Many walkers taking part in the Bath Beat challenge a few weeks ago ended up with bruised, sore toes. Steep downhill sections were particularly aggravating, with their toes repeatedly jamming against the toe box of their shoes. Happily there’s much you can do to lessen the risk of this happening – it’s a combination of walking technique, correct shoes and socks, and (most interestingly) the way you lace your boot.
Downhill walking technique
Actively articulating your foot, rolling from the heel through to the toes, is great on flat ground, uphill and gentle down slopes. But a different approach is required when walking down steeper sections.
- Lower your centre of balance – so soften/bend your knees. This shifts your centre of gravity to just behind your knees which takes the pressure off them and your toes. It also makes you more stable. The steeper the slope, the more you’ll need to bend your knees.
- Shorten your stride – you will feel more stable and in control.
- If you feel your toes banging into the toe box, try kicking your heels into the slope as you descend.
For more on Nordic walking downhill technique click here.
The right footwear
Poorly fitting shoes which are too tight on the toes can cause problems on prolonged downhill sections. Take your time when choosing your walking boots and shoes and buy from an outfit which looks at your boot history, foot shape and biomechanics to help you find the right footwear. On hot days and long hikes your feet are also going to expand, so select your socks wisely and go for a more lightweight, less bulky pair.
Lacing your boots correctly
The way a boot/shoe is laced is surprisingly important. When you buy, they come with a standard lacing criss-cross pattern. It is good, secure and easy – and to be honest I’ve never thought about lacing my boots in any other way. However, there’s an amazing variety of lacing techniques possible, including one which gives a better heel hold.
I’m no expert here so I spoke to our friends at Ellis Brigham. They know all sorts of lacing styles including ways to stop your foot slipping about in your boot/shoe or if it’s too tight. If you pop in and ask, they’d be happy to show you. Alternatively there’s good information from the Mountain Warehouse website – plus an handy YouTube video by Backcountry Edge.
If you do lace your shoes in a different way, I’d be fascinated to know how you get on.
You can find our favourite Nordic walking poles here and if you’re looking for our advice on other walking kit here’s our recommendations on the best:
walking socks (socks are an important but forgotten factor)