Walking boots and blisters

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Walking boots and blisters

Postby shane » Mon 19 Nov, 2012 3:11 pm

For the last decade I have used Scarpa and now Asolo walking boots and now I am utterly fed up. Both pairs of boots cause blisters on my heels within 5 km of wearing them, irrespective of their age. I believe this is because the Vibram soles simply don't bend as your foot leaves the ground; as your heel lifts, your toes bend. My foot bends but the boot does not, so my foot and boot are doing different things, causing rubbing and therefore blisters.

Prior to these boots I wore Garmonts (NZ) which didn't last long but they were comfy didn't cause blisters.

Why do we need boot soles capable of withstanding nuclear impact? We don't have the typical UK walking tracks so worn that the channel formed has had to be filled with rock to walk on.

Furthermore, Vibram soles are too hard making them slippery on wet rock.

Are modern walking boots just plainly stupid? I'm never buying another boot equipped with a Vibram sole.
Perhaps I should try a pair of standard issue Army boots?

Shane.
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby wayno » Mon 19 Nov, 2012 3:29 pm

I wouldnt blame vibram, they make the outsoles according to what the boot manufacturers require.. the boots and shoes they get attached to vary greatly, its more to do with the stiffness of the midsole and any solid materials such as shanks and frames that get added to the boots that determin the rigidity.
you've picked boots that are rigid models. dont right off every piece of footwear you see with vibram on it. its on about half the outdoor footwear out there!
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby photohiker » Mon 19 Nov, 2012 4:32 pm

Shane, there are basically two distinct approaches to bushwalking footwear.

1. The Rock solid, tank footwear built to take direct nuclear blasts. This includes many brands of solid (usually leather) boots including Asolo and Scarpa.

2. The flexible absorbent and often less durable footwear designed to accommodate the feet in a lighter and more immediately comfortable boot or shoe. You will find footwear that flexes with your feet if you look in this category.

Moving from 1. to 2. can take some adjustment. Often, the heel is less high, and the sole (and therefore the foot) is subject to more movement from the terrain below the sole. This will take some time to adjust to. Some are waterproof but many are not. It's not for everyone, but worth a try if you are frustrated with tank boots.

Visit any reputable outdoor shop and peruse the range.
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby wayno » Mon 19 Nov, 2012 4:40 pm

could it be ytour boots arent shaped properly. the rigidity increases the likelihood of your heel moving up and down esp in boots that are too big in the heel...
definitely try another brand
running shoes and minimalist shoes are the extreme example of 2, not adviseable for someone coming from a type 1 boot
you can get type 2 footwear that still has a reasonable level of support and a moderate amount of rigidity built into them.
when you're in the shop, try bending the shoe at the toe to see how flexible they are, and try corkscrewing they resist and you'll get an idea of how different designs function, so you dont have to totally give up stability when you are changing to a more flexible footwear choice.
obviously make sure it fits your foot as well....
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby Hallu » Mon 19 Nov, 2012 4:48 pm

Maybe try Zamberlan boots ? They have the reputation of being more comfortable and bendy than other boots, especially Scarpa. I have Zamberlan boots and don't get blisters on my heels, but I never get them here since I have thick bulletproof calluses. I always get blisters on my toes though.

It could be that your feet are weirdly shaped too, maybe ask advice from your shoe-store or a podiatrist.
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby Strider » Mon 19 Nov, 2012 6:54 pm

By what amount is your heel lifting Shane?

If your foot is able to move independently of the boot, they sound like they are miles too big. What socks/how many pairs are you wearing?
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby shane » Mon 19 Nov, 2012 8:50 pm

Thanks Wayno - I hadn't thought of that.

I'll check Zamberlan Hallu. Ta.

Strider, barely any at all; a couple of mm? The boots are a good fit and I was careful when I bought them, esp after having trouble with the Scarpas. I think my feet just aren't suited to stiff soles. Personally I think stiff boots are daft. When a human walks their foot bends at the toes, so should a shoe.

