5 Easy Tips To Protect Your Feet While Hiking
Hiking is a fantastic pastime. People who hike often feel a greater connection to nature and reap the benefits of increased exercise. As a consistent form of "workout", hiking, in general, is easier on the body than heavy running, while still allowing for a beneficial cardio impact.
Another benefit: hikers get a chance to get off the beaten path and explore, mixing and matching different trails to keep it fresh. In this day and age, there are abundant resources to help you locate trails and find interesting stuff to look at along the way.
Whether you live in an urban environment or in more rural areas, hikes are often easy to find and access. And if you are blessed enough to live in the mountains like me, there's always the reward of a stellar vista waiting at the end of the hike.
Now Let's Talk About The Feet
Ok, now let's talk about the feet, which take the brunt of the impact for hikers. Injuries to the knees and ankles are certainly something we see quite a bit in hikers, and we'll touch on those in future articles. However, the feet are most often the site of minor, annoying problems that will cause your hike to be infinitely less enjoyable.
Here are some very simple, yet effective, things you can do to protect the feet:
1. Lace Your Boots Properly
Boot and Shoes
Lace them up and break them in!
Lacing up your boots properly will help prevent blisters. Start at the toe-end of the shoes and tighten the laces progressively from the bottom up to ensure a snug fit and stop the feet from sliding around.
2. Wear Well-Fitted, Broken-In Boots
Break them in!
It's always a good idea to get your boots professionally fitted from a local outfitter who specializes in hiking gear. They can take a quick look at your feet and tell you what type of boot would be most supportive for the shape of your foot. They may also make recommendations based on the style of hiking you'll be doing.
"Breaking-in" your boots could take a little work, but it's worth it once you get the boot loosened up. And for you gear-heads, some of the modern-style hiking boots take little to no break in, in contrast to some of the traditional leather boots.
Additionally, many hikers wear hybrid "trail-runners" that offer great support and flexibility with the comfort a sneaker. Don't be afraid to try a few types of shoes before settling on something.
3. keep those toenails clipped
Get them trimmed and keep your feet happy
This is pretty self-explanatory. Keeping your toenails in check sounds like a simple thing, but disregard at your own peril. There are all sorts of problems that can arise from a smashed toe, especially for those who are attempting long through-hikes.
4. Wear the right socks
Don't skimp on the socks. Wearing a well-fitting pair of socks is a must for avoiding nasty little (and big) blisters. Putting on an old pair of ill-fitting socks while is like not brushing your teeth— it's probably ok for a brief stint, but it's gonna get rough pretty quickly.
Pay attention to the material that your socks are made of. There have been many advancements in fabric technology in the past several years. There's no need to wear old-school all-cotton socks on your hike. The gold standard right now is Merino wool, which is suitable for all of your adventures, providing great moisture control and comfort.
Here's a great article from REI that gets specific on the topic of hiking socks.
5. Treat Blisters and hot spots early
Treat them early
Blisters and hot spots are the banes of hikers everywhere. And while blisters are a minor problem initially, they can lead to all sorts of pain later. Like taxes or awkward conversations, blisters are best attacked head-on because they are only going to get worse if you put them off.
Friction is the major source blisters, which is why wearing broken-in boots and good socks are so important. But, sometimes they just can't be avoided. Here's what you can do when the problem arises:
- Use moleskin to tape the blister as soon as you notice
- Try to keep the blister dry by sprinkling foot powder on it
- Throw a pair of high-performance sandals into your day pack. If you are getting blisters, you can switch out your boots for the sandals, which will be easier on your feet.
Don't get slowed down by annoying little problems of the feet. Take some of the precautions mentioned above, and you'll have a much better chance of enjoying your time out there on the trail.
Enjoy the hike!