Find the Best Hiking Shoes for Achilles Tendon Problems (2024)

Looking for the best hiking shoes for Achilles tendon problems?  The Columbia Newton Ridge Plus hiking boots with Warwick Adjust-A-Heel heel lift inserts are my number one choice. 

As someone who has personally experienced a whole slew of foot and ankle problems (including persistent Achilles tendon pain), I understand how much of a difference the right shoes can make. 

The Newton Ridge hiking boots have a slight heel lift and are fantastic hiking boots overall.  Combined with the additional heel lift from the Warwick inserts, these shoes have let me keep hiking while recovering from Achilles tendinitis. 

In this guide, I’ll talk about the features of the Newton Ridge Boots with the Warwick inserts.  I’ll also discuss my runner-up hiking shoe options, the Hoka One One series shoes, and the Brooks Glycerine shoe line.  

And, I’ll talk about Achilles tendonitis in general: why it happens, and what you can do about it.

So let’s dive in!

Columbia Newton Ridge Hiking Boots: My #1 Choice for the Best Hiking Shoes for Achilles Tendon Problems

I’m a big Columbia boots fan, and my Newton Ridge pair has been by far my favorite.  The Columbia line has some of the best hiking boots in general (and they are fantastic for Achilles problems). 

The tread is fantastic (I used these when climbing the slick granite of Half Dome in Yosemite), and the boots come in a whole range of colors.

These boots are an excellent choice for Achilles tendon pain because they’ve got a slight heel lift, great ankle support, and a good heel cup structure.  All of these help take pressure off of the Achilles tendon.

side view of the Columbia Newton Ridge women's hiking boots; the best hiking shoes for Achilles tendon problems
These boots have a slight heel lift and a great heel cup support

The Newton Ridge boots strike a great balance with the height of their boot: The ankle area reaches high enough to support the ankle well but not so high that it restricts motion.

Other Quick Facts about the Columbia Newton Ridge Boots:

  • Materials: Made with rubber (bottom insole), leather, and mesh
  • Waterproof: My feet rarely get wet in these boots
  • Midsole: Has a lightweight midsole that is comfy with great cushioning.
  • Size Options and Colors: Sizes 5-12 (women’s), 17 color options

Warwick Adjust-A-Heel Lifts: A Gamechanger

Wearing proper footwear with a slight heel lift and great ankle support goes a long way, but the big game-changer for me was discovering heel lift inserts.

These inserts can be placed in any casual or athletic shoes (including my Columbia hiking boots), and they take even more pressure off of the Achilles tendon by effectively reducing the stretch on the tendon while walking/hiking.

I love the Warwick Adjust-a-Lift inserts because they are (as the name suggests) adjustable.  Each insert is essentially three layers stuck together with a high-quality adhesive.  You can peel the layers apart to adjust the thickness of the insert.

close-up of the layers of the Warwick Adjust-a-lift heel lift inserts
I love that these inserts are adjustable. You can change the thickness of the insert by peeling apart the layers.

These inserts are so easy to throw in your hiking bag and have handy whenever you need them.  My Achilles tendon pain cleared up about a year ago, but I still keep these inserts with me in case my Achilles flares up on a longer/steeper trail.

The Hoka One-One Series: My Runner-Up#1 for Best Shoes for Achilles Tendon Problems

Real hiking boots with ankle support will take the most pressure off your Achilles tendon. However, if you are looking for something lighter or better for everyday use, the Hoka One-One series is a great option.

While Hoka One-One shoes are more designed for runners (they are also some of the best running shoes out there), they make for great hiking shoes for easier or moderate trails, especially if your focus is to keep pressure off of your Achilles tendon. 

close-up side photo of a turquoise Hoka One One shoe with peach-colored trim, my runner-up best hiking shoes for Achilles tendon problems
The big heel lift and rocker system with Hoka One One shoes helps take pressure off the Achilles tendon


I use my Hoka One One Clifton shoes everywhere.  Hoka One-One Shoes use what they call a ‘MetaRocker’, a rocking technology that helps with a smoother transition between when your heel strikes the ground until you transition to pushing off with your forefoot.  This rocker effect takes the strain off of the Achilles tendon.

Understanding Achilles Tendon Pain

First, what is your Achilles tendon, and what does it do?

The Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the human body. It connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. 

This tendon is important for activities like walking, running, and jumping.  It basically allows the calf muscles to pull on the back of your heel, which moves the foot and ankle.