This is interesting and they're generally half the price of typical walking boots: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combat_boot#Australia
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby shane » Mon 19 Nov, 2012 8:59 pm

mmmmm Zamberlan boots have flex points: http://www.zamberlan.com/uk/tecniche.html

I like the sound of that.
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby shane » Mon 19 Nov, 2012 9:00 pm

Oh btw Strider, one pair of white standard cheap sport socks. I found blisters worsened with thicker "hiker" socks.
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby mountainhigh » Mon 19 Nov, 2012 9:27 pm

photohiker wrote:flexible absorbent and often less durable footwear

My old leather hiking boots are hidden away somewhere covered in dust!

After initial skepticism, I've become a complete convert to lightweight, flexible, mesh trail shoes for all hiking conditions, including snow. I've never been so comfortable!

My favorite brand is Inov-8 and I have a few pair including Roclite 295, but there are many other brands and styles too.

If foot comfort is something you've struggled with in heavy leather hiking boots, do some research and considering lightweight shoes. After a few gentle hikes to build up you feet and ankle strength, you might never look back!
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby Hallu » Mon 19 Nov, 2012 10:12 pm

I mostly use sport shoes for hikes, but as soon as the terrain is rocky it's a real killer for my feet and boots are necessary. So sport shoes for grass, dirt, sand, lose gravel etc... but boots for rocks, hard gravel. Problem is when you've got both, then I'd say the sport shoes for less than 6 km, heavy duty boots for more. I've never tried combat boots, but having read several war veteran memoirs, they also had awful problems with their feet despite the heavy duty socks and boots... you just don't see it in movies (hell they mostly show you well shaved men instead of mud caked beards).
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby shane » Tue 20 Nov, 2012 9:26 am

Alpine/sub alpine areas demand tough boots, especially when the weather turns foul for days so I'm a little doubtful about Roclite. On the other hand, Westpoint apparently once discovered that 1kg on your feet is equivalent to 7kg on your back. Anecdotally I'm inclined to agree.
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby shane » Tue 20 Nov, 2012 9:27 am

The other concern is ankle support. I've had two sprained ankles from running and a consequential DVT so I'm wary of ankles while carrying a 20kg pack. Roclite products don't seem to offer much in the way of ankle support.
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby photohiker » Tue 20 Nov, 2012 9:42 am

If you search this forum, you'll find the various arguments for and against each type of footwear has been done to death many times over.

No simple answer, you have to find out what works for you.

Roclite is one of many styles made by Innov-8, and yea, ankle support is not something they build into their footwear.
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby Strider » Tue 20 Nov, 2012 11:12 am

shane wrote:Oh btw Strider, one pair of white standard cheap sport socks. I found blisters worsened with thicker "hiker" socks.

These certainly can't be helping the problem. Were the thick socks you tried "fitted", or Explorer "foot bag" style?

I find thinner merino socks to be the best for me. No blisters whatsoever - though I'm not particularly prone to getting them either.
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby forest » Tue 20 Nov, 2012 11:27 am

Have you tried 2 pairs of socks. A thin liner then a normal sock. That can help with blisters as the abrasion can move to between the 2 socks.
You probably shouldn't have any movement of you heel at all. If that's happening it's either a lacing issue or they are too large (or both)
Room for your toes, Yes. Heel slide up/down. Big no!!
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby Hallu » Tue 20 Nov, 2012 10:54 pm

I just bought myself some Asics Kayano 17, I wanted good looking comfortable walking shoes (and darn they are comfortable indeed, it's not a great win on the "good looking" side though), I'll tell you if they're also suitable on multi-hours hikes with wet rocks etc... Anyone got some New Balance 993 ? I wanted to try those ones too but no luck.
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby magichat » Tue 20 Nov, 2012 11:19 pm

I dunno, kayanos are serious running shoes. They're more designed to deal with the pounding that running causes the joints and feet.

