Going On A Hike? 3 Tips For Happier Feet
Autumn is the perfect time of year for a hike and North Carolina has countless beautiful locations for both short and long hikes. Hiking can be great exercise and a fun hobby, but it isn’t without risk.
Aside from hikers getting lost or having bad falls, another serious and often overlooked danger to hiking is not caring properly for your feet when you’re out enjoying nature. Here are three important tips to foot care when planning your next hike:
1. Pay attention to what your feet tell you. When setting the pace on a hike, it’s common for hikers to ignore pain from hot spots, blisters, rolled ankles or broken toes so that they don’t hold up a group or miss setting up camp at a specific time and place. Whenever possible, stop to treat your feet before a mild nuisance becomes a big problem. If you can’t stop, shorten your stride but keep a slightly faster gait to maintain distance covered. This will provide less friction on the feet, lowering your chance for painful, burning blisters, that will also protect your hips and knees.
2. Give your feet room to breathe. Whenever stopping for breaks and meals, be sure to take off your socks and shoes and let your feet get some air. This prevents the dreaded skin pruning effect, which softens the skin and can lead to open sores, also known as hot spots, and blisters. It also allows your shoes and socks to dry out, which prevents pesky bacterial and fungal infections on the feet and toenails. Any debris that might have fallen into your shoes and punctured the skin can be removed as well. If you are hiking in wet conditions, such as through rivers or during a rain storm, you won’t be able to prevent your feet from becoming water logged. In this case, keeping them lightly covered with petroleum or anti-chafing lubricant can minimize potential damage to the skin. Pack extra pairs of socks in your pack if your breaks will be kept short or spaced far apart; this will keep your feet as dry as possible without holding up the hike.
3. Wear the right shoes. Different types of walking and hiking merit different types of shoes. Hiking shoes generally have a good grip on the bottom of them with tall, stable support for the ankles. Always wear breathable socks that are tall enough to come out of the top of the shoe so your ankles are not rubbed raw by the shoe’s stiff ankle support. When walking on paved paths that are fairly even, a good athletic shoe may suffice, but if the path changes to different types of terrain, opt for the more support hiking boot. Many hiking boots are water-resistant, but are still breathable, and vary from snow hiking to rugged terrain hiking styles. And as always, be sure you have your shoes properly fitted before taking your hike. There’s nothing worse than breaking in boots on a hike! You should not need to ‘break in’ your shoes if they are fitted properly. If you have room in your pack, pack an extra pair of shoes in case the pair you are wearing becomes wet.
About the Author
Brent M. Evans, DPM is a podiatrist with the Triad Foot Center