So, what exactly causes Achilles tendon pain? The Achilles tendon, our biggest one, links the calf muscles to the heel bone, allowing us to do any move that involves pushing off the foot. Even though it’s strong, it can get injured or inflamed and is a common overuse injury for hikers. 

side view of ankle, showing the Achilles tendon

Common Causes of Achilles Flare-ups and Preventative Measures

Tight Calves 

If your calf muscles are tight, this shortens the muscle and puts more pressure on your Achilles tendon each time you take a step. 

How can you prevent this?  Make it a part of your daily routine to foam-roll and then stretch your calf muscles.  If you chronically have tight calf muscles, I recommend buying a massage gun and incorporating that into your daily routine. 

side view of a woman using a foam roller
I use this foam roller every day. Just 5-10 minutes is enough to loosen my hamstrings and calves.

Flat Feet

Overpronation and flat arches can also lead to increased stress on the Achilles because this can cause the tendon to twist slightly with each step.  Here’s an awesome video by the Michigan Foot Doctors group on why this happens and what you can do to fix it. 

What can you do about flat feet or overpronation?  Make sure every pair of shoes you use has good arch support.  Or, even better, replace your current insoles with Walkhero insoles.  I’ve been using these for years and swear by them.  

Walkhero insoles are firmer than most of the insoles that come with your shoes (even high-quality athletic shoes) and have made all the difference in both my Achilles Pain and my plantar fasciitis pain. 

Overuse

Sudden increases in hiking intensity or frequency can cause inflammation in your Achilles tendon.  

My advice if you are new to hiking is to start slow and be consistent. Choose easier, less steep routes, and then gradually increase your mileage each week.

Uneven Surfaces

Hiking on uneven surfaces can essentially do the same thing as having flat feet or overpronating.  When your foot lands awkwardly, this can cause a twisting motion and put more stress on your Achilles tendon. 

The thing with hiking, though, is that most trails are somewhat uneven.  So what can you do about it?  The first step is to wear good hiking boots with ankle support.  When your ankle is stabilized, this will help spread out the shock to your foot and Achilles from an awkward landing.

Second, try using hiking poles.  Hiking poles are great for anyone with any type of foot, ankle, or knee problems, as they distribute the force of each step more evenly between your arms and legs.  

Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis

Last year, my Achilles tendonitis started with a mild discomfort every time I took a step.  This started after pounding out a hard/steep 5+ mile hike after having not hiked for months (not a good idea!).

I kept walking on it without modifying my shoes.  I should have jumped right on the problem, but honestly, I wouldn’t recommend staying off your foot completely.  Walking is so important to maintaining the strength of the muscles/tendons/ligaments in your foot and ankle in general.

That’s where the right shoes and shoe inserts come in.  I still cut down my total walking distance, but with the inserts and good shoes, I was able to continue going on daily walks and mild hikes without too much discomfort. 

The Right Design for Your Hiking Shoes with Achilles Tendonitis: Key Features

I’ve found that there are a couple of key shoe components that made a huge difference with my Achilles tendonitis.

Three Things to Look For

1. Good Arch Support

Like I mentioned before, shoes with good arch support help keep your Achilles tendon straight with each step you take.  Most good walking or hiking shoes have decent arch support.  

I also prefer shoes with a removable insole (I love my WalkHero insoles, which usually have better arch support than the insoles that come with the shoes). 

A worn-out pair of Walkhero shoe inserts in front of a pair of black running shoes
My VERY worn Walk Hero insoles. These are the best insoles I’ve found for both Plantar Fascitis and Achilles tendon pain

2. Heel Lift

Most hiking and walking shoes have a slight lift to the heel.  For Achilles tendon problems specifically, I would avoid ‘zero drop’ shoes or natural/barefoot style shoes.  

These shoes are great for other things, like improving your running form.  I use my Altra zero-drop shoes all the time because the wide toe box helps prevent bunion pain.  

But if your Achilles tendon is acting up, I would stick to the classic heel-lift style shoes.

A Hoka shoe lying next to a cheap converse flat shoe
The difference between a great shoes with good heel lift (right) and a terrible shoe is usually pretty obvious

3. Good Ankle Support

This is more important with hiking.  Using boots with ankle support instead of shoes will help keep your ankle lined up straight, taking pressure off the Achilles.  

Achilles Tendonitis: What to Do?

If you look online for Achilles tendon treatments, you’ll find all kinds of sources that recommend calf raises and Achilles Tendon stretches.

However, my favorite foot experts, the Michigan Foot Doctors (these guys are awesome), explain that controlling inflammation is really the first step.

