How to Prevent Sore Toenail after Hiking

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Do you experience sore toenail after hiking? This is for you!

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This problem is more common than you would care to think.

It is not OK to experience sore toenails, heel, ankle or even ball of foot pain after hiking. You see, hiking should be a pleasure, not a punishment.

Yet, without knowing how to prevent such occurrences, you will always experience some sort of pain after hiking.

Today, we will find out how to prevent pain of the toes while and after hiking. Hopefully, this will also help you prevent bruise under toenail from walking.

Causes of sore toenails after hiking

The solution to any problem lies in finding the root cause first. If you do not know the main cause of a problem, you will only treat the symptoms. After a while, the problem will recur.

Thankfully, the causes of toenail pain while hiking are easy to define. The most common one are as follows:

Feet slide forward in hiking boots

Many hiking resources advise you to buy hiking boots or shoes that are at least a half size bigger than what you would normally wear with regular shoes.

However, if a pair of trail boots comes really true to size, if you make it any bigger, it will be just that – bigger!

This means that when you wear it, your foot has room to keep sliding inside as you walk. This causes your big toe, which is actually bigger than the other toes to keep hitting against the wall of the toe box.

And it causes you pain. In fact, this is also one of the causes of bruised toenails after walking.

Usually, the foot sliding forward happens when you are going downhill. If this has been happening to you, your toenails have a story to tell, a sad one.

Tight hiking shoes rub against the toes

We know that the widest part of your foot is the ball of foot region. Therefore, when your shoes are too tight, the part that will hurt most is the toes. Check whether your shoes feel too tight.

Some shoe materials such as leather and suede can be too stubborn. They take their time to expand and conform to the shape and size of your feet.

When the temperatures rise, your feet swell a bit. Maybe it is the blood flowing to the feet region as a result of gravity. When this happens, the feet push against the leather wall of the shoe. In this case, you will find that it is the small and big toes that hurt the most.

How do I stop my toes from hurting when I walk? If you have been asking this, you can actually check whether the aforementioned reasons apply to you. You can then continue reading to see what solutions work best.

Your shoes are small

If your shoes are small, every part of your foot will be pressing against the shoes walls and front.

Should hiking shoes be tight or loose? Well, your shoes should be just the right size. If they are too tight, they will press against your toes and hurt them. Too much friction against the skin of your feet will cause bruises and blisters.

If you experience heels rubbing in hiking boots, well, it means that your boots are too small. Or too big, which brings us to the next point.

When your hiking boots are too big

Should hiking shoes be a size bigger? No, but they should be a half-size bigger. Even then, the extra space should be filled up by your hiking socks.

If you do not wear hiking socks, your boots will simply be too big. Therefore, when you move or run, they will rub against the feet, causing your toes to hurt badly.

When your shoes are big, again, they will make the feet slide forward in hiking boots. This will cause your toes, especially the big one to hit against the front of the shoes.

It will hurt you in the process.

When your toenails are too big

If you keep big toenails, wearing fitting hiking boots is going to hurt them. They will be protruding to the front and that means that any time your foot slides forward a little, the toenails get into contact with the boot. They hurt like crazy.

Therefore, keep the nails as short as possible. If you let them stay too long, they will be at risk of being pushed inward or breaking. Both experiences are painful.

How do you prevent sore toes when hiking?

After we have seen the main causes of sore toenail after hiking, we now look at the solutions. Here are a few of them:

Keep your toenails short

We are just reiterating this because we have already mentioned it. However, cut them properly in a round shape rather than leaving sharp edges. Also file them properly.

Wear fitting hiking shoes

This is obvious. You have seen the disadvantages of small, narrow, even bigger, and wider hiking shoes. They hurt and they hurt your toes.

Image of how to avoid sore tonails after walking

Now, you can take care of that with wearing the right shoes. They should fit nicely leaving just a small room, nothing too big.

If you already have hiking boots that feel too small, you can break them in by enlarging them. We did cover a topic on how to break in shoes but some of the things to do include:

  • Using ice to enlarge the shoes
  • Using heat to enlarge the boots
  • Taking them to a cobbler to make them larger

If your hiking boots are too big, you can also do a few things to make them fit you in a much better way. Try the following things:

  • Add an extra, or just use a bigger insert
  • Wear them with thick hiking socks
  • Take them to a cobbler

Lace your shoes properly when going downhill

Mostly, toes hurt most when you have been going downhill. However, there is a special technique that you can use to lace up your boots so that you save your toes.

Try lacing up your boots in the overhand locking style. This is a simple style in which the lace forms X-crosses as it goes through eyelets on the opposite side.

The main benefit with this lacing style is that it keeps your foot secured tightly in the shoes. Therefore, when you are going downhill, your foot does not slide in the shoes.

Try different types of shoes

If one type of hiking boots gives you bruised toenails after walking, try different types of shoes. For example, after consistently getting black toenails from using heavy hiking boots, try using a pair of trail runners.

Such are light in weight, they are also more accommodative and they conform to the shape of your feet easily. You could be surprised by the good results.

Use hiking poles when going downhill

One good thing about using hiking poles for trekking is that they support you such that all of your weight is not supported by your legs. In any case, even if your toenails do not hurt when you are going downhill, use hiking poles especially if you have a heavy backpack.

Use Inserts with better arch support

The arch support in your insole should be like a small molding that actually fits into your arch. Therefore, if you are not feeling supported by the stock insole, buy a customized one. Protalus or Superfeet insoles on are some of the best in the market.


If you experience sore toenail after hiking, you need to do something about it. In this article, we have looked at different measures you can undertake to prevent that. We have also looked at the main causes. Try the solution that fits your needs best and enjoy a better hiking experience.