Nothing can ruin a great walk like painful feat, blisters or rubbing, painful tendons or cramp they can make an enjoyable time into an endurance test that you cannot wait to finish. Looking after your feet and getting your footwear right is highly important if you want to embark on a walk of some length with a smile on your face.
Of course we all have different feet in many ways not just shape, some peoples feet sweat a lot more than others for example. So what works for one person may not for another in keeping their feet in good working order, but there are some general points that will help all of us keep our feet more comfortable as we walk the miles.
Choosing the right footwear.
Lets start with socks. The importance of these small items of wear might be easily overlooked, after all a pair of socks is a pair of socks – right? Well – no. The thickness of your socks matters a lot, they will cushion your feet against the material of the inside of your boots or shoes, so they are the main barrier to prevent the rubbing that will cause blisters. Also everyone’s feet sweat – as I have said some more than others. The material of your socks needs to wick away moisture as efficiently as possible in cooperation with the fabric of your boots. Pure cotton socks are to be avoided they absorb moisture and retain it and wet, soggy socks are a great way to get blisters. It might take a little time to find the right ones for you but once you have, you will swear by them.
It goes without saying – I think! That good fitting boots or waking shoes are the most important items for walking if you want to keep your feet in a good condition. It is important to choose the right footwear for the kind of walks you want to do. There is no point buying a pair of heavy leather boots if you are intending to do light walking across the South Downs, they will make your feet ache and the weight will make you more tired. Such boots are best on rough technical ground.
Whether you choose walking boots or shoes will not only depend upon the type of walking you intend to do, but also on such factors as whether you want good ankle support or not. I strongly recommend that you get good first hand advice when buying your first pair of walking footwear.
Here are a few points to look for when choosing a pair of boots or walking shoes.
When trying out a new pair of boots (or shoes) always wear the socks you intend to use for hiking to get a true feel of the fit. Make sure that the boot is not tight across the bridge of your foot, when you move your foot around inside the boot there needs to be sense of freedom without excessive movement, remember that your feet will expand when on a walk of any length.
From the end of your big toe to the inside of the front of the boot there aught to be a gap about the same width as the width of your index finger. This is because a) your feet will naturally expand as you walk and b) you do not want your toes rubbing against the front of the boot when walking down hill.
Your heal needs to fit snugly into the heal of the boot and not move. It is good practice to walk around with your new boots before buying them if poss, on the level and incline to ensure that your heal does not move which will cause rubbing and blisters.
How you tie your laces can make a massive difference to how a boot moves with your foot. There are in fact many different ways you can lace your footwear, and there are many videos demonstrating these different methods
Always break your footwear in before going on a long walk. A good idea is to wear your boots or shoes daily for a couple of weeks before doing a trek, the footwear needs to mould itself to the shape of your feet.
Foot care on the trail
As I have already said all our feet are different and folks have found various ways to care for their feet when on long walks. There are many videos that give all sorts of advice but here are some general principles that will help your feet.
- Keep your toenails short
- When you stop for a break on a walk it is a good idea to take your boots or shoes off and air your feet. This helps to dry your feet off and refreshes them. It is amazing how much better your feet will feel when you put your footwear back on.
- As soon as you feel a ‘hot spot’ (rubbing or soreness) stop and and attend to it immediately. Do not leave it or think I will attend to it later you will certainly regret it. You will need to apply plasters or tape to the sore area or perhaps use a lubricant like Compede or Vaseline.
- Remove any rubble (small stones,twigs) immediately from inside your footwear.
- When doing a multi day hike take more than one pair of socks and if possible change your socks each day.
- Keep your feet as dry as is possible wet feet easily become sore. Make sure your footwear is well water proofed. Also treating your footwear with a proofer will keep your boots/shoes supple.
Having taken all these measures there is still no guaranteeing that you will not get any blisters or sore feet, but you have seriously lessened the likelihood and believe me prevention is much better than cure. This I have found out the hard way!