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Need help from the hiking boot experts


Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances Fall '09 ;
I tried on a pair of Merrell hiking boots that I really liked but the size 10 did not really have enough extra room at the toe. Everything else was comfy. There is no 10 1/2 so I would have to order an 11. Is one extra size probably going to be too big? I think that I would run into the problem with any other boots as well. I know that as my weight increased over the years so did my shoe size. I am wondering if I lose weight before and during my walk that my feet may swim in a size 11.

Have any women tried men's hiking boots as I could find 1/2 sizes in men's that would fit me. Is it a crazy idea?

This is a huge decision for me as I have never bought hiking boots before and they are such an important part of the Camino. Unfortunately there is not a large choice of hiking boots where I live and I don't want to go out of town to shop for them.

Any suggestions would be welcomed.

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What weight socks are you wearing? Take that combo with you to try on boots. Heavier versus lighter socks make a difference, as does using liner socks with hiking socks. Second, do it later in the day or after you have walked a distance so your feet are more swollen. These two things will give you a more accurate reading on the size you need. Typically you need one size larger than you normally wear when you are hiking some distance. Your feet will swell and often spread as you walk--especially when they get hot. The goal is to have half an inch to a little more in front of your toes. Next, hopefully, the place where you are trying on boots has a "rock" or an incline board to test going up and going down. Going down over a distance, you will lace your boots a little tighter around the ankle to keep your feet from slipping too far forward. Then loosen them when you hit the flats. This will help you figure out if the boots will feel good when your feet are slipping forward a little.

Men's boots tend to have a little wider heel and toe box than women's. I have large feet--larger than women's sizes for many brands (I wear an 11-12). I have successfully used men's boots. If the heel feels a little large, there are inserts you can get to reduce the heal circumferance. If you get boots that are too big, often the "break"--where the boot breaks for toe to heel movement, will be in the wrong place. Check this too. I need to use orthodics in my boots so I always take my orthodic inserts with me and spend at least 45 minutes walking around to see if there are any hot spots or pinching places. If I were to err, I would err on a little too big rather than too small. You can always try a heavier sock combo. Don't pay too much attention to the size on the box. Various brands fit a little differently so try up and down the sizing to be sure. For instance, I know I almost always take a size larger in New Balance than I do in say Merrill.

I used Merrills on the AT. Very comfy boots but they did not hold up for me. They delaminated. Guess it was all the rain--I had a steady two weeks of hiking in torrential rain. Not fun. That may have done them in. I have a number of Merrill sport shoes and love them. I am wearing Garmont's and find their heels fit me well. I've also had success with New Balance--the models with high volume. Look on their website to see how the various selections differ in their footbed and fit. Check out lots of brands and try both the women's and the men's. You will find your sweet spot. If they don't feel good in the store, no matter how much you like them, keep looking. It will never get better. Check with the store for their return policy. If you don't wear them outside, can you return them? That way you can spend some time in them walking around your house. Good luck!
Where I live, Costa Rica, we do not have a great choice either. Even more so 3 years ago, when we first started the Camino. I bought a pair of men's Merrell hiking boots. In fact there wasn't much else to choose from. Some Reebock, but not waterproof and still always for men. I ended up with terrible blisters on my heels and horrible heel pain too. That year, we only walked for 8 days (Roncevalles to Nájera) due to time limitations. Frankly, I would have had to stop a day or so in any case, had it not been that we had to return home. So - once back in Costa Rica, and determined to carry on the Camino from where we left off, the first thing to do was to find a new pair of boots. I chose a pair of Timberland's (mens, but much narrower fitting and a half a size smaller). They are fantastic. Last year I walked for 30 days without the slightest problem.
To sum this up, the Merrells were very wide and I think that my feet simply slopped around in them.By the way, I still wore the same socks (Thorlo) on both walks. Most certainly you need to take a larger fitting boot than your usual shoe size. Also you should try them on with the socks you intend to wear during your walk and, if possible do your buying at the end of the day when your feet will be slightly larger. You should not be able to feel your toes touching the end of the boot. As Portia writes, there are heel inserts. I now use them, which apart from cushioning the heel, they also stop the heel from sliding around. My husband Adriaan used his Merrells on both occasions and didn't have the slightest problem. (But then that was a man's foot in a man's boot)! They have now worn out and he has recently bought a new pair, same model, for our Camino this September.Anne
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