Keeping Your Feet Happy on the Trail

hiking-boots-and-waterfallKeeping your feet happy on a hike is crucial. If your feet are happy, you will be happy. Here are a few tips to make sure your feet stay in good condition on the trail.

Choose the right type of footwear for your hike.

Trail running shoes are more than sufficient for most easy to moderate hiking trails. However, on rough, rocky terrain, you typically want a hiking shoe or hiking boot with a good, stiff sole. A thick and sturdy sole helps protect your feet and prevent injury. You can still manage difficult and strenuous hikes in trail running shoes, but you’re far less protected than with a hiking boot.

Also consider breathability. Look for boots that offer good ventilation, as this helps reduce moisture and heat build up. Waterproof footwear is typically less breathable. Unless you know you need waterproof protection, consider a non-waterproof option.

Get a little support.

High-top or mid-top boots and shoes provide extra stability and ankle support. While this is great for people who need a little more protection, these options are typically heavier and less breathable. Weigh the pros and cons when making your decision.

Get footwear that fits.

This is one of the most important things  you can do to keep your feet happy on the trail.  Footwear that fits properly can help prevent blisters from forming. Try out a pair of hiking boots or hiking shoes in the store before you buy them. Check the fit, but also see if there are any hot spots, or parts of the shoes that rub on your foot. This could hardly noticeable in the store, but may cause painful blisters out on the trail. snug, but not too tight.

Break your boots in.

Make sure your boots are broken in before you start hiking. Hiking shoes, trail running shoes, and some hiking boots are good to go straight out of the box, but many boots and shoes need to be worn in. This is especially true of leather hiking boots. Wearing stiff boots on the trail is an open invitation for blisters.

Your socks make a world of difference.

Paper thin cotton socks get hot and slimy which of course, leads to blisters. Avoid cotton socks while hiking. Merino wool socks are lush and  comfortable, they manage moisture, and they help regulate heat. Merino wool socks are the way to go.

Invest in sock liners.

Sock liners are super lightweight and breathable socks meant to be worn underneath your actual socks. Sock liners help manage moisture and reduce friction, which is huge in preventing blisters while hiking. Sock liners can also extend the amount of time you can wear a pair of socks while on the trail.

Watch your step.

Watch for loose rocks, tree roots, and slick spots. This can prevent rolled ankles, stubbed toes, and other hiking injuries. Whenever possible, avoid stepping in water. This is true even if you’re in waterproof shoes. Wet skin is more susceptible to blisters and other injuries.

Stop before blisters form, and manage them before it’s too late.

Two of the biggest causes of blisters are heat and friction. Reducing those two factors helps prevent blisters. Keeping your feet dry and clean can also help prevent blisters. If you start struggling with hotspots, or feel a blister start to develop, stop hiking and treat the area immediately.

Bring first aid.

Sometimes there’s no stopping a blister from popping up. Bring along moleskin, athletic tape, and antibacterial ointment so you can properly manage and treat blisters. Some recommend breaking blisters, while others strongly advise against it. If your blister opens up for any reason, make sure you apply antibacterial ointment and keep the wound clean to avoid infection.

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