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While hiking, your feet are the key for getting from point A to point B along the trail. It’s not uncommon to get a blister on a toe or for the feet to get sweaty after a long hike. However, without proper care, infections can set in or other debilitating conditions that can turn a pleasant backpacking trip into torture.
Taking Care of Feet Before Hiking
Before leaving the front door, take the time to prepare for foot treatment. Have well broken-in boots and socks that are comfortable to walk in. It also helps to bring along a first aid kit stocked with a few foot-care items. These can include:
- Iodine swabs for wound cleansing
- Moleskin or molefoam
- Athletic tape
- A needle for piercing a blister
- Foot powder and cream.
Take a look at using an Advanced Foot Care kit.
Preventative Foot Care While on the Trail
While on the trail there are some tricks backpackers can use to take care of feet on a daily basis. Every night, before going to bed, check the feet for blisters or skin infections. Also rub or wipe off any dirt that gets in between the toes. Washing the feet with clean water and a drop of biodegradable soap helps to scrub away sweat and remove any containments.
Changing socks frequently will help as well. If out for an extended period of time, wash the socks in a resealable plastic bag with clean water and camp soap to get the dirt and sweat out. The socks can be dried on a rock in the open sun, or strapped to the outside of the backpack for the day to dry.
If a campfire is available at night, take the boots and socks off and allow the feet to dry out next to the fire. The external heat source is not only comforting, but will help to get footwear and feet dry.
Keeping the feet clean and dry is important no matter what the weather happens to be. However, this is especially important when hiking in wet and muddy conditions. Extended exposure could lead to trench foot, or a cold injury if the temperature drops at night. These medical problems can affect one’s feet for a lifetime.
To Pop a Blister, or Not Pop a Blister?
This can be a difficult decision for a hiker, especially if out for an extended period of time. Each situation is different. If it is decided to pop the blister use a needle that has been sterilized, such as by holding it in an open flame. Pop the blister at the base to allow the fluid to drain away, and treat it as open wound that needs to be kept clean.
Foot care in the backcountry is very important, not only for maintaining health, but also to make sure the hike will be a pleasant experience.