Important Foot Care Tips for Hikers

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Important Foot Care Tips for Hikers

Many people love to hike. Being out in nature can be a wonderful experience and because of the varied nature of a landscape, a very effective form of exercise. In recent years, the amount of equipment dedicated to hiking has increased in ingenuity as well as variety; but none of it is as important as the tools and accompanying techniques designed to take care of the feet.

From hiking socks to foot-softening, the accoutrements, techniques, and importance of a gentle approach will be explained in this guide. A useful section about common injuries and their care will help hikers to solve most minor problems without causing further damage.

Foot care items can be bought at a variety of locations, including department stores and online retailers. Toward the end of the guide, a handy segment will reveal how best to find and buy foot care items on eBay, and why choosing to shop at the online retailer is such a good decision.
 

1. Before the Hike

Before going on a hike, walkers are advised to make sure their feet are ready. Some older schools of thought recommend that hikers "toughen up" their feet by applying tincture of benzoin or rubbing alcohol to the heel and ball of each foot. However, this method can actually backfire, causing heavy skin buildup; the thick skin can then crack and become very painful to put pressure on. Eventually, calluses can form, which can be difficult to get rid of.

Pre-Hike Foot Prep

To avoid calluses, blisters and potential infection, it is best to get ready for a hike by treating the skin on the feet with kindness. The following two important preparation techniques will reduce the risk for foot injury and soreness.

Soften the Feet

Contrary to popular opinion, it is better to walk on soft feet which are well taken care of than "toughened" feet with excessively thick skin. This does not mean that the feet cannot be trained to withstand extra pressure and an increased amount of use; it simply means that the whole of the foot, rather than the skin alone, is prepared for a hike.
  • Soak the feet in a suitably sized container of warm water for at least 15 minutes. The water can be scented with an essential oil or can contain soap if desired.
  • Once the skin is soaked, the feet can be exfoliated. Some individuals use a pumice-containing foot scrub; others use a pumice stone. Callus files can be employed for areas of excessively thick skin.
  • It is essential to make sure that too much skin is not taken off at once. Instead, take the callus or hard skin off over the course of several soaking sessions to avoid injury.
  • Once the feet have been soaked and scrubbed, the next step involves a rich, specialized foot cream. Effective creams tend to be non-greasy and hydrating, while also providing an effective barrier against moisture loss. This part is particularly important, as freshly exfoliated feet tend to need extra protection to avoid becoming excessively dry.

Train the Feet

For walkers to be comfortable during and after a substantial hike, time has to be allocated beforehand to ensure the feet are ready. Training the feet is an important process; if an individual chooses to embark on a particularly long hike without preparation, the feet and ankles will be much more prone to injury.
  • A regular nightly walk can be the perfect start to a foot training regimen, particularly if an individual is not accustomed to being on his or her feet for extended periods of time.
  • Barefoot walking is a very good way to get the feet accustomed to a rougher surface; it is also an interesting way for any hiker to feel more in touch with the trail that he or she is walking on. For city walkers, barefoot shoes make for a fascinating sensory experience.
  • Weak ankles can cause instability and increase the risk of a hiker falling, particularly on uneven terrain. Wearing ankle supports can strengthen the weak area of the foot and will lead to a better, safer walking experience.

Trim the Toenails

Toenail length can make an enormous difference in the comfort level of a hiker. Even a small increase in nail length can restrict the foot inside a tight sock-shoe combination. Constant pressure on the ends of the toes can result in pain, a deformed nail bed, and an increased chance of injury.

Trimming the toenails will negate many of these problems. Hikers should trim straight across the nail, avoiding the temptation to round the corners, to prevent ingrown toenails.
 

2. Be Aware of Common Foot Conditions

There are a variety of common foot conditions that exist in the general population, which can affect a person's gait and comfort level as they walk. However, there are also a number of remedies that can be applied to correct all but the most serious forms of each.
 

Foot Condition

Description and Effects

Remedies

Supination

People who suffer from supination tend to rotate their feet outward when they walk. This can result in an increased risk of a sprain to the foot or the ankle, as well as arch pain, heel pain, callus formation, and misalignment of the spine.