Are they going to be stiff enough in the sole, and will they have enough traction would me my concerns as opposed to using a dedicated trail running shoe. Also trail runners tend to be a little more rigid in the heel which I feel makes my feet less tired after a long day walking.

Maybe not enough difference to really matter, interested in how it goes.
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby madmacca » Tue 20 Nov, 2012 11:20 pm

Before reaching for a new pair of boots, perhaps try some cheaper techniques.

    Tape trouble spots BEFORE you start walking with elastoplast.
    Try different socks (including the thin liner sock), and avoid cotton at all costs.
    If the boot is snug at some points, and loose at others, try some different lacing techniques to even up the pressure. http://www.wefitshoes.com/lacing-guide-s/66.htm

These mightn't solve all problems, but are cheaper than purchasing a new pair of boots, and are surely worth trying.

Personally, I have switched to trail runners and have never looked back, but I know plenty of people here still prefer old school boots.

I'd recommend against combat boots - these are really designed with the emphasis on strong external protection from rocks, sticks, stakes and even shrapnel, at the expense of flexibility.
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby slparker » Wed 21 Nov, 2012 6:39 am

I echo the army boot advice. The issue Australian army boots are not particularly good, the old early 90s versions are good but quite primitive ( very similar to Rossi mulga s but in more sizes) the later 90s pre-terra army boots are abominable.
Fortunately, there are a few American and European military boots around that are pretty good from meindl, zamberlan etc the American ones tend to be either a thick vibram semi stiff sole or a high trail runner type. Remember that soldiers load carry enormous amounts and then may have to drop the load and sprint short distances. Flexibility can be quite important.
I think for the OP it should be borne in mind that über-stiff boots often come from a mountaineering pedigree, where edging across snow fields and crampon fitment has influenced the design.
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby matagi » Wed 21 Nov, 2012 6:59 am

Agree with the suggestion to tape before walking, it really does work, but a word of caution - make sure you are not allergic to the adhesive.

I speak from bitter experience here and am just waiting for the current reaction to subside before I begin the tedious task of testing various tapes to find one I don't react to. :(
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby MartyGwynne » Wed 21 Nov, 2012 1:44 pm

Hey you could also choose to visit your local podiatrist to check your feet out. They do change a bit as you get older. I now have orthotics in my boots (bomb proof scarpa's) and can wear just a thin pair of socks or do the double sock thing.
The hard soles are good for my weight and pack weight (86 + 22 kgs).
Also if the $$ are short get some of the cheaper inserts which give you some arch support and they may stop your foot from rubbing and blistering.
I gave up blisters 15 years ago when I got orthotics!!!! happy walker now.
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby Strider » Wed 21 Nov, 2012 4:08 pm

MartyGwynne wrote:Also if the $$ are short get some of the cheaper inserts which give you some arch support and they may stop your foot from rubbing and blistering.

Steer clear of the $5 jobs from Woolies though. I find Superfeet Green to be absolutely amazing and changed my boots from bearable, to supremely comfortable. About $50.
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby Hallu » Wed 21 Nov, 2012 4:23 pm

Inserts and orthodics are good to prevent blisters on your sole and heel (you also need a firm fit at the heel and double socks), but unfortunately it doesn't work much on toe blisters, at least from my experience.
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby nq111 » Wed 21 Nov, 2012 6:41 pm

[quote="shane" On the other hand, Westpoint apparently once discovered that 1kg on your feet is equivalent to 7kg on your back. Anecdotally I'm inclined to agree.[/quote]

Yeah - and they still insist that soldiers wear boots.

I don't mean to disagree - just pointing out there are trade-offs to be considered.
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby nq111 » Wed 21 Nov, 2012 6:46 pm

slparker wrote:I echo the army boot advice.
Fortunately, there are a few American and European military boots around that are pretty good from meindl, zamberlan etc the American ones tend to be either a thick vibram semi stiff sole or a high trail runner type. Remember that soldiers load carry enormous amounts and then may have to drop the load and sprint short distances. Flexibility can be quite important.


