Every thru-hiker, trail rat, day hiker or just plain walker will be glad to sing you a virtual opera on the subject of blisters, corns, callouses, nail problems, planar faciitis. Just ask them and you’ll get an earful that could be the beginnings of a good blues song. I’d like to share some of my experiences and in some small way try to influence your hiking decisions. To me, IMO, the 2 most important things to a hiker – YOUR FEET – every journey, sojourn, thru-hike or a simple walk around the block employs these two marvelous and highly complicated contact points … where the “rubber meets the road” so to speak. I’ll list some of the more important issues concerning the health and care of these puppies and hope that you come away from this post with one thought – I need to take better care of these body parts. We can begin with shoes, I have another post on here about what I consider to be the best hiking shoe on the market but like every aspect of hiking we all have our favorites. Planar Faciitis; stabbing pain in the arches of your feet. Nothing to take lightly. If you develop this symptom – get to a Podiatrist.
The best treatment is injections into your arches; the best prevention is to utilize the 1/10 oz band the Dr will give you to stretch out your heel tendons etc by placing the band around your toes with your leg straight out and pulling the band which will flex your foot. If you develop this malady – trust me you’ll do your exercises religiously. Now, to the real nitty gritty; suffice it to say that your shoes need to have EXCELLENT arch support, they need to be the RIGHT size and most importantly – you need to keep them DRY. Here is a weird option but one I never fail to utilize; deodorant, yes just plain old unscented men’s gel deodorant (apply it liberally to all areas of your feet where you develop blisters etc) It will keep your feet drier and provide lubrication and prevent rubbing in the problem areas. Nails – keep your toenails trimmed – they will bend over and cause you so many problems you’ll be glad you took this advice.
Blisters – when you apply bandages around or on your blisters “tent” the bandage by putting the sticky ends closer together making the center puff up and provide a cushion for the blister. Another great homeopathic remedy is to brew “green tea” – allow it to cool then soak the blistered areas of your feet – it will allow the blisters to drain and heal. These are just a few of the problem areas we encounter. My primary remedy is to visit a Podiatrist – regularly. Their tips on how to trim your nails properly, how to use the proper arch supports and attachments is invaluable to a lifetime of successful hiking. I personally visit my Podiatrist several times a year – certainly more than my primary Physician. Here are a few tips and some readily available devices for making friends with your feet and toes.
Lets go over the items left to right. First, a good “professional” arch support; not a dollar store one … they range about $20 bucks per foot (not length) or so and are properly sized, cut and have the necessary pads applied by your Podiatrist to ensure your foot plants solidly on the ground. The pads are the white items applied to the bottom of the insert. Before using a good insert I would wear out a pair of shoes in a matter of weeks even when not hiking – wearing out the rear outside edges long before the rest of the shoe had developed signs of wear. The middle items are from top to bottom; a hammer toe sleeve – the toe next to your big toe – it slides over your hammer toe and prevents your big toe from riding over the top and side of your hammer toe which develops some very nasty blisters if your feet are so inclined. The bottom item is a silicone spacer that does the same thing as the sleeve but gives more distance between the toes. It is applied by sliding your hammer toe into the hole and putting the rounded area against your big toe. The far right device is placed under your hammer toe and the adjoining toes by slipping your hammer toe into the loop and pulling it loosely to hold it in place. Its great if you develop blisters on the ends of your toes. Remember the three devices on the right need to be removed before you go to bed at night. They can twist around when not in your shoes and cut off the circulation to your toes. A secondary and very important aspect of your visit to a Podiatrist is to have your callouses trimmed – VERY important. Callouses build up over time and when your feet get wet crossing a stream or the rain starts to fall … the callouses have a tendency to peel off … right down to the bottom layer of your skin – OUCH – and you no longer have the added cushioning they provide the problem areas on your feet. Treat your feet kindly, massage them with pure coconut oil (in its pure form coconut oil liquefies about 76 degrees – it should turn into a liquid when you place it in the palm of your hand. Rub it in and allow it to soak in. I don’t mean buy some coconut moisturizing lotion – but it in its pure form. So, in closing … use your deodorant to lubricate your feet – use pure coconut oil to keep your skin moisturized, include your legs if you like to wear shorts – visit your Podiatrist regularly. Apply bandages, devices, etc with the advice of a professional. After all, we all go to the professionals for advice on what tent to buy, what stove to use … the list goes on … use the same thought process concerning your feet. After all, they are going to carry you to some of the most beautiful, secluded and quietest places on the planet.