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Footwear to prevent ankle and knee pain

Hi all,

I only begin hiking recently, starting from a Japan trip few months back. In Singapore where I live, I start to regularly hike, but my ankles and knees always get sore for quite sometimes. No swelling/redness and doctor said nothing to worry about. I wore neoprene ankle wrap for weak left ankle which was lightly sprained few years back (but no swelling).

The impact is mostly when I hike upstairs/downstairs and during downhill braking, which I did a lot during Japan trip with only a pair of slip-on casual shoes. The soreness after the 10 days trip/hikes last for weeks. My current running shoes is a bit oversized, so I guess bad fitting and no-strap shoes contributes to the pain. I usually bring 4kg bags for camera and water bottle while hiking.

I'm undecided whether to go for running shoes with thick cushioning, or for hiking shoes. I heard mid boots also good to secure ankles and reduce injuries. Is this effective enough? Many suggested Merrell but it is using Gore Tex which maybe too hot for tropical weather. I tried the discontinued Columbia Talus Ridge and quite like it. It's difficult to wear compared to Salomon XA Pro (may take time to wear on/off the shoes at temples in Japan) but it has ankle protection and I prefer Outdry to Gore Tex.'

I'm pleased to hear some suggestions from the experienced hikers here. Thank you so much! 

Your question is very difficult to answer because it is all about perspective.

First off, the best shoe is the one that fits, and has the features you need. So try a lot on, and make sure they fit well before buying.

The pain you are feeling could also just be due to lack of conditioning. That will improve the more you hike. Also you may consider trekking poles to help take some strain off your knees.

Also, I'm no doctor (well not an MD), but I don't see the benefit in babying an old, mild injury. If your ankle is not problematic, you do not need a wrap. Let your body work normally and it will regain its strength.

TJ is right.   Also, if custom made insoles from a foot doctor are in your budget they may help a lot as well.  I wear them at work on concrete and they help a lot.

I hope these videos will help you with hiking with knee pain and quality footwear.

Thank you for the advises! 

TJ, I feel my left ankle is a bit weak and prone to rolling. During the trip, I wrapped the ankle because it's sore and I thought wrapping can help to keep the ankle steady. I'm considering mid-cut boots for the same reason, to minimize the movement. You are right, I suppose this is due to lack of conditioning and also poor footwear. On the store, I like how boots feel, but trail running shoes are also light with very steady footing. But I'm not sure how it feels on the actual trail, or whether mid-cut boots can help to protect the ankle.

I'll also try Sagato's recommendation to try custom in-soles for the running shoes. Thanks for the suggestion!

Goose, the video is helpful, thank you. I have one question about the trekking pole. I know this may sound silly, but can I use camera monopod for similar function? I am doing travel photography.

If you have a bad ankle, I suggest a boot for backpacking. I twisted one of my ankles years ago and l still don't trust it without a boot if I am wearing a pack. The rest of the time, I wear running shoes almost exclusively. As for knee pain, that could be due to poor fitting shoes or hiking too far, too soon. You may want to get trekking poles. They will help you on the downhills to take some off the stress of your knees. Also, don't carry a heavy pack, you are likely not in good enough condition yet to do so.

A monopod is not the same as a trekking pole. Poles have grips and often a strap that makes handling them easier. Some also have a shock absorber built into them.

Sherly, there are trekking poles that you can use as a monopod. Leki has a conversion for at least one of their poles. It is really only for light-weight cameras, though, like small P&S. I also have a monopole that is designed for being a hiking pole, also by Leki. I has a carbide tip, like their regular trekking poles, a rubber tip cover for hiking on paved trails, and full, marked length adjustment. The mounting is good for DSLRs, and you can put a full ball top on it. It isn't perfect as either a trekking pole or monopod, but does work fairly well.

Some great info from the above posts Sherly! Another thing to keep in mind on ways to build up strength is to go out there an actually engage in the activities for which you may be training. If a person plans to cycle, then cycle. If a person plans to hike hilly terrain, hike hilly terrain. The important thing is to not exert yourself too much, too fast. Little by little to build up that strength, that's one of the best ways to prevent injuries. Remembers, weak(er) ankles/muscles with good shoes or insoles are still weak(er)!

Training plus good footwear/orthotics and you have a winning combination! 

Hi everyone..

Thank you for the great advise. After considering the ankel support, I have finally bought Salomon X Ultra Mid GTX. I tried other brands (Columbia, Keen, Merrell) but only Salomon shoes which creases did not press the toe. It's a good fit, I suppose.

However when I bring the shoes out for 9 hrs walk, my toes were a little sore. With bare feet, there were plenty of of rooms and I can wriggle my toes freely. But with Thorlo Light Hiking socks, at first it feels a bit sfuffy but there are rooms on the toe box. I can wriggle the toes but couldn't lift it upwards. When walking or even lightly running, it feels snug.

Is the shoe too small, or it's expected from a new boot (e.g. need time to break it)? I tried a size bigger but felt too roomy, not sure if it's too loose for hiking. Aside from the sore toes, there were no sign of redness or blister.

August 14, 2020
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