"Hinting" is a TrueType specific feature, that is generally considered to be a useful technique that improves the appearance of TrueType fonts. Unfortunately, there are some licensing and patent issues involved with this, and it is disabled by default in the freetype sources! And also quite likely that if you are using vendor supplied binaries, it is disabled there as well.
To enable this feature, the sources need to be rebuilt. Look for include/freetype/config/ftoption.h in the freetype source tree, and then search for:
And very simply, make this small change:
Red Hat users can rebuild the src.rpm by toggling one setting at the top, and accomplish the same thing (other distributions RPMs use similar methods):
%define without_bytecode_interpreter 1
And change to:
%define without_bytecode_interpreter 0
Other vendors may have a similar, easy-to-use mechanism.
Then rebuild and install the finished binaries. Be sure to restart X as well since the freetype code is already loaded into memory by X.