rubbing your ankles, it may be down to one or more of these. Have a good look and think carefully which would seem to make more sense to your own situation.
Your boots need breaking in more
It may be that your boots are new and need breaking in. Even if they are a few weeks old, they may still be a little stiff. Did you break them in sufficiently when you first bought them, or did you briefly wear them around the house and then jump into a long hike? See below for some tips on how to break in your hiking boots properly.
Are you used to wearing walking boots?
There’s no doubt, wearing walking boots is different from wearing shoes or trainers. I remember when I started out walking in the countryside I bought a pair of boots as I was sure that I would need these over a pair of walking shoes. I was used to wearing work shoes during the week or trainers at the weekend, and although I own a pair of safety boots these only used to get worn once or twice a year when visiting warehouses with my job.
Having that added height and padding round my ankle was a different feeling, that’s for sure. Some boots the ankle cuff may dig in, especially when going up or down hills, although I was lucky and didn’t experience this.
Are your boots too large?
It may be that you bought boots that are too large. You should buy the same size, or maybe a half size bigger to allow for a good quality walking sock, as you would if you were buying a pair of work shoes. It could be that you thought you needed to jump up a size extra but this may actually mean that your foot has too much room to move and as such your heel is rubbing back and forth against the ankle support.
How tight are your laces?
Have you tied your laces tight enough? If your laces are too loose then your feet will start to slip, especially if you have been walking a while as laces will loosen over the miles – starting too loose in the first place will only mean more chance of your feet moving in your boot and cause rubbing.
Or are they too tight? However if you tie your laces so tight that your foot feels restricted can also cause issues. You may well start to cause problems this way too – if you feel your laces are holding back any movement then stope to retie and loosen them a little.
It’s well worth stopping every hour or so to check on your laces as they will loosen and you may not have noticed the different feeling. A good habit to get into is every mile or so to tune into how the different parts of your body are feeling and that includes being mindful of how your feet are in your boots.
Has the tongue slipped?
This may not be an obvious one, but it’s possible that the tongue has slipped slightly to one side. this could well cause issues by pushing your foot further against the ankle support on the opposite side. Most boots will have a lacing system that goes through the tongue to hold it in place, but if you do feel some rubbing make sure that the tongue is in the correct position.
Is the extra ankle support too padded?
It may well be that there is just too much padding around the ankle. No two people’s ankles are the same, and neither are the walking boots on offer. So if you have larger calves and ankles you may find that some boots are just so padded that they are restrictive and feel like your ankle is being gripped too tightly.
How to stop walking boots from rubbing ankles
So we’ve looked at the possible causes, but just how can you stop walking boots from rubbing your ankles? Try some of these tips:
Break in your boots properly
This is by far the best thing you can do when buying new shoes, but certainly applicable when you’ve bought new walking boots. Without breaking in properly and jumping straight in to a long hike then you are just asking for trouble. See below for the best way to break in your new boots.
Tie your laces off lower
If your ankles are feeling too restricted in your walking boots then you could try tying them lower down and leaving the top couple of hooks or holes free. That way your foot will be secure but there won’t be as much pressure around your ankles. This may be a good one if you have larger ankles than some other hikers. But remember that you do want your foot to feel as it is secure so don’t let it slip or you may be causing blisters on your soles possibly.
Tie your laces looser
Similar to the last point, you don’t want your foot to move too much, but if you do tie your laces all the way to the top maybe you can release the pressure slightly on the ankle. A good way to do this is to tie a knot at the top of your foot to keep your foot secure, then thread the laces through the ankles eyes and hooks with a little give.
Use a heel support
This won’t work for everyone, but if you find that the ankle cuffs are digging in too much using a heel support may well raise your foot a little to alleviate the point at which the cuff is gripping your ankle, and so cause less pain.
Changing your socks half-way through a walk
If you find that your feet sweat a lot – hands up here – then they may start to slip inside your boot. By stopping half way, maybe when you are having a snack, it may be a good idea to change into a fresh pair of clean, dry walking socks. If it’s not raining you could easily remove your boots and socks whilst you take a lunch break, allowing both the boots and your feet to dry off naturally, and then before you set off put on your spare dry socks. You may want a plastic bag though to keep the smell in!
Wearing a thinner sock inside your walking sock
Wearing a thin sock inside your thicker sock can help with moisture too. If it’s good quality it will help wick away any sweat to the outer sock and keeping your feet dryer. It will also help with friction – the friction will be transferred to the two layers of socks rather than your foot and sock. The downsides are obviously it could make your hiking boots a little tighter so be aware of this if you are going to try. Also there is a chance of your feet getting too hot, so using a good quality sock liner is essential.
Use a boot stretcher if leather
Leather boots are more sturdy and obviously great for rocky hill climbing, but they are naturally more hard wearing and stiffer. You may find using a boot stretcher will help to break them in and make them more comfortable to wear.
How to break in my hiking boots for a comfortable fit
Breaking in a new pair of walking boots is essential for a comfortable hike, but it can also be tricky. If you don’t do it right, you risk getting blisters or worse. Here are a few tips to help you break in your boots:
Breaking in a new pair of walking boots is essential to achieving a comfortable fit. Ideally, you should break them in gradually over the course of several weeks. Just remember to go slowly at first and pay attention to how your feet are feeling. With a little bit of time and effort, you’ll be able to break in your boots and enjoy miles of comfortable hiking.
3 Unusual ways of stopping your walking boots from rubbing
Thankfully I’ve never had to resort to this, but I have heard about people using these methods to prevent their boots from rubbing their ankles.
What you should do when buying walking boots
Always try to find a proper walking and outdoors specialist shop. But these are not always possible as they are few and far between. But it’s well worth making the effort to travel to one. Ideally an independent store, as the staff will be passionate themselves about the outdoor life and as such will have years of experience.
Failing that, try to find your local outdoor chain such as Go Outdoors, the Cotswold Company or Trespass. There’s usually at least one member of staff at the larger shops who is very knowledgeable, although not all the staff will be depending on the amount of training they have received.
At the very worst find a general sports shop that has a good section for hiking. I used to work in an independent sports shop as a teenager and whilst we didn’t really cover hiking some of the staff were more passionate about sport rather than it being just a job. It’s a case of finding a decent shop and asking questions to the staff to see how much they know.
Conclusion – How to stop walking boots from rubbing your ankles
Anyone who has ever gone for a hike knows the importance of a good pair of walking boots. But even the best boots can cause problems if they’re not properly broken in or tied. The most common issue is rubbing at the ankle, which can quickly lead to a painful blister. The best way to prevent this problem is to break in your boots before you hit the trail. Start by wearing them around the house for an hour or two each day. Then, when you’re ready to head out, make sure to tie your laces snugly but not too tightly. And don’t forget to wear a good pair of walking socks—this will help reduce friction and keep your feet dry.
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Before buying your next pair of walking shoes or boots check out this guide which will answer the questions you may have