How to choose hiking shoes for women with sensitive feet?

Do your sensitive feet prevent you from fully enjoying your hiking excursions? In this article, you'll learn how to choose the appropriate hiking shoes.

Every foot is unique and sometimes it's difficult to find appropriate shoes. However, it is possible; just follow our advice and enjoy exploring magnificent landscapes without the affliction of foot pain.

What makes your feet sensitive?

Before discussing key criteria when choosing hiking shoes for sensitive feet, it's important to understand the reason for this sensitivity.

And there may be several reasons: specific morphology, health problems, a deformity etc. The most common problems include: bunions, wide feet and plantar fasciitis.

Problems like diabetes, problems with blood circulation or misaligned feet can also make your feet more sensitive. Wearing inappropriate shoes can exacerbate this sensitivity. If your shoes are too tight, too big or don't support your arch properly, over time, they can cause discomfort and pain.

If there's no identifiable problem or particular reason why your feet are sensitive, then we recommend that you go to see a podiatrist or your GP.

Hiking shoes - women sensitive feet

What specific requirements do women with sensitive feet have?

Choosing hiking or trekking shoes is often complicated, irrespective of whether or not you have sensitive feet. You're going to be wearing these shoes for many kilometres, sometimes over mountainous and steep terrain. So it's important that they fit your feet properly so they don't cause pain after the first few kilometres.

When it comes to hiking shoes, sensitive feet have many more specific requirements. In addition to optimum comfort, they need adequate arch support and good shock absorption. Shoes need to be sufficiently spacious in order to avoid unnecessary pressure, particularly in the toe area. Although they shouldn't be too tight, you also need to be careful that your foot doesn't move excessively in the shoe which could lead to rubbing and blisters.

What are the key criteria when it comes to choosing appropriate walking shoes for women with sensitive feet?

How to assess the comfort of a hiking shoe

Here are several criteria that you can use to assess the comfort of hiking shoes:

  • The lining material: choose shoes with soft, anti-rub materials.
  • The insole: a thick, soft insole can help reduce pressure and impact when walking. If you have orthotics, check that they fit the shoe you're planning on buying.
  • Arch support: Good arch support is essential to prevent pain.
  • Shoe shape: shoes that are too tight can squash the foot and cause pain. Ideally, you should choose a shoe with a wider and more spacious fit for sensitive feet.
  • Shoe ventilation: Flexible, breathable materials help prevent friction and encourage better foot ventilation.
  • Specific features: some models are specially designed for sensitive feet, with features such as removable insoles, advanced cushioning systems and ventilation technology. There are also models for wide feet to prevent your feet getting squashed when walking.
Every foot is unique so it's important to try on several models and find the one that best suits your shape and level of sensitivity.

In summer, individuals with sensitive feet sometimes prefer hiking sandals which offer enhanced comfort.

women-hiking-sensitive feet
How to assess the cushioning of a hiking shoe

Cushioning is a key factor when choosing hiking shoes for women with sensitive feet. Without good cushioning, which helps to reduce pressure and absorb shock, your feet will be subjected to much greater impact and quickly become more painful. A shoe's cushioning is made up of several components:

  • The midsole : this is the part of the shoe that absorbs the most impact.
 As its name suggests, it is positioned between the insole (in contact with the foot) and outsole (in contact with the ground).
  • The outsole material: some shoes use a rubber outsole to provide additional cushioning.
  • Special cushioning technology: some hiking shoe manufacturers incorporate advanced cushioning technologies into their designs.

How to assess the grip and traction of a hiking shoe

Assessing the level of grip provided by hiking shoes on different types of terrain is key when it comes to ensuring safety during hiking excursions. Good grip stops you from slipping and falling, particularly on damp or slippery ground. For good grip, lugs need to be deep and sharp.

Traction helps when walking on solid or uneven surfaces, including rocky terrain. This is provided by wider, shallow lugs.

Shoes with a Vibram® sole are very popular for mountain hiking. This type of sole is known for its enhanced grip, abrasion-resistance and stability.

Finally, remember to consider the type of ground you'll be walking on so you can determine whether you need good grip and traction.

How to assess the support of a hiking shoe

In addition to grip, good support is essential to reduce the risk of twisting your ankle and developing pain after just a few kilometres.

To ensure good support, you need to consider the following features:

  • Efficient lacing system: An efficient lacing system for precise adjustment and improved foot support. A locking hook system on high-cut hiking shoes allows you to tighten the top and bottom sections separately. This means you can adjust the lacing to your foot shape, for increased or reduced freedom of movement, depending on your preference.
  • A"well-secured" heel: to stop the heel from lifting, which can cause rubbing, your heel needs to be properly secured/supported at the back of the shoe.
  • Non-slip shoes: for good support, it's important that your foot doesn't slide back and forth, particularly when you're hiking. So should test your shoes on an incline to check this out.

