Foot Care for Hikers
Walking and hiking are a great way to get exercise to enjoy the outdoors. Before hitting the trails this fall, remember the work your feet are going to be doing! Take a few measures to make sure your feet stay comfortable and supported throughout your journey.
The most important thing for your feet is comfortable and supportive footwear. Boots that fit very well and are broken-in can save your feet on the trail. Hiking boots fit best when the heel is snug and tight around the foot, and there is a little wiggle room for toes. If boots don’t fit snugly the feet slip and slide around inside the shoe with every step, and that friction causes blisters. Once you get great-fitting hiking boots, wear them around inside and walk out on the pavement before setting out on a hike. Breaking in the boots a little is best for your comfort. When wearing hiking boots over the course of a trip, remember to re-lace and tighten them to prevent feet from slipping. If you notice extra pressure on your toes, some hikers use an alternative lacing method that loosens the toe area of the booth. There are also at-home waterproof treatments available for leather hiking boots to help your boots last if you hike in wet terrain.
The socks you wear while being active effect your feet more than you realize. It’s important to wear socks that line up with the height of the boot to prevent uncomfortable chafing around the ankle or calf. Your everyday cotton socks hold moisture to your foot, which contributes to blisters. Wool is the most popular material for hiking socks because it can provide a little cushion and is often blended with synthetic material to help wick moisture away from the skin. If socks and feet get too sweaty, the hot and moist environment in the shoe makes it easy for blisters to form. Using powder or deodorant spray is a good precaution if your feet are prone to excess sweating, and you should also prepare by bringing extra socks along on your trek.
Blisters commonly form on the heel and in the toe area. Extra pressure on the feet, heat, friction, and moisture all contribute to blisters forming. A spot will become red and irritated before ‘bubbling up’, and it’s best to patch it before that happens. Clean and dry your foot, and using moleskin bandages, cover the affected area. Some hikers use duct tape as well for extra hold in hot or rough terrain. When a blister is fully formed, it should be drained using a sterile needle and bandaged to prevent infection.
Maintaining your toenails can also save you from many discomforts. Keeping toenails clipped short and cut straight across keeps the edges from curling into the skin and prevents ingrown toenails. Regular hiking and training will toughen up feet and eventually help prevent blisters. Whether you are setting out on a serious trek or a one day hike, prepare your feet and show them some care afterward.