Does Hiking Make Your Feet Bigger?

Hikers walking up a hill

There are a lot of myths regarding hiking. It makes sense, as it is both physically and spiritually demanding. Maybe that’s why most hikers have their own specific way of doing things, whether they’re tying their shoes or choosing the right path on the trail.

Some people claim that their feet have indeed grown over the years of hiking. In one particular case, the hiker’s shoe size increased from 10 to 11 and a 1/2, in almost a year of active hiking and trekking.

Others deny even the possibility of your feet enlarging due to hiking and swear they’ve been wearing the exact same shoes over numerous years of hiking, camping, and outdoor life.

Which ones have it right? Does hiking make your feet bigger?

Well, from my personal hiking experience, as well as bits and pieces of what I’ve learned over the years, there are a couple of factors that will decide whether and to what degree your feet will change after long term hiking. Read the following text to learn more.

Table of Contents

How Do Our Feet React to Hiking and What Comes Into Effect?

All sports cause your body to change in a certain way. With hiking, your legs and your feet do most of the work. 

Sure, carrying a backpack can put a strain on your back, but if strapped correctly, the pack should distribute your weight evenly across your body.

With this in mind, it’s no wonder some people experience changes and even growth in their lower extremities as a result of hiking.

Age When Hiking

The biggest factor determining whether hiking will increase the size of your feet is the age when you take up hiking.

Do you know how training basketball can make you taller and your feet bigger if you start doing it from a young age?

Hiking has a similar effect but just focused on your feet. This is especially true if you increasingly hike in puberty or during your teens. Being that it’s a period of heightened development for your body, everything you do will have a stronger effect on it.

Hiking Frequency and Duration

Apart from your age, another factor that will influence whether your feet get larger is how often you go hiking and how intensive your hikes are. Obviously, the longer hikes will have more effect on your feet, and the people who hike regularly are at greater risk of having their feet affected.

Additionally, the mileage you’ve covered will also be a factor. Some people say their feet started growing significantly, only after they’ve walked over 1000 miles. So, thru-hikers are more likely to have their feet grow after a trail.

Your Gait and How You Step

Hiking is a sport that develops your endurance and lower body strength. Unfortunately, unlike exercise for other parts of the body, hiking doesn’t need a proper technique. This leads to each person doing it their own way, as well all walk a bit differently. The way you step can also affect your feet. If your gait is inconsistent and improper, make sure you get help from a medical professional before you go on the trail.

Your Body Type

Unfortunately, some things just depend on your body construction and genetics. Don’t worry, though, your body type isn’t the determining factor of whether your feet will grow as a result of hiking. It will just speed up the process or slow it down.

Shoe Type and Shoe Size

The right equipment is extremely important for any sport, and for hikers, it mostly comes down to shoes. However, shoes not only protect your feet but also influence the way you step and walk.

The quality and comfort of your walking shoes will make the difference between an invigorating hike and a living nightmare.

Proper Treatment of Feet After Hiking

One way you can reduce both the temporary and the permanent swelling of your feet when hiking is to treat them after and during every hike.

Unfortunately, even though all these factors are important, it seems that your constitution and the way you walk will have the final say in whether your feet will get bigger after hiking. It varies from person to person.

Long Term Changes After Frequent Hikes

Even if your shoe size number doesn’t increase, your feet are likely to change if you are an avid hiker. These changes are perfectly normal and unless they are accompanied by severe pain or discomfort, they should give you no reason for concern. They might become slightly altered in shape, or become thicker, tougher, and drier.

Why Does Hiking Make Our Feet Bigger?

Your feet getting bigger as a result of hiking is nothing to be worried about as it’s normal for your body to adapt to the external factors affecting it. This is basically how all physical training works, whether it’s trekking, basketball, or weight lifting. You expose your body to repeated conditions until it adapts to them.

Thus, hiking will strengthen your lower body, boost your endurance and make your feet durable enough to withstand the punishment of walking for long periods of time. For some hikers, this includes their feet getting bigger. For others it doesn’t.

As long as you don’t overdo the exercise and overload your body, there shouldn’t be a reason to worry. Make sure you give your body enough time to recuperate after a demanding trail and keep a healthy diet to ensure maximum recovery.

Why Are Feet Swollen After Hiking?

Hikers experience swelling in their feet for a number of reasons. The two most common ones have to do with circulation and the body’s water retention. Even though it’s not particularly painful, unattended swelling can lead to inflammation of the foot.

When you hike, you stay in the same position for long periods of time and, because of gravity, most of the fluids in your body, like blood, start to go down. They end up gathering in your feet, like when your ankles are swollen after a long time on the plane.

In addition to this, when you’re hiking, there is a lot more blood flowing through your feet than usual. The blood vessels in your feet will start to leak blood through their porous walls into the surrounding tissue and that’s how we get swelling after hiking.

The amount of swelling you can encounter varies from a little puffy to some pretty serious medical conditions. The most common swelling after a day’s hike should be gone in the morning unless you’ve overburdened your foot too many days in a row. Cold weather can actually help you reduce the swelling in your feet. Just make sure it’s not too cold for hiking or you are at risk of getting frostbite.

If the swelling doesn’t go down after a couple of days or if you notice any breaks in the skin caused by the swelling, you should immediately get medical attention.

How to Protect Your Feet When Hiking?

Here are some tips you can use to keep the swelling to a minimum and protect your feet during even the most challenging trails:

  • Take anti-inflammatory medicine before a demanding hike
  • Adjust your shoes from time to time while hiking
  • Stretch both your feet when making breaks
  • Change socks often during a long hike
  • Get circulation improving socks
  • Use trekking poles to take the load off your feet
  • Apply ice packs to your feet for about 15-30 minutes when taking breaks during a hike

The best thing you can do when you come from a long hike with swollen feet is to raise them on a stool or a chair. Get in a comfortable position, because it will take at least 15 minutes for all the blood accumulated in your feet to settle itself in different places.

The next thing you’ll want to do is rub your feet to take out all of the cramps and relax the overused muscles. You can use ice packs or cold water in combination with this in order to speed up the process.

How to Pick the Right Hiking Shoes?

Getting the best tool for the job is a good way to make sure you won’t get hurt doing it. As far as hiking is concerned, it all comes down to what shoes you choose.

For hiking, you should always get shoes that are a bit larger than what you might usually wear, and never tight-fitting or smaller ones.

Most hikers prefer to get shoes a size bigger when they hike. There are many reasons for this, like to account for thicker socks and better circulation. Having larger shoes also comes in handy if your feet start swelling, when on a trail.

Person avoiding getting bigger feet after hiking by wearing the right shoes.

Get informed before buying any pair of hiking boots. Know what you must have in a walking boot and what you can live without. For hiking, you should always prioritize function over form.

Unfortunately, even with all the help, you still won’t know whether the shoes fit your needs until you walk a couple of dozen miles in them.

Let us know about your experiences and whether hiking has made your feet bigger. If you want to learn more useful things about outdoor life, make sure you visit our blog.

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