It does no good to start stretching/pulling or doing tons of exercises on a badly inflamed tendon.  They recommend starting with the following three things:

Modify your activity

To clarify, this doesn’t mean stopping your activity altogether!  Staying active is an important part of keeping the rest of your body strong while your Achilles tendon recovers.

After a previous ligament injury in the bottom of my foot, I wore a walking boot for too long, which weakened the rest of my foot/ankle muscles, part of the reason for my Achilles injury in the following months. 

I did the following: I temporarily stopped hiking super steep trails (this puts extra pressure on that Achilles tendon every time you push off) and instead tried to go on daily walks using my shoe inserts.

I did more mountain biking.  I really wanted to continue to push myself physically, and biking was a fantastic alternative.  I could still get outside and do intense activity while keeping the majority of pressure off of that tendon. 

Use Ice or Menthol-Based Creams 

I love the AllSettHealth gel ice packs from Amazon.  I would wrap one on my Achilles with some Ace Wrap for 10-15 minutes a couple of times a day.  This is an easy one to do while sitting at your computer. 

two small blue ice packs on a wooden table
I love these small ice packs from AllSettHealth

Loosen Your Calf Muscles and Hamstrings

I use this foam roller for my hamstrings and a massage gun for my calves.  Your entire posterior muscle chain affects your Achilles Tendon, so this is super important!

Physical Therapy

If the above strategies don’t seem to help, book an appointment with a physical therapist.  Each therapist I’ve interacted with has a unique knowledge base and I learn something new every time.

Quick Tips for Achilles Tendon Pain Relief on the Trail

Here’s what I recommend if you’re on the trail and your Achilles pain starts flaring up. 

  • Use Your Shoe Lifts: I’ve started carrying these in my backpack whenever I hike
  • Change Your Route: If there’s a less steep hike nearby or a shorter/milder route you can take on your current trail, do it!  It’s not worth it in the long run to keep pushing yourself on long hikes if you are having pain.  Remember, hiking is a long-term thing!
  • Use Your Trekking Poles: Trekking poles help take pressure off of your feet and legs.  I really like foldable poles so I can put them in my bag if the hike is flat or I want to have my hands free for any rock scrambling. 

How Long Does it Take to Recover?

I started feeling a decent amount better as soon as I cut down my hiking miles, started using heel lifts, and started consistently icing.  However, it took about six months for my Achilles pain to completely go away. 

Tendon recovery takes a long time, so be patient, and remember, Achilles pain doesn’t mean you have to stop hiking completely.  Enjoy the chance to try out some new outdoor activities while your body is recovering. 

Three (Other) Most Common Foot Problems for Hikers

I’ve experienced all of these.  While they’re not fun, they are usually preventable. 

Blisters

My top recommendations for preventing blisters are the following: use real hiking socks (not cotton).  And, carry a small roll of moleskin in your hiking bag.  Use it as soon as you feel a hot spot developing. 

small roll of moleskin

Also, make sure you are wearing appropriate hiking clothing in general, especially on hot days. Check out our guide on the best hot-weather hiking shirts, and don’t hike in jeans (especially if you will be sweating).

Plantar Fasciitis

This is when the tissue connecting the heel bone to the toes (your plantar fascia) gets inflamed, often caused by overuse.  This leads to heel pain and can make hiking a nightmare.

Interestingly enough, the treatment for this one is similar to that for Achilles tendinopathy.  Use supportive shoes with fantastic arch support (or inserts), and shoes with a slight heel lift. 

Sprains and Strains

If you are going to be hiking on rocky or uneven terrain, wear hiking boots with good ankle support. 

Wrapping Up

Don’t let Achilles pain hold you back from outdoor adventures. By using the right shoes and being creative with altering my activity, I was able to stay active while I recovered. 

The shoes I mentioned earlier are my top picks but feel free to experiment and find what works best for you.  Good luck, and happy hiking! 

Best Shoes for Achilles Tendon Problems FAQ

Is It OK to Hike With Achilles Tendonitis?

This depends on how inflamed the tendon is. With mild Achilles Tendonitis, it is usually okay to go on short, easier hikes with little elevation gain, especially if using proper footwear and heel lift inserts.

Do Hokas Help Achilles Tendonitis?

Yes, Hokas are designed with a rocker system that helps the foot transition more smoothly from the heel to the toe, reducing strain on the Achilles tendon.

What if My Achilles Tendon Ruptures?

An Achilles tendon rupture is a much bigger problem, which is why it’s so important to tackle Achilles tendon pain from the get-go.

If you feel a snap or are unable to move your ankle normally, go get medical advice immediately.

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