Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Prepare your feet to avoid injuries on hike

Most hikers will agree that the most important piece of gear and equipment they have for the trail is their own feet. There’s good reason for such an attitude: If your feet are sore, the hike will become a death march rather than a pleasurable activity. This is even truer for children, who lack an adult’s ability to resist physical pain to achieve a goal.

Fortunately, you can take some simple steps with your feet and those of your children to ensure the hike remains enjoyable.

Before the hike:
g Trim toenails – Long toenails will place pressure on the toe as they push against the boot. Toenails shouldn’t catch on socks, either, or they’ll wear a hole in them, which can lead to blisters. Trim straight across the nail rather than round the corners.
g Smooth calluses with a file – Blisters can form under large calluses, resulting in an infection. Calluses usually occur because of ill-fitting shoes.
g Rid inside of hiking boots of lint and small stones – This debris only will rub against your feet as they eliminate the spacing between your sock and hiking boot.
g Replace frayed shoelaces – Ripped laces won’t tie properly, creating pressure points on the top of your feet and preventing the boot from fitting snugly, which can lead to twists and falls.
g Replace the insole – Use a thinner pad if the boot fits too tightly or a thicker pad if the boot fits too loosely.
g Apply baby powder to inside of boot – This helps absorb moisture and keep the foot dry. Excessive moisture from sweat can lead to cold, wet feet.

When putting on boots:
g Wear wool socks – Cotton socks don’t absorb moisture as well. Wool socks also tend to be thicker, providing more cushion.
g Smooth socks around feet – Socks that are bunched up lead to friction and blisters. They also may expose part of the bare foot or leg to the boot, which definitely will be uncomfortable and lead to skin burns.
g Tie laces properly – The laces should ensure that the boot is snug but not tight. If laces dig into the foot, they will be uncomfortable.

Also be sure you know how to treat blisters and have the materials for doing so in your first-aid kit. While the above tips should prevent any problems, being able to address any foot issues during the hike will help tremendously.

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