Backpacking Foot Care Tips for the Trail
We have all heard about athletes “playing through pain.” It usually refers not to constant irritation but when a specific movement is required – throwing a ball, making a particular sports move and so on. In hiking it is different. If you have a foot malady you are in pain EVERY time you step. So what can we do to keep our feet up to the task while hiking?
Fortunately blisters, while common, are also among the easiest conditions to prevent. The first thing to know about backpacking foot care is that blisters are the result of friction and moisture. You can eliminate these irritants with proper footwear. That means…
1 – Hiking boots that fit properly. You want snug but not tight. The body responds to hiking by sending blood to the pressure point of the activity – your feet. This causes swelling so you want to give your boot-clad feet the ability to adjust. Aim for enough room to wiggle you toes but not enough so your feet squirm around inside. If your boots are new, wear them for your less-demanding daily routine before taking them to the trail so they are broken in. Also make sure you lace the boots up properly so your heels do not slide around and raise a debilitating heel blister.
2 – Avoiding cotton socks. Cotton is a moisture magnet and after absorbing sweat it holds on for dear life, insidiously grinding down your skin’s resistance. In addition to wool and synthetic socks, sock liners can help wick moisture away from the skin. And if you’ll be hiking in warm or hot weather, consider a lighter-weight hiking shoe with good ventilation. This will allow the heat to escape and help keep your feet much cooler.
3 – Listen to your feet. A hot spot, or discomfort on the surface of the foot, is your body’s way of saying a blister is on its way. When you recognize even a mild discomfort in your shoe, take the opportunity to stop and look at your foot. Get down to skin level and assess the disturbed area. If it’s red and warm, cover the area with some duct tape, athletic or moleskin. This will help break down the friction that is causing the problem. Also, a little ‘liquid bandage’ can help save dry, cracked skin before further splitting occurs and causes pain.
Even when taking precautions, it is a good idea to not only pack some foot repair materials, but know how to use them effectively. Avoid bulky dressings and sloppy tape-jobs that can lead to further issues. Neatly prepare known trouble spots before you start hiking so that you can beat those blisters to the punch.
About the Author: Four Season Guides specializes in Hiking and Backpacking Tours in the beautiful Southwest. For more information on what to back, backpacking foot care, or to book your adventure, visit: https://fsguides.com today!