HIKING IS ROUGH ON YOUR FEET
When most ladies think about loving their feet, they automatically think about spoiling themselves and their feet at a spa or salon with a pedicure. Not me.
The last time I was soaking my feet and relaxing in a massage chair was the last. The gentleman came and gently lifted one foot out. He massaged my calf and down to my foot. He eyed my toes. He got out his tray of tools and started looking closer. That is when it stopped being relaxing. He called another gentleman over and they started talking in their native tongue. I had no clue what they was saying but it drew everyone’s attention. With everyone eyeing me like I had a freak foot, the one man finally looked up at me and chastised me for cutting my toenails too short. He told me to stop clipping them. I didn’t try to explain that I hike and that saves me from having bruised toenails. I just sat back and tried to let everyone’s focus go back to their own feet. I have never been back.
Besides bruised toenails, I have also lost toenails, had ugly blisters and plantar fasciitis. The latter finally made me break down and buy decent boots that I had properly fitted to my feet along with special inserts designed for my arch. I will never wear cheap shoes again. The pain is not worth the savings. I also spend the extra money for thick wool socks. These three things cured most of my foot issues.
I still occasionally get blisters or hot spots. Most hikers do, especially on longer hikes. Out in the middle if the woods, along the trail you will not find a stop for pedicures. You will need to know how to love your feet yourself.
I asked the other Hike Like A Woman Ambassadors what issues they have with their feet wile hiking. They shared their feet woes and a lot of great tips.
My feet after 5 days of backpacking on the Colorado Trail – I don’t care who you are, if you hike long enough, you’ll eventually get blisters or lose a toenail – I take pride in watching people’s faces when I say, “Yep! Lost 4 toenails because of the Colorado Trail.” It’s like a badge of honor for me. By the way, the next day after this pic was taken, I was ready to get back on the trail!
I face a big issue with my feet, neuropathy. It stems from nerve damage from my spinal stenosis. I spent 3 months in a walking cast a few years ago. My foot hurt even to look at it! Not all foot issues originate there, many stem from other issues. It’s best to know if an issue is originating from the foot or some other place, like me. When neuropathy flares there’s only one cure, get off the trail and off my feet to avoid further nerve damage. Aching tired feet and losing toe nails are all typical pain a hiker experiences but burning, tingling, and sharp needle like pains are not so know your feet!
The very best thing I do for my feet after a hike is to stop at a creek and soak my feet for about ten minutes in the ice cold water. I have much less foot pain the rest of the day if I do this. I also love, love, love hikes with water crossings. Same principle as above. Mt feet feel brand new after a water crossing. I have horrible foot problems. Bunions, pigeon-toed and really wide feet. Foot pain is just a part of hiking for me. I also try to take my shoes off and stretch my toes during a hike. This helps relieve some pain.
Blisters, lost toenails, swelling, and just plain aching feet are all a part of hiking for me. I have diabetes and connective tissue disorder. This can be very painful. That doesn’t stop me. Hiking is such a stress release for me that nothing could ever take its place. I find treating issues before they become huge problems are a major key. Changing socks, soaking in cool streams, and tearing hot spots are all part of my protocol. Shoes that fit properly are a must and keeping toenails trimmed help too! I carry a foot first aide box in my backpack. Upon returning to the car I remove boots and socks and put on Chaco’s. When I finally get home I soak in an Epsom salt bath with lavender essential oil.
I lost 6 toes the first time I backpacked the grand canyon. And one of my toes almost exploded! The best way I’ve found to explain it is this, you know how an exploded cigar looks like in the cartoons? That’s pretty much what my toe looked like, after day 2 of 4. It was gruesome, but what could I do, I taped it up and kept going. And a patients wife had the audacity to tell me women were fragile yesterday!!! Ps, I have no pictures because I hate feet.
I tend to think of blisters and lost toenails as bragging rights. The worst my feet have ever felt was the last day of a four-day trek. I’m pretty sure every toe had blisters somewhere. I had to wear my running shoes (which are a size and a half bigger) to work for the week after. Another time my feet swelled from too much hiking was when I spent a week in Olympic National Park. I couldn’t fit into any shoes I brought to fly home, so I had to go to REI and buy another pair of running shoes to fly home in. My advice is get into a well-fitted boot. The more blisters you get and the more your feet swell, the more it hurts. In Washington I didn’t have so many blisters as my feet were just extremely swollen. On my four-day hike, it literally felt like toes were broken.
(NOTE: The main cover photo is also Mara’s photo – cute duct tape Mara!)
I don’t have foot issues usually but I will say that I can’t wear sock liners. They make my feet hurt and swell. I know some people swear by sock liners but I can’t wear them. I’ve tried different types but every time my feet swell and hurt so bad I take them off by the end of the hike.
If you know you have spots that tend to rub, moleskin or duck tape them before you go. My toenails are always the ones that suffer. Several years ago, I did some stream mapping and spent multiple days in my wading boots, mapping miles and miles of stream each day and then having to hoof it back to camp. I lost all but three toenails.
A good fitting boot is essential. Try on lots of pairs before you make a final decision. Don’t be tempted to go up a size or down a size if your size is out of stock.
I greatly appreciate each of these ladies inputs. Since starting this post, I have already taken Michelle’s advice during a hike. Wow! It was amazing how good the cool water felt on my feet and how soothed my feet felt after. If you get the chance, try it. Your feet will thank you.
Remember, our feet keep us going, step after step. They take us along paths to stunning views. It is important to care for them and not ignore them when they start telling us that something hurts, burns or irritates. Listen to your body, listen to your feet. Stop and tend to your feet to prevent a more serious issue. Simple steps in caring for your feet will go a long ways.
- Bandage blisters, sores and hot spots.
- Keep toenails trimmed back short.
- Soak your feet in cool water if you are able to.
- Try to change your socks mid-hike or if they become wet.
- Make sure your shoes fit and are tied properly.
- Look at your feet at least morning and night to care for issues.
What foot issues do you encounter while hiking?
How do you love your feet through them?
What is in your first aid kit for your feet?