Preparing Your Feet for a Long Distance Hike
Your feet can cut a long hike short but there are things you can do prior to your hike and during to help prevent any issues. First, get to know your feet. Are they wide, narrow, do they sweat, toes that rub, etc. If you know your feet, you can research solutions that can resolve potential issues before they begin. Knowing your feet will also help you to know what type of shoe to use and how to lace your boots.
We teach all about foot care and how to properly lace your boots for your needs. Join us for one of our Backpacking Basics classes to learn proper technics.
Dry feet are happy feet. Once they get wet from sweat or water you will most likely get blisters. You will want to use hiking socks that are made to wick away moisture. Another option is to use a thinner sock liner that fits snuggly on your feet under your regular socks. Most importantly stay away from cotton. Carry at least one extra pair of socks. Stop at least halfway to dry your feet and put clean socks on.
Proper fitting shoes are a must. My feet tend to swell so I buy shoes with a little bit of room and secure them with proper lacing. I'm always asked for suggestions on what shoes to buy. What works for me may not work for you. This goes back to knowing your feet and what the best fit is for you. I like to use trail running shoes when I hike with minimal weight. If I'm backpacking with a heavy load I will use my hiking boots.
Listen to your Feet
Hot spots are warning signs that you will get a blister. If you have a spot that you know presents issues, use duct tape prior to your hike to prevent hot spots from occurring. Clip your toenails and file smooth before heading out. Trim straight across and be sure not to cut too short. Don't get a pedicure before your hike! If you do, tell them not to scrub your feet. We all want soft feet but fresh soft feet don't do well on a hike.
- If your feet sweat a lot try spraying with antiperspirant. Some claim that this helps.
- Foot powder can be used but be careful not to use to much powder as it can clump and cause issues.
- Vaseline or BodyGlide to help eliminate friction. The downside is you will have the feeling of slippery feet.
- Moleskin can be used once you feel a hot spot or get a blister.
Triage Hot Spots
A hot spot is your feet telling you that a blister is coming if you don't take action. It's not painful but it's a burning sensation. As soon as you start feeling this, stop and manage it. Take your shoes and socks off and dry your feet out. Re-tie your shoes to secure your feet.
Blisters are painful pockets of fluid under the skin caused when there is friction.
Treatment for Blisters:
- Clean the blister and surrounding area.
- If the blister is nickel size or larger you will want to drain it as it will most likely burst anyway.
- Sterilize the needle and pierce at the bottom so fluid will run out.
- Bandage open blisters with a MoleSkin donut hole filled with antibiotic ointment. Cover top with tape.
- Cover closed blisters with 2nd Skin or similar product then use medical tape or Moleskin.
- Know your feet
- Wear properly fitting boots/shoes
- Change your socks
- Keep your feet dry
- Pay attention to hot spots
- Stop and treat hot spots and blisters. DO NOT try to tough it out! Taking a few minutes to pamper your feet will prevent you from having to stop your trip short.
- NO pedicure
My favorite thing to do is stop near a cool stream and soak my feet in the cool water. Make sure your feet are completely dry before putting your socks and shoes back on.