Should you opt for lightweight hiking shoes?

Lightweight walking shoes or sandals are recommended for women with sensitive feet. They reduce fatigue as you're lifting less weight for each step. However, you shouldn't prioritize weight over proper foot protection, support and comfort. If you're setting off for a multi-day hike or planning on walking over rocky terrain, you should prioritize protection, comfort, support and cushioning rather than the weight of the shoe.

Is waterproofing an important criteria?

Depending on how you plan to use your hiking shoes, it's important to check if they're waterproof, so you're not unpleasantly surprised if you're caught in a heavy downpour.
Waterproofing is even more important if you're planning on going trekking in changeable weather conditions. Damp or wet feet are more susceptible to damage and can cause your shoes to rub.
So we recommend that you check if your shoes are waterproof as well as breathable to prevent moisture from forming inside your shoe.


How to choose the right size hiking or trekking shoes for sensitive feet

Here is some advice to help you choose the correct size hiking or trekking shoes:

  • Try on your shoes in the afternoon when your feet are already swollen.
  • If you're unsure about your size, measure your feet using a foot measuring device, normally available in store.
  • If you have orthotics, place them inside the shoe before trying on.
  • Try on both shoes, standing up, with the socks that you wear for hiking.
  • Take time to tighten the laces properly, distributing the tension evenly.
  • Test your shoes in store. Some Decathlon stores are fitted with a test track so you can try out your shoes on a variety of flat and inclined surfaces.
  • Then check two things: that your heel doesn't lift up before the shoe when walking on an incline and that your foot doesn't slip; and also that your toes don't hit the front when walking downhill.
  • To prevent chafing and pressure, the shoes must have enough space for the toes.
  • Try on several sizes and styles so you can compare and identify the shoe that feels most comfortable.
Tip: If you fall between sizes, opt for the larger size. With a bigger shoe, you can adjust the size using an insole. The reverse situation, however, is more complicated.


What kind of walking shoes are best for women with sensitive feet?

  • Low-cut-hiking-shoes

    Low-cut hiking shoes

    Better freedom of movement
    Suitable for day-long hikes or speed hiking

  • Mid-cut-hiking-shoes

    Mid-cut hiking shoes

    Good balance between high and low-cut hiking shoes
    Freedom of movement with better ankle support than low-cut shoes
    Suitable for easy to moderately difficult hikes

  • High-cut-hiking-shoes

    High-cut hiking shoes

    Good ankle support
    Suitable for rugged or steep trails and long-distance hikes (trekking)
    Better for carrying heavy packs

What type of hiking shoes are suitable for what purpose?

  • Day-hiking-shoes

    Day hiking

    Flexible, ventilated shoes with freedom of movement and good cushioning

  • Speed-hiking-shoes

    Speed hiking

    Flexible, lightweight shoes with good grip and traction

  • Hiking-trekking-shoes

    Multi-day trek

    Hard-wearing shoes, designed for carrying heavy backpacks, offering good support, grip and traction

What about hiking in the snow?

There are special shoes available if you are planning on going hiking in the winter, on snow-covered ground. These snow hiking shoes are lined to help keep your feet warm and offer good support to reduce chafing and prevent you twisting your ankle.


How do you choose your hiking socks ?

Even if you have the best hiking shoes, ideally suited to sensitive feet, wearing the wrong socks can adversely affect your comfort. Socks that are too high or too short can create areas of friction
so it's important to choose socks that are designed for hiking.

To sum up, women with sensitive feet need to consider several criteria when choosing hiking shoes:

  • Their intended use
  • The type of ground on which you're going to walk
  • The support you need
  • Shock absorption
  • Comfort
  • Grip
  • Weight
  • Shoe stiffness
  • Waterproofing
Finally, remember that the first step in treating sensitive feet is to identify the root-cause so you can address it, if possible.

Content that may also be of interest to you

choosing high trekking boots

How to choose high trekking shoes

You are going on a trek and you need a pair of boots! But you need more detailed information to be able to choose them.You are in the right place!

Padded trekking jackets

How to choose your padded hiking jacket

Do you want to buy a padded jacket to go trekking or hiking but don't know which one to choose? Check out our advice for choosing the right padded jacket!

How do I choose my sleeping bag?

How do I choose my trekking sleeping bag?

Whether you’re sleeping under the stars, in a tent or mountain hut, your sleeping bag is one of the essential pieces of equipment for long hikes to take in your backpack. It’s important to choose a model suitable for the weather conditions you’re likely to face.

Eating in a bivouac, what food to take on a trek?

Eating in a bivouac, what food to take on a trek?

Are you looking for advice or ideas for your meals on a trek? We explain all you need to know.