Foot Care For Backpackers And Hikers
Proper foot care is a must for hikers and backpackers. You can be in perfect health in every other way and have a few blisters turn a nice backpacking trip into a survival situation. Here are some suggestions on how to avoid foot problems when hiking, and then some tips on dealing with the problems if they do occur.
Foot Care - Preventing Problems
- Have extra clean dry socks. Wash a pair in a stream if necessary. Hang them from your pack to dry.
- Air out your feet. Stop at least every couple hours and take off your shoes to let your feet cool.
- Treat hot spots. Don't let hot areas on your feet develop into blisters - treat them early.
- No hiking boots (unless you need ankle support). Running shoes are less likely to cause blisters.
- Know your limits. Don't keep hiking once your feet are getting too sore.
- Tighten laces near your ankles when going downhill, to prevent your toes from jamming against the front of the shoes.
Common Foot Care
Blisters should be treated as early as possible. Use moleskin (or duct tape if you have nothing better), and cut a hole for the blister to rest in, to avoid pressure on it. If it must be popped, do so with a sterilized needle at the base of the blister.
Black toe is a toenail that has blood trapped underneath. It happens when the nail is continually hitting the front of your hiking boot or rubbing on the top. Try to correct the cause (tighten laces by ankle on downhill stretches). If the nail isn't painful or loose, you can leave it alone. Otherwise trim the nail, and wrap it with a bandage or duct tape.
Ingrown toenails happen from a bad nail-cutting job or tight boots. The nail edge grows into the flesh. This can be very painful. Soak the toe in salty warm water for about ten minutes, then work the flesh back so you can cut the corner of the nail. For best results, you can also tuck a bit of cotton or toilet paper covered in antibacterial cream under the inflamed flesh (change daily).
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation and stretching of the tissue that connects your heel to your toes (the plantar fascia). You feel pain in the foot on the first steps after resting, or in the morning. To treat this on the trail, soak your feet in a cold stream for a while. Insoles with arch support and custom orthotics can help prevent this, if it is a recurring problem.
Calluses are just thick and hard patches of skin. Corns are just calluses on the bony parts of the toes. They are caused by continual friction. If they become painful, you can use a nail file or knife to carefully file away the thickness and roughness.
Try to prevent foot injuries and problems when possible, but be prepared for them anyhow. Carry moleskin and antibiotic cream, for example. You should also try to remember the basic foot care for the common conditions listed above.
About the Author: Copyright Steve Gillman. To get the ebook "Ultralight Backpacking Secrets (And Wilderness Survival Tips)" for FREE, as well as photos, gear recommendations, and a new wilderness survival section, visit:
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