BOOTS AND SOCKS

Too many women spend their lives with shoes that do not fit. Our feet are supposed to look small, because this is "ladylike". Women's shoes tend to have pointed toes, sometimes so much so that surgery is required to wear them. Takes one back to the good old days of foot binding.

As a result, many women believe that shoes that hurt their feet are the norm.

Wrong.

Hiking boots should fit such that one may wear at least one thick pair of socks. This means at least a size larger than the street shoe.

Most hikers wear a thin pair of liner socks, the more slippery the better. They should feel almost like nylons. On top of this, they wear a pair of thick, cushioning socks. Some hikers prefer one pair of thick or semi-thick socks with no liner.

To try boots on, bring the socks that will be worn. If you have orthotics, also bring those. Try the boot on unlaced and thrust the foot as far into the boot as possible. There should be room for one finger behind the heel. Less room than that, and the boot is too short. More room, and the heel will lift with each step, leading to blisters.

Lace the boot. The toes should wiggle and the ball of the foot should be held firmly. The heel should not lift when walking. Most hiking stores have a small ramp to try out the downhill fit of the boot. When walking down the ramp, the toes should not touch the end of the boot. If there is no ramp, stand tippy-toe. Again, the toes should not touch.

Walk around the store for as long as you like. You will be walking in these boots for days at a time, and they must feel good.

As for the weight of the boot, as a rule of thumb, exertion-wise, every pound on the foot equals five pounds on the back. However too light of a boot can lead to tired, or sprained, ankles and knees.

A trail runner or light shoe is appropriate for a light pack on good trails. A medium boot is appropriate for a heavy pack and/or poor trails. A heavy boot is designed for off-trail or winter use.