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As a novice hiker, your primary focus may not be on the brand of your backpack or the weight of your tent, but rather, it should be on foot care. Any seasoned hiker can affirm that having healthy, well-protected feet can make or break your hiking experience.
Since your feet are the workhorses of any expedition, walking with blisters or cracked calluses can indeed be the fastest route to calling it quits.
Invest in the Right Boot
Your hiking journey begins with a good pair of hiking boots. Seek a boot that delivers sound overall support and a snug fit. When trying on hiking boots, ensure you wear the same type of socks you plan to use during your hike. The boots should not have any pressure points and your toes should not touch either the front or top of the boot.
It’s worth noting to try boots on in the latter part of the day when your feet have swelled from the day’s activities. Similar swelling occurs while hiking, so it’s crucial your boots can comfortably accommodate this. Additionally, securing the boot around the ankle can help prevent your foot from slipping within it.
Ensure your boots are well-worn before embarking on any lengthy hike. Aim to clock in at least 50 miles on them beforehand. Simulating shorter hikes with a fully loaded backpack can also aid in pre-conditioning your feet for the upcoming journey.
Choosing the Right Hiking Socks
Equally as significant as the boots, are the socks. Opt for socks made from wicking materials that draw heat and moisture away from your feet. Steer clear of cotton and instead go for wool, silk, or other synthetic materials.
The right sock should offer sufficient cushioning while keeping your foot cool and dry.
Blisters are primarily caused by heat, moisture, and friction – whether from debris like sand in the shoe or from your foot rubbing against the boot. To combat this, wear a sock liner designed for wicking under your actual hiking sock. This simple solution can be a game-changer for foot comfort.
Preventing and Caring for Blisters
Halt your hike at the first hint of discomfort and take off your boots and socks. Let your feet rest and air dry. Check for hot spots and blisters. The golden rule for blisters is not to pop them unless absolutely necessary. Instead, place moleskin or duct tape over the affected areas, then change into a clean, dry pair of socks before continuing.
Moleskin is available in most pharmacies on the foot care aisle. If you tend to get blisters, applying moleskin before starting your hike can be a helpful preventive measure.
Another typical foot issue is cracked calluses. A short-term solution is to apply super glue to the clean crack, followed by a moisturizing lotion. However, removing calluses and conditioning the feet before the hike is far more effective than in-trail foot care.
Regular Foot Maintenance While Hiking
Pause every few hours to rest and inspect your feet. If the chance arises, soak them in a stream, but be sure to dry them thoroughly before putting your socks back on.
A little extra care goes a long way when it comes to hiking feet. Invest a few extra minutes whenever you can to maintain their health. Your hike will be significantly more enjoyable without any foot-related complications.