Caring For Your Feet When Hiking
Seasoned hikers, trekkers, and adventurers know the importance of taking care of the feet. And if you are new to hiking, you should also pay attention to how you can best care for this part of your body. Here is your complete guide on how to properly care for your feet whenever you go on a hike.
Trim the Nails
Even if you get the best, most expensive, and most luxurious hiking shoes on the planet, if you have extra-long toenails, the hike will still be a very uncomfortable one. Your boots will be compressing against your nails. This can bring you discomfort or even pain which can impair your ability to move efficiently. There are also instances when the toenails break and eventually fall off. So apart from boots, make sure you invest in a good manicure set as well.
Clipping the toenails before you head to the great outdoors should follow a straight cut. If you clip the nails following the curved shape of the toes, you are inviting the development of ingrown nails and perhaps even infection. Cutting the toenails straight can help minimize such problems. Don’t clip it too short, too, as this can also increase the risk of infection and ingrown toenails.
Choose the Right Boots
Proper-fitting hiking boots are a must if you want to take care of your feet when hiking. However, picking the right boots can be especially tricky. As a rule, you should always wear well-fitted hiking boots, a pair that has been properly broken in. Do not use boots that you just bought the day before you go on a hike. The materials of such footwear will still be quite tough and may not be comfortable at all when hiking. As such, if you’re planning to go hiking, make sure to purchase hiking boots a few weeks before your adventure. Use these boots as often as you can to “break” them in. Wear them to the office if possible or perhaps when running errands. Walk your dog in them so that the boots will be more comfortable to wear during the hike.
In picking the right hiking boots, it is best to purchase the best-fitting pair in the afternoon. Your feet would have ‘swollen’ by then from walking all day. This best ‘simulates’ the condition of the feet during a hike and should also give you a better understanding of your feet’s maximum hiking size. Additionally, always wear the same kind of sock that you will be wearing during the hike when buying your hiking boots. This will help you get a better feel of the boots.
When trying a boot for you to buy, it is imperative to have the right feel on your feet. Ideally, you will want a boot that hugs your heels or the rear of your feet while offering just enough room for your toes to wiggle about. If there’s too much space such that your feet will be shuttling to and fro inside the boot, then you are courting friction. With friction come blisters. There’s no joy in hiking when you’ve got blisters on your feet. If the boots are too tight, you will find your toes to be curling inwards. In worst cases, you might smash your toes against the inner sole of your boot. This is especially the case when you’re on a descent down a very steep slope.
Learn How to Properly Lace Your Boots
You may have the best pair of boots, but if you don’t know how to properly lace them then it would be similar to wearing mediocre-quality hiking boots. As such, it is imperative that you learn how to properly lace your boots. You can use any one of three common lacing systems to help secure your heel firmly towards the rear of the boot.
Experts recommend having a different lacing system for the instep and the ankle or heel. In most cases, the in-step section should be laced tightly enough to secure your feet, but without cutting off circulation. The ankle section can then be laced as loosely as you would want it. Or you can tighten it, too. Try to check which style of lacing will work best for you. Again, what you want is for your feet to be secured at the back of the boot while giving the toes just enough breathing space up front.
Adhere to a 2-Sock System
Hikers know that the feet need to both breathe and be protected against the elements. As such, you should always adhere to the 2-sock system. The first sock should be one that is made of synthetic material with excellent moisture wicking properties. It should be skin-tight and relatively thin.
On top of the first sock is one that should give you excellent insulation against the cold. Wool should be a worthy choice, although a blend of wool and polyester will suffice. What you need to avoid ever wearing are cotton socks. This material is well-known for collecting and absorbing moisture and sweat. It doesn’t dry quickly, too. This can expose your feet to unnecessary moisture, softening your skin, and making you more vulnerable to blisters. Cotton socks don’t insulate your feet as well, so you will also feel colder than having wool over your feet.
Apply Foot Care Products
These products may not work for you, but they sure can provide some form of comfort and protection for your feet when hiking. For example, you can apply an antiperspirant spray on your feet so that you can help minimize, if not prevent, the buildup of moisture which can lead to the development of blisters. This is especially true for those who perspire a lot, even on their feet.
You can also use foot powder to help reduce the friction between your feet and your socks. When applied in between toes, you can also prevent these areas from rubbing against each other. For those who don’t like to use powder, there are balms, lubricants, or moisturizing creams that can be applied onto the feet. These will also reduce friction. Unfortunately, you will have to get used to the slippery feeling in your boots. And if you happen to hike on already-slippery terrain, that’s double the sensation.
Some hikers will wrap their feet with special tapes, especially on areas that are highly likely to rub against the boot. This can be applied even before you wear the socks. However, tapes can also be applied mid-hike especially when you begin to notice hot spots forming.
Don’t Ignore Hot Spots and Blisters as They Appear
Hot spots and blisters are real concerns among hikers, especially those who hike unusually longer distances at a time. Hot spots are similar to having pressure sores. You won’t see any visible sign except perhaps for the occasional redness on a particular area on your feet, most likely on the same spot that always rubs against your boot. While you may not see anything, you’ll know that it’s there because you’ll have this petty burning sensation on a particular spot. The first instance you feel this, stop and take a break. A hot spot is one of the earliest signs that blisters are just around the corner, so pay attention.
If you do sense hot spots developing, take a break and remove your boots and socks. Replace your socks with new ones. If you don’t have any extra, take time to dry off your socks before putting them back on. Don’t forget to apply foot powder, lubricant, or even tape on your feet. This should help minimize friction which can aggravate the hot spot and turn it into a blister.
The appearance of blisters can significantly hamper your mobility as they are quite painful. If the blister is relatively small, not really painful, and the skin is still intact, then you can apply an antiseptic followed by a lubricant. Wrap tape around the blister.
If the blister happens to be large and the skin is already open or broken, then you have to clean the blister before applying a gauze pad over the blister. Do not attempt to cover the blister with the tape. Always put gauze pad first before securing it with a tape.
If you have a large blister but with a still-intact skin, you may want to drain it first by puncturing it with a heat-sterilized sharp object such as a small pocket knife or a needle. You can then put gauze over the blister and secure it with tape.
Give Your Feet a Much-Needed Breather
Since you can only do so much to care for your feet when hiking, it is best to plan your adventure very well. Schedule more frequent stops or breaks so you can allow your feet to breathe. This can help prevent hot spots and blisters from happening so you’ll be able to enjoy your hike.
Hiking requires utmost care for the feet. Trim it correctly, choose the right socks and boots, and apply the appropriate foot care products. Don’t forget to let your feet breathe and to appropriately triage feet problems such as hot spots and blisters and you should do just fine.