The Inca Trail might see a lot of footfall but its terrain is just as rugged as ever, meaning that your choice of footwear can really make or break your trip. Hiking along the Inca Trail means committing to traveling around 12 km per day on foot so you’re going to want to be as comfortable as possible while you’re walking or you might just end up tapping out after day one.
Both a blessing and a curse, hiking boots come in hundreds of different shapes and sizes; featuring special additions for certain terrains and all sorts of other fancy bits and bobs. This is great because it means that you’re almost guaranteed to find the perfect boot that fits your foot like Cinderella’s slipper and allows you to waltz up the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu without a care (or blister) in the world. The downside, of course, is that you have a whole lot of shoes to sift through before you find the one. Fortunately, we’ve compiled some handy tips to help you separate the wheat from the chaff and streamline your boot searching to the max.
There are lots of different types of hiking footwear, ranging from hiking shoes to boots to trail runners. For the Inca Trail, you are going to want hiking boots rather than hiking shoes. The main difference between the two is the ankle support offered by the boot. If you are hiking along uneven terrain with a heavy load on your back for multiple hours a day you need your ankles to be protected so that a tumble over some rugged ground doesn’t result in a serious injury that puts an end to your expedition.
Once you’ve chosen the style of boot you want, you are going to need to make sure that it fits perfectly. There’s nothing worse than getting a few kilometers into your hike and realizing that your shoes are rubbing against the back of your foot and causing you pain. Generally speaking, your feet will swell during the day so it is always best to try on your shoes at the end of the day or after having done some physical activity. This way your feet will be at their biggest and you won’t end up buying shoes that are too small. At the front of your shoes there is a hard dome called the toe box, which keeps your toes from being bashed about too much by the rocks and bumps in your path. When you try your boot on, there should be a bit of space between your toes and the toe box. Additionally, your feet shouldn’t feel like they are being squished in at the sides – although the boot shouldn’t feel too loose either. When it comes to the heel of your foot, once your boot is on and laced up your heel should not move at all – if it does then the shoe is too big. A loose heel is a recipe for blisters but is sure it’s not too tight either or you risk cutting off the circulation to your foot.
The weather in the Andes can be unpredictable at times but one thing that is always certain is that is going to be cold at night. If you’re planning on continuing your walk after the sun sets then make sure you buy boots that are big enough to accommodate some thermal socks to stop your feet from freezing while you trek. The Sacred Valley is also prone to heavy rain so it is a good idea to buy boots with a waterproof liner so you don’t end up with sopping wet feet at the end of the day.
Now that you’ve found your boots and bought them, it’s time to make them your own. Firstly, you’ll need to spend some time walking around in your boots before embarking on the Inca Trail in order to break them in a bit. Do not break them in whilst on the Inca Trail or you’ll be on a one-way train to blister-town. Secondly, if you need in-soles or any other special equipment for your shoes put them in as soon as you can so your shoe has time to adapt its shape to accommodate them. Ideally, you should take your orthotics with you when you go shopping as this could change which boots you end up buying.
Hopefully, you now feel much more confident about embarking on your boot-shopping expedition. Remember, hiking boots don’t come cheap (and if you do find cheap ones, be very suspicious) but they are an investment. Spending that little bit extra on a pair of boots that won’t hurt your feet and will last you for years to come will be worth it at the end of the day.
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