Your feet have to work hard to help keep your body upright and moving. Take care of them and you can look forward to miles and miles of discovering new trails.

Think about how many steps your take during a 6-mile hike and how much weight your feet are carrying and you’ll appreciate just how important they are to healthy, happy hiking.

Get your feet in shape

Follow these tips at home to create strong and healthy feet that will carry you for miles.

  • Pick up marbles and straws with your toes.
  • Walk barefoot on sand, grass and pebbles.
  • Try a foot reflexology path.
  • Apply firm, sustained pressure to sore spots on toes, arches and heels.
  • Trim toenails before every hike.
  • Before bed, do ankle rolls in both directions to send oxygenated blood to your feet.
  • Ditch contortionist footwear: high heels, pointy toes, tight non-breathable shoes.
  • Don’t settle for “good enough” hiking footwear. Go for amazing.

Follow these tips on the trail

  • Wiggle your toes vigorously every few minutes. Boots too snug for wiggling? You need a half size bigger.
  • Sliding, bunching, pinching socks? Try a different boot/sock combo.
  • Remove your boots and socks at rest breaks. Pull on your toes. Elevate your feet to aid the return of blood and lymph to your heart.
  • To short circuit inflammation, plunge hot, swollen, achy feet into an icy stream, or use your bandanna or hat to create an impromptu cold pack from a snow field.
  • Don’t ignore a pinched toe or sock that’s rubbing your ankle. Stop and assess the problem. The fix could be as simple as adjusting a sock, changing socks or retying your shoes.
  • Got a muscle cramp? You might need to stop for water or a snack.
  • Got a hot spot on the ball of your foot? Don’t wait until it becomes a blister. The traditional hiker fixes for hot spots (not blisters) include duct tape, band aids and moleskin. Deal with a blister immediately with moleskin. If you’ve got the supplies to do a clean job, popping a blister might buy you some more trail time.

Once you get to camp or finish your hike

  • Swelling, bruising, deeper skin color, heat or pain indicate muscle/tendon inflammation in your foot. Apply PRICE:
  • Protection from additional injury;
  • Rest;
  • Ice;
  • Compression; and
  • Elevation.

Sudden problems such as a popping sound, inability to bear weight, lots of pain and swelling, or numbness, require aggressive PRICE and medical attention.

Buy yourself at least temporary relief: NSAIDS (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen) will relieve pain and swelling while acetaminophen will suppress pain (but not address inflammatory swelling).

Are your feet bruised or overly sore when you get home from a trip? Try wearing a slightly bigger boot and/or a cushier sock on your next hike.


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