Thursday, June 14, 2012

How to avoid, treat sore feet during a hike

There’s no more important piece of gear to a hiker than his feet. Once his feet are sore, the hike is over.

Hopefully, your sore feet are due to muscles and connective tissue overstressed by excessive walking or carrying too much weight. Other problems, such as obesity or flat feet, could be the cause, and to resolve those issues, you should see a doctor.

Among the best ways to avoid sore feet is not wearing tight-fitting shoes or that are tied too tightly. This will help eliminate bruising and pain. In addition, wear wool socks that wick sweat away from the feet rather than cotton socks, which become swampy, and can lead to blisters or fungal infections.

Also, carry less gear into your backpack. Usually your knees will the first to buckle under the pressure of excessive weight, but your feet will soon follow.

You also may need to walk a shorter distance. Each of us has our limitations, so there’s no shame in only being able to do a mile. Rest assured, the more frequently you walk what you can handle, the farther you’ll be able to go with each passing week.

Take a look at the quality of the trail as well. Uneven surfaces, especially those with a lot of stone or scree, can quickly wreak havoc with your legs and ultimately your feet. Seek trails with level grades until you build up your leg strength.

To treat sore feet on the trail, begin by removing weight from your backpack. Also, change into dry socks if possible. Finally, select a different, easier route if possible.

Once home, try a foot bath by soaking your dogs in warm water mixed with epsom salts. Afterward, stretch your feet, especially with a runner’s stretch. Massaging your feet also can be beneficial; apply gentle thumb pressure to the sore areas and use lotions or oils

Read more about day hiking with children in my guidebook Hikes with Tykes.