The People's Perspective on Medicine

How to Help Neuropathy with Hiking Boots

A reader reports that wearing hiking boots significantly eases the foot pain and numbness due to neuropathy. Certain supplements may also help.

Neuropathy is pain that originates from the nerves. For some reason, due to diabetes, damage or some other difficulty, the nerves send pain signals even when the area is not in imminent danger (the usual reason for a pain signal). Doctors prescribe medications such as the anticonvulsant gabapentin to ease the pain of neuropathy with inconsistent results. One reader found a simpler remedy in the closet: hiking boots!

Will Hiking Boots Help Your Nerve Pain?

Q. My neurologist recommended alpha lipoic acid for numbness in my feet, and it helps some. However, walking the dogs around the pond in the cool mornings means I start out the day wearing my hiking boots, and that seems to help the neuropathy even more. This seems more-than-a-little-weird to me; but the comfort is welcome. Since I already own boots, I didn’t have to spend money. At 74 years of age, I worry a lot about neuropathy’s effects on my balance. A fall could be very harmful.

Supplements That Can Help Neuropathy:

A. We’re glad the hiking boots are helpful. You might also want to consider the synthetic B vitamin benfotiamine in addition to alpha lipoic acid. It has been shown helpful against diabetic neuropathy (Vårkonyi et al, Minerva Medica, Oct. 2017). 

Unfortunately, however, there hasn’t been much research on this combination to treat nerve pain and numbness not due to diabetes.

Although this is only an anecdote, one reader wrote:

“I know that benfotiamine with alpha lipoic acid can eliminate neuropathy. I had it so bad in my feet that it felt like I was walking on the sharp part of a huge spike! I have been taking both of these for years now and have not had one pain. I could not walk without them.”

We applaud your discovery that hiking boots help ease your nerve pain so much. Walking the dogs is a great way to make your dogs happy and boost your own healthful activity level.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I have found near complete relief after following the protocol I found in an article in “Podiatry Today”:

ALA in combination with benfotiamine, D3 and Acetyl-Lcarnitine and chromium.

Also, at night, lemon balm, boswellia and curcumin seem to be very effective.

I have neuropathy in both feet but I am not diabetic. I do have tingling and numbness in both feet which is worse at night. Sometimes I have to get up and use a tennis ball to massage my arches and balls of the feet for 15 minuets each to get relief. My primary problem is balance. I do not dare go out without my trekking pole or heavy duty walking stick. When walking it feels as if I walking over foam rubber. There is no solid feeling of contact between my feet and any hard surface, and I try to avoid soft areas such as lawns
Adding to PN problem is a drop foot problem. The boots sound good for support but mine are stiff, and I have great difficulty lifting the toe. I have to be so careful about possible toe trips. I have tried ALA, vitamin B6, B12, Niacin and others recommended by doctors, with no success. The Neurologists who first determined that I had PN told me there was no known cause (not true) and no known cure but I am still looking for anything that will help.

I think the reason hiking boots help is that it puts distance between the foot and pavement to absorb the impact. For 20 years I have been wearing top-of-the-line running shoes with very thick soles, engineered to absorb shock, and I am not a runner. In addition, I add a softer insole than they come with. I have a pair that I wear only indoors (keeps floors clean and unscratched), and a second pair I wear outdoors. Don’t forget to change them between 6 months to a year, depending on how much you walk and how hard you are on your shoes. I wear these from the time I get up to the time I go to bed, and my feet are happy. If I walk around in normal shoes, flats, slippers– anything other than my running shoes–for more than 20 minutes, my feet are on fire.

I don’t have diabetes but have had neuropathy for probably 30 years (am 82). It took 2 years for it to be diagnosed and was put on Neurontin and Ultram. They help. My problem is that my feet have widened, and the only pair of shoes I can stand are double-wide name-brand sneakers with cotton socks. Those socks for diabetics have Spandex. They are very soft but very hot as soon as you put them on. I know of no stretches or the two things mentioned here. New neurologist in a year, and will ask then. Mornings are most painful, as no pill between 9 at night to 6:30 a.m. Afraid to start new without a doc.

As someone who suffers with neuropathy in both legs, I find these reports about hiking boot pain relief to be awfully vague. It would be nice if the hiking boots advocate(s) could be a little more specific and detailed:
Are the hiking boots that relieve the pain standard off-the-shelf boots or are they fitted with an orthopedic or custom-formed insole?
Are the hiking boots that relieve the pain ankle-length or do they come up to under the knee, covering the full length of the pain?
Do the hiking boots relieve the pain only when walking or also when standing still and sitting down?

