Best Foot Strengthening for Hiking, Walking, and Backpacking – Foot Pain Relief

Exercise yes, hike yes, but the best way to foot strengthening and foot pain relief involves one daily activity.

Lems Shoes-
All my gear –

Pick one you like and wear it, progressively wearing it for longer periods over time.

Note: Avoid the Lems Trailhead, they are mainstream shoes and not as foot friendly.

This video is not medical advice, or a treatment plan personalized just for you. The video is intended for general education and demonstration purposes only. Perform the moves and/or purchase the products in this video at your own risk. These moves may not appropriate for your specific situation, so obtain approval and guidance from your healthcare provider before beginning. If anything is painful of does not feel right, stop immediately and contact your healthcare provider.

Do not use this video to self-diagnose or self-treat and health, medical, or physical condition. Do not use this video to avoid going to your healthcare provider or to replace the advice they have/will give you.

You agree to indemnify and hold harmless Matt Shafter for any losses, injuries, or damages resulting from all claims that arise from your use or misuse of this videos content. Matt Shafter makes no representation about the accuracy or suitability of this video.

DISCLAIMER: This video and description contain affiliate links, which means that
if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission at no extra
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  • Remember, get one pair of minimal shoes and then gradually introduce your feet to them. Take your time with it. Also, in future videos I'll go over why I DON'T use minimal trail runners while hiking.

  • All I know is this: I never had foot pain in my life until I fell for the zero-drop, barefoot shoe hype (Altra LPs). I wore them for ONE WEEK only and I have had foot pain so intense that at times I am unable to walk. It's been three months now and I'm wondering if my feet will ever return to normal. I'm not saying the rest of you are wrong; just that for me this was an incredibly bad mistake.

  • Hey Matt thanks for the info. Its funny how you need disclaimers now that your an official smarty pants. You're a straight up guy and I'll believe what you tell me about this stuff. Was there any sponsorship involved in this video? You said more minimalist shoes. I switched last season to the zero drop and I've had no problems. I've kinda oddly stopped wearing other shoes most of the time. As well as big boy pants. I walk around in shorts and flip flops – not totally flat but close. Am I doing damage or is it more closely to what you are suggesting?
    Thanks buddy

  • Genuine information in here Matt, thank's a lot !!

    I go barefoot for the last 2 years. In my journeys I came acroos mountains, a lot of caving, and all sort of wild wood. I can't describe the feeling in words….. it's purely amazing. My ankles are getting tougher along with the joints, the ligaments and I can feel this. The liberty my foot has it's something most of the people don't get it. Yeah I 100% agree with the shoes that offers you a flat surface and plenty of space for your toes. I practice this all year round until the weather get's under 8 degree Celsius.
    Salute you my friend 👍 (liked&subscribed)

  • “I am a PT, but I’m not your PT”
    Well said. This vital point is often missing from educational videos. If people want personalized advice from a professional, then they need to consult with and compensate a professional.

  • Hey Matt, love your vids! Been a longtime fan. Just letting you know your paragraph at the bottom of your website page has a grammar error: should be “the rest of the” not “the rest the”

  • This was a great video, really short but also to the point and informative, and an unexpected answer. Thanks!

  • Been wearing minimalist footwear for 2ish years and can confirm, feet and ankles are stronger because of it.

  • thank you for your video Matt. Any suggestions for a short wide foot hiking shoe…as in 6.5 x 6E?

  • I started wearing the Merrell Vapor Glove 3 and Xero Shoes cloud sandals two months ago, and my feet have never felt so strong and agile. I'll probably never wear anything but minimalist footwear now. However, I am now confined to my bed with extremely tight and painful calves, glutes and thighs because I thought my legs were bulletproof and gave them too much to handle. Everyone can benefit from strong feet, but the transition takes longer than two months apparently.

    Good content, keep it up!

  • I like to just hike barefoot. Unless I'm at work or doing parkour I'm pretty much always barefoot. Mah boo do, too

  • Welcome to the profession Dr. Shafter.

  • My new favorite channel! Love finding you on Reddit and seeing you interact with the community. Videos are always right to the point and easy for me to follow along. Keep up the great work. I'm also brand new, planning on doing my first overnight soon, so just spending hours researching.

  • Thanks for the video, as always! What do you think of Allbirds as minimalist shoes?

  • I’m in a DPT program right now in Virginia and I wear my Xero shoes Hana model in the clinic and no one has ever said they look unprofessional. Some models do look odd but I like the ones I have. They also have better sales than the Lems around the holidays. I picked up my Xero shoes for less than $30!

