Your feet are probably the most important 'tools' when you are out walking or hiking so it's important to look after them. There are numerous things you can do but it all begins with choosing the correct hiking boots, as poorly fitting and inadequate footwear is probably the biggest cause of all foot injuries.
Choosing The Right Hiking Boots
Many novices fall into the trap of buying a pair of hiking boots or walking shoes without trying them on first. Often they'll buy simply on the basis of brand recommendations and design features yet it is imperative that you try them on first or you'll run the risk of suffering injury when out walking. You need to ensure that your boots or shoes feel 'right' and to establish that when wearing the same socks you'll be using for hiking. You'll want to leave enough room to allow your toes to wiggle and there should be enough space between your longest toe and the tip of the boot (usually about the width of a finger). Your heel should be able to plant itself firmly in the heel cup and should not be able to slide around in the boot when hiking. And you should not be able to feel any seams or stitching either.
Once you've established which are the most comfortable shoes or boots for you, then you should wear them around the house for a few days and, if they still feel comfy, try a little walking, e.g. to the nearby shops or your local park first so they can get used to molding themselves to the shape of your feet. This 'breaking in' process is particularly important if you've chosen footwear made of leather as this can be notoriously stiff at first. Moisture wicking synthetic or woollen socks, not cotton, should be worn. Some people prefer to wear one pair of socks for hiking whilst others prefer a thin lining pair over which they wear an outer sock. However, if you intend wearing a double layer, make sure that the boots or shoes you choose will accommodate that.
Caring for Your Toenails And Foot Care
Foot care extends to toenails, which should be trimmed straight across the nail and not rounded at the corners. Your big toe, in particular, is more prone to you incurring an ingrowing toenail so you should leave an extra bit of nail on the outside corner to prevent that. Once you've clipped your toenails, smooth the nail down with a file to remove rough edges. Toenails which are too long can cause pressure on the bed of the nail which can result in extreme discomfort and pain if you're hiking.
Caring for the Skin on Your Feet And Hiking
Some people believe that having thick, callused skin on your feet prevents blisters but this isn't true and blisters underneath calluses can be very hard to drain and treat. A callus file and moisture cream can soften problem areas for good foot care, and also helps to heal cracks in the skin of your feet, especially on your heels. If these cracks aren't treated, they can split open and infection can result in the tissue underneath.
Blister Prevention And Hiking
The prevention of blisters can often come down to a personal choice. In addition to ensuring you have well fitting hiking boots or walking shoes and socks, you'll find a vast array of blister prevention products and taping techniques and you should experiment with a few to find one that suits you. Early awareness can also help and you should stop walking if you feel a blister coming on and treat it as soon as possible. It may be caused by some grit or dirt that has got in to your hiking boot and is rubbing against your skin, for example, so you should always stop and fix things as soon as you think there's a problem, otherwise walking on with blisters can be extremely painful and can even reach the stage where you feel as if you can walk no further.
Resting Your Feet When Walking
When it's time to stop for lunch when you're walking, or if you've reached your day's destination and are, perhaps, setting up camp for the night, take your hiking boots and socks off and give your feet a chance to rest and breathe. They'll appreciate the fresh air and direct sunlight. In a camp situation, wearing flip flops or sandals will allow your feet to recuperate better and, if you're resting, elevating your feet will also help to reduce swelling.
Foot Care Kits For Hiking
Carrying a small foot care kit in a Ziploc bag is not going to take up much room and will give you much relief from the problems associated with walking. Things like blister patches, a safety pin to drain blisters, a choice of powder or lubricant etc. can often help relieve foot problems before they get out of control and makes for excellent foot care that can feel blissful.
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Airing your feet out when you can is a very good suggestion, although if you put them in a stream to cool off, dry them thoroughly before putting socks back on. Flip-flops in camp is an excellent idea, offering protection as well as comfort. Make sure, too, that your boots are dry before putting them on in the morning, and have clean, dry socks daily.
Pete - 26-Sep-12 @ 11:12 AM
An old trick that my father taught me is to put talcum powder on your feet before you put the socks on, and then sprinkle more talcum powder inside the hiking boot. This absorbs the moisture that comes from walking and helps you feet feel dry. Without moisture there's less rubbing, so there's less chance of blisters and you just feel more comfortable. I still do it and it';s always worked well for me.