Reading your response to the reader, I wonder why you suggest benfotiamine rather than thiamine (vitamin B 1). All I can find about benfotiamine is that it is a “source” of vitamin B 1. Why not use the real thing?

Research has shown that benfotiamine can help treat neuropathy. We have no such research for thiamine. Apparently the small difference in structure is important.

Does anyone have a remedy for neuropathy due to chemo?? Most shoes HURT. Sone tennis shoes work. The tingling and electrical shock sensations kept me awake at night. Any suggestions very much appreciated!!

I have neuropathy in both feet, leaving me with about half the feeling I had when younger. The neuropathy is likely due to waiting too long to deal with severely pinched nerves in my lower back. L4-L5 were fused in 2009 when I was 59 years old, and L3-L4-L5 were fused in 2016 when I was 66. Walking was very painful in both feet until I went to a shoe store that had helped other members in our local community with painful feet. For casual wear I now use the New Balance Men’s M1540V2 Running Shoe with motion control featuring a Roll Bar support system and, for casual Friday wear, the New Balance Men’s Suede 928v3 Vionic with innovative biomechanical technology. Both shoes are paired with Powerstep Pinnacle Shoe Insoles – Shock-Absorbing Arch Support and Cushioning for Plantar Fasciitis. The combination gives me the foot support and stability I needed to feel comfortable while working and walking.

There will never be any research on any dietary supplement for any medical condition. There’s no money in it!

Can someone recommend specific types of hiking boots referred to in this article? I’m a bit confused by the term “hiking boots,” as they come in so many forms. Thank you.

I have read that in Germany Alpha Lipoic Acid and Benfotiamine have used with success for the treatment of peripheral neuropathy for a long time. Any recommendations on doseage? I would love to try this.

Could someone put me in the right direction for hiking boots. I suffer from both diabetic neuropathy and pain in my feet. Is there a certain brand to look at? Thanks.

Although this is only an anecdote, one reader wrote:
“I know that benfotiamine with alpha lipoic acid can eliminate neuropathy. I had it so bad in my feet that it felt like I was walking on the sharp part of a huge spike! I have been taking both of these for years now and have not had one pain. I could not walk without them.”

I WONDER HOW MUCH OF BENFOTIAMINE AND ALA one needs to take for relief?? I take a product called “NerveRenew” that has both of these ingredients, along with a lot of B12. Still have tingly feet. How much is too much?? Maybe I need less of the B-vitamins and more ALA! Thank you.

I have neuropathy resulting from Charcot Marie Tooth disease. Nothing helps.

Mine is caused by a nerve that gets caught between a couple of those long foot bones that connect to my toe bones. Walking can be very uncomfortable, and it can even feel like it’s causing small electrical shocks. Mine developed years after bunion surgery, and my podiatrist said my feet are actually too flexible. He tried a cortisone injection, and that did nothing. Next he is going to try a series of alcohol injections that will (hopefully) kill that nerve. Shoes can make a big difference, too. He placed a pad in one of my walking shoes that helps lift the foot in a way that relieves a lot of pressure, and helps keep those bones from squeezing together. I seem to do better with a hard, well balanced shoe sole than something soft. Walking around barefoot is very uncomfortable.

Would anyone know how to treat a sensation that feels like walking through water that developed slowly after a head injury? A family friend asked me to look into this. Thank you!

Usually a neurologist is the specialist to deal with the aftermath of head injury. Not all may be equally interested and informed, however, so it makes sense to choose carefully.

Hiking boots have been the answer to Morten’s Neuroma for me. I was first diagnosed with Morten’s Neuroma 6 years ago. Tennis shoes were very painful to wear but my hiking boots were comfortable. I didn’t want to have surgery so I would used castor oil packs with added frankincense oil and wore hiking boots as much as possible since they were the only shoe I owned that I never felt the neuroma while wearing.

Since then I’ve decreased the use of castor oil packs and started giving my foot an arnica oil massage followed by wearing special yoga socks for an hour every night. Now I am only aware of it if I wear the wrong shoes or go barefoot for an extended period. I can now wear a number of different shoes as long as they have a firm foot bed and good arch support. I still can’t wear tennis shoes.

Ginger I learned about 3 stretches that have cured my Morton’s Neuroma. An article was posted on the wall of the shoe store I go to that had the stretches. It takes about 6 minutes a day to do them. I can actually walk around my house barefooted without pain. I still wear “good” shoes but have way more flexibility about what shoes I can wear. Maybe you could find them online. Doing them changed my life; I became pain free for the first time in years within a week of starting them.

Been wearing hiking boots for years, for plantar facilities and have diabetes. My feet are in great shape.

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