Looking After Your Feet Before, During & After A Hike
Nothing can take the wind out of your sails quicker then serious physical discomfort during a long hike. All you want to do is enjoy your natural surroundings, work your body and clear you head. Much like our previous blog about preparing gear for your trek, here we are going to talk about preparing your body. Specifically,your feet.
Each foot comes into contact with the ground 80 to 100 times per minute on average at a quick pace. Now add rough terrain and that is a recipe for blisters and cramping. These tips will help keep you foot healthy throughout your trek/hike so you can spend your time loving every minute of your outdoor experience!
Before Hike: Feet Strengthening
Foot problem prevention starts before you get on the trail. Strengthening your feet will go a long way to preventing foot pain (look up exercises for barefoot running for ideas). Get a lightweight pack to lessen the impact on your feet that happens each time you take a step. Find someone at an outdoor or running store who really knows how to fit you in a pair of well-fitting trail shoes and insoles. Non-waterproof trail runners dry more quickly after they get wet, and allow more ventilation. Buy gaiters to prevent sand and dirt from getting into your shoes. Some people swear by thin liner socks layered with thicker socks to reduce friction, others by wool socks or toe socks, while some use just thin men’s nylon dress socks. Experiment with different types of socks and find which work best for you. Learn how to treat blisters and tape your feet. It is worth putting in the energy in order to get to know what works well for your feet because everyone is so different.
During Hike: Blister Prevention
The key to preventing blisters is to eliminate friction. Shoes and boots should be well broken in and you should make an effort to keep your socks as dry as possible by changing them when your feet get hot and sweaty or by taking your shoes or boots off periodically to let your feet and socks dry out when you take a snack break. If this means bringing along one or two extra pairs of socks, it may be well worth a few more ounces of pack weight.
If you expect to do a lot of stream crossings you should consider bringing along a pair of sandal or crocs to wear instead of your boots to keep them dry. Bringing along a pair of camp shoes also gives your boots and socks an opportunity to dry for a longer period of time before you need to put them back on again. Conditions permitting, you may also want to re-evaluate a preference for leather hiking boots. Ultralight hikers who wear lightweight boots, running shoes or even sandals may experience less blisters because their footwear dries more quickly when it gets wet. Gore-Tex lined leather boots, on the other hand, can take days to dry out completely.
Other effective ways to reduce friction include applying petroleum jelly to a hot spot or sprinkling foot powder or corn starch on your feet to prevent moisture buildup. If you feel a hot spot forming on your feet, you should stop to inspect it immediately and apply moleskin or tape to prevent it from turning into a blister later in the day. Some hikers also prefer wearing two sock layers, a liner which absorbs moisture and can be changed frequently, and a heavier outer sock. This moves the site of friction between the socks, away from your skin and a sock. Credit: sectionhiker.com
After Hike: Rest & Treatment
Your body has important work to do to get your ready for your next hike. Rebuild the micro-tears in the muscles, clean up any debris in the joint spaces, fight any areas of infection (cuts, scrapes, thorn punctures, dirt in your torn cuticles), remove waste products from your muscles (lactic acid that leads to soreness comes to mind). A tough job! These activities can give you pain sensations and mild swelling in your extremities, but probably not all of the other cardinal signs of inflammation. It’s a low level inflammation which rest and fluids and good nutrition will take care of – if you’re mindful about them. So if you’re feeling sore and tight after a hike, that’s good news! You gave your muscles and joints a nice work out. Even better news: The more you hike, the less sore you will feel the next day. Your body becomes efficient and conditioned. And you’re smart enough to help it out with plenty of water and lean protein, fresh fruit and veggies, stretching, daily walks, and plenty of restful sleep. credit: hiking-for-her.com