Keep Your Feet Happy During Outdoor Sports

A whole lot of engineering goes into the creation of shoes and socks for outdoor sports. This doesn’t mean that you can just pick the color that makes your eyes happy and let it go at that.

Your feet have three enemies when you’re on the trail. The first is ill-fitting shoes. However well-made the shoes may be (and we at Uncle Sam’s carry some pretty sweet kicks, including the fine stuff from Salomon, whose new color range for next season is previewed in this picture), they can’t keep your feet happy if they don’t fit right.

Try the shoes on, even if you always buy the same size and the same brand. Different designs fit differently, and even different lots of the same design can be slightly different. Your feet can change, too. depending on your lifestyle.

Wear the type of sock for try-on that you plan to wear on the trail. Make sure you can wiggle your toes, but that your heel is secure and doesn’t move up and down in the shoe as you walk around.

Got the right fit? Wear your shoes or boots around the house and around town a bit before you head out on the trail. Leather shoes have to soften up before they fit perfectly.

The second enemy of happy feet is damp. Choose high tops, attached tongues, and completely closed shoes to keep from getting water in your shoes. As for the dampness your own feet can create, don’t wear cotton socks on a long hike. Cotton absorbs dampness, so sweaty feet spell soggy socks by the end of the day.

Instead, choose wool or wicking microfibers. The fibers of wool are quite different from those of cotton. They absorb moisture, but they hold it inside the fibers and don’t feel wet the way cotton socks do. What’s more, wool will keep your feet warm even when they are completely soaked through.

Modern wicking fibers carry moisture away from the skin. If you’re not knitting your own wool socks (you aren’t, right?), you may like microfiber socks as much as wool for summer. They can also provide a good inner layer before you put on warm wool socks in the winter.

Carry some sandals or camp shoes for wearing in camp so you can let your socks and shoes dry and air out completely between hikes.

The third enemy of happy feet is friction. Anything that rubs against your foot can give you blisters. That’s one reason that fit is so important — if your shoe and your foot don’t move together as one, you can end up with blisters at the points where they rub.

You should also remove stones that get into your shoes, even if it means making your  companions stop for a minute while you site down and hunt it out. Better they should stop for a minute than that they should have to listen to you complain about your blisters.

If there’s any point of friction on your foot, use moleskin or a bandage to cushion your foot and you may escape the pain of a blister.

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