There is a reason why an increasing number of people are taking a fancy to hiking. After all, it is fun, liberating, empowering, and leaves you with an adventurous and unforgettable feeling. However, it can also leave you with painful blisters. These burns and wounds can seem insignificant at first, but the last thing you want to do is to ignore them!
Foot care is incredibly important when you are on a hike. Here are a few ways you can soften the damage before it occurs.
Choose the right shoes for your feet
Getting the right footwear to suit your feet is imperative- get it wrong and you could be in for a very painful journey! Do not choose the style just because it’s popular at the moment, choose what works with your feet. If you have any issues with your feet, it is important to get some advice from a podiatrist first. There are many different styles of footwear to choose from- Trail runners, leather boots, Gore-Tex boots, hiking sandals, full or low ankle support footwear, and the list goes on.
Ask yourself what type of hiker you are. Are you an occasional hiker, a day hiker, or a distance hiker? This can play a role in the choice you make on the style of footwear that suits you best. What kind of support does your feet and/or ankles need? Try on many varieties to feel what you prefer. Always get them a ½ to full size bigger as your feet will swell throughout the day, so that your toes will not jam as you go down a steep descent. If you can fit two fingers down the back of the shoe when your foot is pushed forward, then the sizing is right.
Get the right socks
The socks you choose to put on during a long hike can be equally as important. Like the shoes, there are so many different styles and fabrics to choose from. Again, this will end up being a personal choice as to what will work for you.
Ask yourself- What do I need from my socks? What are the conditions I will be hiking in be like? Is it hot, cold, wet, rough, or flat hard terrain? How long am I going to be in them for; a few hours or a few days? What kind of feet do I have? Do they need extra support? Are they cold feet or do they easily get hot and sweaty? All this will help you decide on what will work for your adventure.
You may also want to wear liner socks under your thicker socks. This can help wick away extra moisture. You may need thick wool socks with extra padding on the ball and heels because its cold, or if the terrain is hard. Or you may want to wear toe socks to separate toes that tend to squish together.
It is always a good thing to take your socks off regularly when you stop for a break. Let them air out and not get too wet, and also change them when possible if on longer trips. In any case, the one thing you DO NOT want to wear are cotton socks! Why? Because they do not breathe; instead, they will trap moisture, and will not wick that moisture away, which will eventually lead to blisters!
So, before you go grab a pair of any old socks, have a look around at the range there is to choose from… You may just find that piece of comfort you did not know was there.
Tackle the hot spots
When you feel a hot spot on your feet, STOP and tackle it there and then. Hot is your body’s way of saying there is a blister forming, and they can form really fast. They can be caused by pressure, friction, heat or moisture, shoes that do not fit properly, and so on. Working out what is causing it is just as important as dressing the spot. A blister that forms and is left too long can not only be extremely painful, but could also lead to infection if not treated.
How to dress the spot can, as mentioned, be determined by what is causing the problem. If it is a pressure issue, like your toes rubbing together, then wearing some gel toe socks or other gel toe protectors like caps can really help. Another possible solution is to adjust the way the laces are tied up at the front of your shoes by loosening them at that spot only.
Heel blisters are one of the most common issue for hikers, and can be the most painful, forcing many adventures to unfortunately end early. This may be caused by the rubbing of your feet inside your shoes if they do not fit well, or by simply not tying your laces correctly. Treating the heel with a hydrocolloid gel plaster like Compeed or BlisterPod, or even a stretch adhesive tape like Fixomull, will work well.
Trim those claws and stay moisture-free!
To help avoid blisters, keep your toenails trimmed (especially the sides!) to prevent them from digging into your toes. The big toenail often—if too long—will feel quite sore when going down steep terrain as it may jam into the end of your shoes, in turn possibly causing a blister underneath, and resulting in the toenail turning black then falling off. Not nice and very painful to have!
Keeping your skin as dry as possible also will help prevent any nasty blisters from forming. Change your socks regularly if you are on a multi-day trip, and when you stop for a break, take your footwear off, let the fresh air get to your skin as well as dry out your socks.
There are other different methods people use to try to prevent their feet from getting blisters. Putting on lubricant, like Vaseline, is one way. Another method is to double-sock, i.e. use one liner sock to prevent the friction and a thicker sock on the outside. You can also use powders (such as baby powder) in your socks to help keep your feet dry. Try a few of these methods to see what works best for you.
Enjoy all your adventures, don’t let the feeling of the burn and pain in your shoes stop you from having a good time. Try using a combination of the preventive measures above; this is sure to help you enjoy the beauty of your natural surroundings without stinging pain in your feet!
Written by Michelle Ryan from WalkingTwoByTwo.