Prescription footbeds can be inserted into the walking boots or walking shoes to change the angle of the foot to a more body-friendly level. These can be obtained from a doctor, a chiropractor, or a podiatrist.

Pronation

Pronation is a condition in which the walker rotates his or her feet excessively inward. Ailments caused by pronation include spinal shift, shin splints, knee pain, hip pain, and arch pain.

Again, prescription insoles can be put into the walking boots or shoes to rotate the feet and decrease the amount of pressure put on knee, hip, and spinal joints. Doctors, podiatrists, and chiropractors are all possible sources of these inserts.

Elongation

An elongated, overly flexible arch will bend too much under the weight of a heavy load, increasing the length of the foot. Hikers will experience foot pain as the toes are pressed against the front of the walking boot or shoe.

Barefoot walking can help train and strengthen feet, and will often lead to a decrease in elongation symptoms. Insoles can also help. If problems continue, there are additional medical therapies available to remedy the condition.


3. The Importance of Hiking Socks

Good quality hiking socks are some of the most valuable items of clothing that any hiker can purchase. In combination with a well fitted boot, a hiking sock is the first line of defense against scrapes and blisters. In fact, if a thick, well-made sock is worn, the risk of developing a blister decreases significantly.

If blisters are still a worry, hikers can apply Band-Aids, tape, or a blister pack to the affected area underneath the sock. For the best results, these items should be used as preventative measures rather than a last resort.


4. Buy High Quality Hiking Boots

The value of a good pair of hiking boots cannot be underestimated. With the aid of properly fitting footwear and well-made hiking socks, a walker can expect to suffer fewer blisters and hiking-related injuries. Once an ideal pair of boots has been located, they must be also be "broken in" before a long hike, to ensure optimum comfort.

The Breaking In Period

All new boots require a breaking in period to soften the leather and lower the risk of developing blisters. The easiest way to break in a pair of boots is to wear them around the house for a few days, followed by short errand-runs and light walks. The warmth from an individual's foot over that time period loosens up the stiff leather and molds the boot.

Airing the Boots

When the hike is complete, boots should always be allowed to dry in a cool, ventilated place. If boots are kept wet, they are prone to harboring bacteria and fungal spores on the inside surface, as well as disintegrating over time. A wet or damp pair of boots is also much more difficult to put on and more likely to cause a blisters.


Solutions to Common Foot Ailments

Hikers should take special care to elevate the feet and take off walking boots whenever they can, allowing the skin to breathe and dry. Constant dampness increases the risk of developing conditions like athlete's foot and other fungal infections. Consistent restriction is not good for blood flow, so taking the pressure off can be a very sensible decision.
 

Foot Ailment

Description

Prevention

Treatment

Blisters

Blisters are fluid filled pockets under the skin. They are created by the heat generated from friction between the skin and the inside of the boot.

Because moisture makes a foot more susceptible to blisters, it is important to keep the feet dry. Regularly taking the walking boots off and airing the feet and socks can make a big difference.

Applying a blister pack, a Band-Aid or a strip of fabric medical tape over parts of the feet which are known to be prone to blisters will form an additional barrier against friction.

It is vital to treat a blister immediately. Removing the boots and socks is the first step, followed by the extraction of any pieces of grit or gravel. After this, the feet must be allowed to cool and dry.

Covering the affected area with moleskin, artificial skin or a Band-Aid will stop further damage. At nighttime, the skin should be allowed to air out and heal.

Sprains

Sprains occur in the ankle or the foot when the ligaments are stretched or torn. There are three grades of sprain severity, from a mild microscopic tear, to a complete ligament tear. Sprains often occur in the midfoot area and the joint at the base of the big toe, as well as the ankle.

Stiff soled, well-fitting walking shoes or boots can help prevent sprains by stabilizing the foot. If weak ankles are suspected, a solid ankle support can be worn, or a boot specifically chosen for its ankle-supporting features can be purchased.

Rest is the first treatment for any sprain. The use of a compression bandage or an ice pack may also help relieve swelling.

