Blisters are the most common problem with feet when hiking, but there are other concerns as well. Impacting hard, rough terrain for miles on end is hard on feet. Just plain old tired out, sore, aching feet can make the end of a hike pretty miserable. Our feet take a lot of punishment while hiking and an urban or sedentary body will feel that punishment much more than someone who has conditioned his feet to the work.
Just regular walking every day does a great job in preparing your entire body for an extended hike. It improves your breathing, endurance, muscle strength, and conditions your feet. In addition to walking, try these tips:
- Treat any foot fungus before beginning a hiking program. See a doctor if you need more than over-the-counter medicines.
- Use Benzoin on the bottoms of your feet to toughen the skin.
- Wear your new hiking boots on at least 10 5-mile break-in hikes before going on a long all-day hike. Make sure boot and foot are fitted and matched up comfortably. Even your old favorite boots should be worn on a couple short hikes if you haven't used them since last summer.
- Walk barefoot around your home and outside when you can. This will toughen the skin of your feet. Be careful of stepping on sharp things and stinging insects, of course.
- Wear supportive, comfortable sandals or other open shoes to help keep your feet dry when just walking around town.
- Thick calluses or corns can crack and become a problem. Keep your foot skin tough but elastic by using skin cream. You need the callus as padding against blisters, but you may want to remove excessive callus build-up.
- Keep your toenails trimmed and free from ingrown parts or sharp edges that can irritate skin and wear out expensive hiking socks.
When you start your hike, its a good idea to protect your feet from blisters and other problems before they develop.
- Wear well-fitting hiking boots. They should not chafe or have pressure points because that will cause blisters. They should be watertight to keep out moisture but breathable to allow foot sweat to escape. They should also have a scree collar to keep out debris.
- Use thick impact-absorbing insoles.
- Wear clean, dry, soft hiking socks with no seams that rub on your feet. A polypropylene sock liner that you replace when your feet get damp helps keep feet dry, free from blisters, and less likely to grow fungus. Do not wear cotton socks since they just soak up and retain moisture.
- Air out your feet at least at the lunch break, but more often if possible, to keep them clean, cool, and dry. Include a soaking in a stream if available, but be sure to let them dry well before hiking again.
- Stop and remove dirt, sand, or debris that gets in your boots. Stop now, not a mile down the trail or when its time for lunch.
- Stop and rest your feet when they feel hot, tired, or sore. Remove your boots to allow your feet to cool down and dry off. Alter your hiking pace or adjust the tightness of your boots.
- If hot spots persist, cover them with moleskin before they become blisters.
Blisters are certainly the most common problem for hikers. Lack of conditioning and improper caring for your feet while hiking are the major cause of these avoidable pains. Blisters are caused by:
- Heat - generated from your foot rubbing against your sock which is being pressed by your boot.
- Moisture - softens the skin, resulting in less protection. It also reduces the ability of soft socks to smoothly slide on skin, causing more friction.
- Grit - sand, dirt, gravel in your boot will increase the friction in concentrated spots, generating more heat.
How to Treat Blisters:
- If the blister has not torn and is full of liquid, pierce it from the side with a sterile needle at its base. Let all the fluid run out.
- If the blister has torn already, carefully cut away the loose skin of the blister and treat the area with antiseptic.
- Allow the blister to dry and harden in the open air for as long as you can.
- When you need to resume hiking, put a bandaid or gauze over a torn blister.
- Put a layer of moleskin over the blister area. You may cut a doughnut shaped piece of moleskin that fits around the blister rather than directly on it.
- Check the blister at each stop and give it as much time to dry off as you can whenever you can. Keep it clean and sterilized to prevent infection.
- Do not pierce intact blisters that are deep, rather than just the top few layers of skin. Just apply a moleskin doughnut to relieve the friction and monitor the blister.
Apr 19, 2012 - Shanae
Or, look into changing shoes to something that breaths better - leather hiking boots don't let out moisture like mesh trail shoes.
What type of locations carry "moleskin"?
I've found that moleskin, though adhesive, does not stick well by itself. Covering it with a strip of medical tape or duct tape helps.