Gear Guy

Q:

Do you have any tricks for easing boot discomfort?

I'm breaking in a new pair of La Sportiva TRK hiking boots. I have no problem on flat terrain or when hiking uphill, but on the descent my toes will start to hurt and crp up, especially where they meet the base of my boot. I have high arches, so could this be the cause? Or is this just normal with new boots? BJ Guilderland, New York

A:Well, if your toes are butting the end of the boot when you're walking downhill, then maybe they are a tad small. A half size, at least. Although it's also true that some collisions between your toes and the boot are probably inevitable. So short of walking a mile in your own shoes, it's difficult for me to diagnose the problem precisely.

La Sportiva's TRKs ($215; www.sportiva.com) are a moderately heavy boot. So perhaps more break-in will help. As the boots' leather conforms more closely to your feet, they should slide around less. Also, it's useful to tighten the laces when starting a descent. That will help control your foot and prevent it from sliding forward. You might also want to replace the boot's insole with a better-quality after-market product that will improve the fit and perhaps help with your high-arch issue. Try a pair of Superfeet ($30; www.rei.com), an excellent insole that improves foot stability and offers more support and cushioning than a standard insole. They alone may solve the problem. Superfeet are available as an off-the-shelf item, but a dealer can also order a custom model that may be a better solution given your high arches.

But, short of that, try the lace trick and replace the insole. I think you can get the boots to work OK with some minor fine-tuning.

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