Elevating the foot and taking an anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen can alleviate pain. If the sprain is particularly severe, a doctor may recommend a cast.

Sores and Cuts

Foot sores and cuts can have a variety of causes. Objects can puncture through the sole or the side of the boot, or stones can be trapped inside, scraping the skin. They vary in severity from a mild surface level abrasion, to a deep wound.

Though cuts and sores are hard to prevent entirely, there are precautions that can be taken to help avoid injury. Care should be taken when walking in unfamiliar places, so that obstacles and sharp objects can be avoided. The boots should also be examined for stones and other hard objects before they are put on.

If a cut or a sore is mild, the best treatment is to clean the area with an antibacterial soap or wipe, apply antibacterial ointment, and finally cover the area with a Band-Aid.

For more serious bleeding wounds, pressure must be applied until the blood flow has slowed. The cut should then be cleaned and dressed.

If bleeding cannot be effectively stopped or the wound becomes infected, the advice of a doctor should be sought.

Fungal Infections

Fungal infections like athlete's foot are common among hikers as well as sportsmen and women. They are caused when naturally occurring fungal spores are given the right environment in which to grow. Fungal infections often appear between the toes.

Fungi and bacteria thrive in warm, moist places, so to avoid fungal infections, the feet must be regularly aired.

If another person is known to have a fungal infection, it is important not to share boots or socks with them at any time.

Topical antifungal treatment is one of the most effective ways of treating a fungal infection like athlete's foot. These often contain ingredients like zinc oxide, miconazole nitrate, and clotrimazole.

For severe cases, oral antifungal medication can be used to relieve the infection.

Frostbite

Frostbite occurs when damage is caused to the skin and the underlying tissues of the foot by extreme cold. The severity of frostbite can be measured in degrees, from mildly frozen epidermal skin, to the freezing of all the tissues in the foot.

Frostbite can lead to tissue death and loss of parts of the foot; seriously affected feet may require amputation.

Being aware of the weather can reduce the risk of frostbite. If it is expected to be very cold, special precautions and footwear must be worn to prevent the development of the condition.

Some medications, as well as alcohol use, smoking, and other circulatory suppressants increase the risk of frostbite.

Frostbitten feet must be gently warmed. Frozen tissue must not, however, be put in hot water because if the tissue re-warms too quickly, the circulation may not have recovered, leading to tissue death.

On a hike, the body heat of another person can be used to passively rewarm the frozen area before medical help is sought.


How to Buy Foot Care Supplies on eBay

Going shopping for foot care supplies before a hike can be an arduous process if you have to trek to several stores to find the correct items. Thankfully, the auction giant, eBay, rolls all of the best retailers into one. At this unique and popular hub, you can find a huge variety of foot care items for far less than their recommended retail prices.

Finding footcare items on eBay is simple. By using the search bar on the homepage, you will gain access to listings which match your keywords. So if you are looking to purchase women's hiking boots, you simply have to enter "women's hiking boots" into the search field.

Alternatively, you can choose to look in eBay Stores, which is a thriving hub of sellers who offer their items not only at auction, but via a sales page on the eBay site. You can also save a search in your "My eBay" section, and allow eBay to email you when the foot care supplies you want are listed on the site. Because of the cart feature, you can add items from several sellers into your purchase and pay for all of them at once at the end of your visit.


Conclusion

Because the feet are the most heavily punished parts of the body during a hike, they require special preparation before you hit the road, and care when you return home. Contrary to popular opinion, gently training the feet is a better option than deliberately toughening foot skin, because it is far less likely to lead to cracks in the heel or calluses.

Devoting time to foot-training can yield a substantial payoff. Not only will you feel more confident tackling greater distances, you will also benefit from increased foot strength, which can improve your overall posture.

Common conditions, like supination and pronation can be taken into account when purchasing footwear and hiking accessories. If you wear well-fitted boots and socks, you will be much less likely to injure yourself on a hike.

Though foot care items are available from a wide range of sources, a quick and convenient way to pick up all the items you need is to visit eBay. The good reputation and ease of shopping on eBay will make your hiking preparation a much simpler experience.

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