  • Hello Matt, i have RA and i d like to go on small trails and wild camping, any tips? If you know about this condition of course, if not, thanks for ur vids anyway 😉

  • Thank you for this. Found you at random for your Camping Gear 2021 video. Then saw this. 3 months ago before heading out for a trip I suffered a full-thickness tear of my Anterior Talofibular and high-grade partial of my Calcaneofibular ligaments. It's been rough recovering but I really can't wait to get back out hiking and backpacking again. I'm already used to 0 drop shoes with Altras but have been eyeing up Lems and Vivobarefoot for a while. This pushed me over the edge. Thanks! And I just subscribed. Keep the content coming!

  • I'm 61 years old, started hiking about 3 years ago. I developed Haglunds Deformity and had surgery Dec 2020. Did not have to detach achilles. Any advice on getting back on trail? I've done some short hikes, plus a 40 mile hike in 2 full days. Ankle still a bit tender. Any thoughts?

  • Hi Matt, as a future medical doctor myself, I'm glad I have found you and your channel! So thanks for all the contents 😄

  • Would you recommend this to someone with hypermobility in their feet?

  • Unfortunately Lems has a pretty narrow midfoot. I have a relatively wide foot, and I've been barefoot or worn barefoot sandals for a few years. My feet have gotten even wider and higher volume over time, so Lems have gotten pretty uncomfortable in the midfooot.

  • Thanks Matt ! I’ve been dealing with an ankle injury for a year, will get my vaccine shot Friday, so I can finally see a therapist !

  • Congratulations on your achievement! I love this kind of advice. I need to worth on my stretching routine (non-existent) and exercises combat my shin splints (I forget the type that corresponds to my pain). If you have interest in taking up these topics, you have on eager viewer.

  • Did you even shower before making this?

  • Ok, I'm game. I love the feel of my Altra's…. and have contemplated how wise it would be to wear my "clown shoes" (as my wife calls them) around the home or office. Thanks for the info.

  • I’ve got four pairs of Lems and I love them all. I pray for the day that even one of them has any kind of decent tread for hiking.

  • The Nine2Five are my go to teacher show. The primals do everything else off trail.

  • Hell yeah, please make more conditioning/strengthening videos focusing on more hiking related injuries! I’ve had to bail out of numerous backpacking trips because of IT band related knee pain, and I’d love to hear your advice and recommendations regarding anything we can do to help us towards successful hikes. Your gear videos have been doing a great job of this for years. Likewise, I’d watch your videos over and over if they were fitness focused. Congrats again on your huge accomplishment!

  • Just a general question, I've had planters fasciitis in the past and bought cushy heal type sneakers which helped heal it up. Do you think these shoes you recommend are a good option for someone who has had this problem ?

  • Agree to !
    By the way I saw your TikTok for the first time, it's pretty good 👌
    But Matt, why did you swith to the duplex over the AeonLi ? I'm 185cm tall and I think the Duplex will be short for me, not the case for you ?
    Why don't you do a small update video of your gear list ?

  • Thanks for the video Matt! Especially for the Lems recommendation! I just switched to Altra's for hiking and now want to switch my everyday shoes to zero drop.
    I'm training for my first thru hike and have just been putting in the miles on local trails, but my biggest struggle has been that I'm missing half the digits on one of my feet. Hoping they'll survive the thru hike.

  • Thanks Doctor. I have 73 years. Went to zero drop shoes three years ago and from the first day wearing them, will never look back all the rest of my days. That is so important that you walk as you foot is designed. This video was beyond perfect IMNSHO.

  • Yeah dude, been doing this for over a decade now. All my shoes are minimalist or drop zero. My indoor shoe at work (I work as a teacher, on my feet a lot) is a pair of Merrel Vapor Trails–hard to get anymore minimal that that! Then my everyday shoe for most of the year are a pair of Lems Boulder boots, and of course a pair of Chucks. BTW, my PT really helped my recovery and I am feeling much better now. She gave me the green light to hit the trails as much as I want now, and boy was I happy about that. 🙂

  • I have extra wide feet. These are all probably normal width with a larger footbox, right?. I use to wear Altras, but they seem to be narrowing down their shoes over the last few years.Let us wide footed hikers know if you have any alternate suggestions. Thanks!

  • I’m not a pt but it’s worth mentioning you have to transition into these shoes slowly especially if you are older. Im working my way down from the “evil” 8-12 mm drop trail runners slowly.

  • As a janitor in a medical facility I walk about 12 km every night. What I walk in are a pair of zero drop watertight Sketchers. After about a year the insole to fabric has started to peel but aside from that they’re pretty good!

  • These do look good! Thanks for the tip! I'll try the Vegan shoes AND Leather boots🤣

  • Ok, I looked them up but they have a military discount or do you have a discount code ? I wouldn't mind giving them a try.

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