Yeah - this is very interesting. There seems to have been some significant advancement with military boots in recent years with a lot of lessons from hiking boots. Check out http://www.militarymorons.com/equipment/footwear.html for example.

Not that I have yet tried any military options but I am looking at it in my quest for decent hot weather / wet season walking boots. Whilst some military boot makers appear to have adapted lots of lessons from hiking and mountain boot makers I wish now the reverse with hiking boot makers to learn from military makers about boots that are cool, self-draining, low water-absorbing and light.
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby jacko1956 » Wed 21 Nov, 2012 7:08 pm

Re taping blisters or hot spots.
I know it sounds crazy but gaffer or duct tape works wonderfully.
If you have a blister or "damaged" spot by all means put some medical type tape on it but then put a piece of duct tape over that. The thicker and "slippery" tape completely protects the spot from getting worse and deadens any pain as well.
Just be careful putting a sock over it that you don't curl the edges over.
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby pazzar » Wed 21 Nov, 2012 7:52 pm

A good pair of socks can be just as important as the boot itself. You want to look for something that is ribbed in the arches as well as above the ankle. This helps to prevent the sock from moving on your foot, causing friction, which will cause a blister. I tend to avoid liner sock the same reason. The ribbing generally holds better against the skin, so a liner sock also creates a layer of friction. Liner socks have their place, especially when it comes to skiing. I tend to go for a mid-heavy weight sock with good support.

As for boots, it is the midsole that you want to look out for. Vibram make a a range of different outsoles (as has already been said). You want to look for something with either a PU or TPU midsole. TPU will tend to be a little more rigid initially, but will flex over time, and be more durable, whereas PU will be softer, but has tendencies to compress with use, making it less comfortable in the long run.

You can also try experimenting with different inner soles. If you have a pair of runners that you are comfortable in, perhaps try using the inner soles from them to see if that helps you.

I use Zamberlan boots, which use a TPU midsole, giving a good balance between rigidity and flex for on and off track walking. Ultimately it comes down to what fits you best. Don't assume that brands such as Scarpa and Asolo are the be-all and end-all. There are so many brands out there, it is worth trying several to see what works best for you.

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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby shane » Wed 21 Nov, 2012 7:58 pm

Hallu wrote:I just bought myself some Asics Kayano 17, I wanted good looking comfortable walking shoes (and darn they are comfortable indeed, it's not a great win on the "good looking" side though), I'll tell you if they're also suitable on multi-hours hikes with wet rocks etc... Anyone got some New Balance 993 ? I wanted to try those ones too but no luck.


I don't think you'll see me wearing these while bush bashing for 3 or 4 days up and down slopes with 20kg on my back up at 1800m. I use ASIC sneakers running and I don't think they'd last more than a week off track, not to mention providing no ankle support and letting in all the twigs, leaves and dirt. They would've been a nightmare on my last trip.
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Re: Walking boots and blisters

Postby shane » Wed 21 Nov, 2012 8:11 pm

Thanks for all the replies. I'm uncertain about what to do although I *always* carry Elstoplast and sometimes I still get blisters through that.
Judging by all the replies, everyone has a certain recipe highly dependant on a tailored solution. Isn't that odd? We all need to do something specific just to be able to walk with a pack on our pack. This is silly.

I think I'll try double socking but I'll be buggered if I'm spending more than 10 bucks on a pair of friggin socks. If that doesn't work then I'm going to have a close look at some Zamberlans and Army boots. I swear my problem is caused by Asolo's and Scarpa's lack of sole flexibility - if the foot bends but the boot doesn't then they're doing different things, resulting in friction leading to blisters.

I wear Blundstones 7 days a week and have no problems at all - their soles flex, but ankle support is too lacking for my kind of bushwalking.
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