Foot health is vital to any kind of hiking endeavors. Whether you’re doing a day hike or a weeklong one, don’t forget that your feet are your only mode of transportation in the outdoors. It’s essential to keep them pain-free for as long as you can to arrive at your target destination without any hassle.
The avid hikers’ greatest hiking enemy of all time is blisters. Backpacking know-how will tell you the things to avoid when you’re leaning on your soles to save your life. Blisters are crushing out in the wild. They start out small, then turn to nickel size, to quarter size, and very quickly to dollar size in a matter of minutes, with a nagging pulsating pain to match.
Every trick in the book will tell you that your feet should avoid moisture at all costs. It’s the source of all blister evil, miles and miles of painful walking.
Nature has a way of letting the wetness seep through the rubber, but there are smart ways for proper foot care that will keep your feet happy for the long journey ahead.
Know the Surface of the Trail before You Take Off
Maintaining functional feet throughout your hike can be achieved with proper awareness. Most reported foot-related incidents (e.g., ankle sprains or broken toes) are tied to not being aware of the landscape surface. The tendency for most advanced hikers is not to pay close attention to the ground. Hikers should never let their guard down and should let the feet do the seeing instead of the eyes.
The best way to navigate and get acquainted with the surface you’re walking through is to shorten your strides. Keep them short and tight so you don’t miss a step and end up sustaining an injury. Walking this way will help you take more control of your feet.
Also, shorter strides will heighten the sensors of your brain. They make you go through the path step by step and let you take the time to adapt to the terrain’s surface slowly.
It also helps to have additional support systems for your leg in case injuries do occur. Elastic and easy-to-carry pain relievers like muscle tapes can go a long way when trekking on accident-prone areas. They can regulate pressure, provide support, and increase circulation in your knees and sensitive tendons.
Keep Your Foot and Footwear Dry
You can’t avoid prolonged friction between your feet and the insides of your shoes. Friction is not the problem—water is. There are waterproof hiking shoes or boots that work well with any surface.
When you do manage to get water inside your shoes, it stays inside your shoes. Dampening your socks will wrinkle your feet in the process and signal the beginning of a painful journey. The result: a pocket full of water and pus under your sole.
To reduce the chances of having blisters, you have to reduce the possibility of friction proportionally. Overcoming terrains and going the distance all depends on your mobility. So anything that causes pain to your feet should be managed and, if possible, avoided at all costs.
The key to keeping your footwear dry is to make sure it is well-fitted at your ankles. The heel should envelop the rear of your foot. This will prevent any kind of moisture from seeping in. Make sure it’s a snug fit at the back while it gives your toes enough room at the front.
If you are one of those people who have naturally sweaty feet, then make sure you apply foot antiperspirant before you embark on any journey. In between hiking breaks, you can wipe your feet with alcohol-based wet wipes and let them dry. This will help in closing up your feet pores.
You can also apply cornstarch on them. Cornstarch is very useful in absorbing sweat and keeping your feet dry. Let your feet absorb the cornstarch for a few minutes before you put your shoes back on.
While you’re letting your feet sit on them, you can sprinkle the insides of your shoes with baking soda. This will soak up any kind of moisture and prevent bad odor.
Break In Your Shoes, Moisturize Your Feet, and Adopt a Two-Sock System
Even if you’ve already broken in your hiking shoes, there’s still a good chance there may be areas where your feet rub in awkward places.
Days before the hike, especially if it’s going to be a weeklong excursion, try to wear your shoes around the house while you’re doing mundane daily chores or running errands. You can also practice taking long walks around the neighborhood at the same pace you usually do when hiking.
When you get home, check your feet if there are any hot or burning spots. Take note of them as they will be the same spots where you’ll likely have a blister. Put tapes on them before the hike so you’ll lessen the chances of hurting your feet during the trek.
Also, lubricate your feet by applying moisturizing cream or oil the night before the hike. This will significantly reduce friction even when your feet are continually rubbing with the insides of your shoes. The downside is that you may feel slippery while walking.
If that’s the case, you can opt for the two-sock system, which most hard-core hikers prefer. The first sock is supposed to be skintight to avoid any kind of moisture from getting on your skin. The second sock is the thick wool-based kind. This serves as additional protection from wetness and extra cushion to keep your feet happy all throughout the trip.