Your feet carry everything... every pound you carry your feet do the heavy lifting. There is too much attention spent on the
back—as if the back does the work. Face
it—feet do the heavy lifting on a trek.
The secret: keeping them cool and dry..
Here are some of the tricks long distance hikers use:
- Air out every hour.
That is stop every hour, take off shoes and socks... air out for 10
minutes. Often such tem minute
breaks take a half hour ;-)
- Change socks every hour. OK, not after a week or so, but to start
with, most hikers switch socks every hour and use a two diaper pins to
hang the damp ones on their pack to dry during the next hour. Learn to see socks as a means of
collecting moisture from your feet to dry out during the next hour.
- Baby Powder feet. For
the first week or so--before putting on the next pair of socks.
- Alcohol feet. For the
first week --and sometimes longer -- some hikers carry 4 oz of rubbing
alcohol in a mini- baby bottle and squirt and rub their feet to cool and
cleanse them... I don't know that this works better than water, but they
- Shoes that fit
and are broken in by 50 miles. Obvious.
shoes at each post office. Some hikers have
TWO pair of shoes...and switch at each re-supply PO...sending
the others forward (after generous squirts of Fbreeze!).
The notion--shoes wear in particular places... switching them every week
or so wears on different places. I never do this but it intrigues me.
- Liners. Many hikers
wear thin liners under medium Smartwools in
eastern hiking where it seems you need thicker socks and don’t worry as
much about scalding feet. I wear a
double pair of liners though just about everywhere.
- Pre-toughen feet.
Going without shoes several hours a day "hardens" the feet
before starting.... also wearing sandals
without socks can do the same thing. Others soak their feet in tannic acid
an hour a day for two weeks too... but I tried this once and saw no
- SHOES. a. Sneakers or
boots: You'll have to decide between lightweight sneaker-type shoes and
"hiking boots." If you have "weak Ankles" then
consider something high enough to support your ankles. b. Gore-Tex boots.
Nice for the mushy-marshy Eastern mountains, probably too hot Western
- SOCKS I love Smartwool, though you have to take out a loan to
afford them. Mostly I just wear
two pairs of liners.
- TREAD LIGHTLY... The
best foot-care has to do with HOW we walk. The great trick is how you walk
"in your head." Here's the secret: "walk
barefoot in your head." That is, simply set your foot down for each
step as if you are walking barefoot... avoiding pounding your foot on
sharp rocks, stepping lightly instead of tromping. Walking "barefoot
in the head" will save your feet more than any other single
treatment... after all your feet are
barefoot, inside your shoes! The tread-lightly concept was popularized
recently in New Zealand,
but of course the Native Americans were expert at it long before (of
course with moccasins you have
to tread lightly or beat up your feet. Try this 'tread-lightly/walk
barefoot-in-the-mind" thing for the first several days and it will
become a habit... and will save you lots of pain.
- BLISTER TREATMENT Of
course some pain is inevitable. Maybe even blisters are inevitable.
However, I only got blisters once on the entire 2100-mile long Appalachian
trail. But most everybody gets them on the Pacific Crest Trail—the pathway
is just sun-baked, and the miles higher there. The combination of heat and
high mileage produces blisters-for-everyone. How hikers treat blisters: a. Treat hot spots fast: As soon as a
"hot spot" develops (a red sore spot) tape it with either Duct
Tape or adhesive tape. The treatment-of-choice is duct tape, but tests
have shown adhesive tape sticks better. If a toe has a hot spot, tape
around the entire toe, making sure you
don't leave a lump or bump in the tape to cause another blister (this
really is more in the category of "prevention" than treatment).
b. Drain blisters. Sterilize a
needle (match or alcohol-stove fuel) and puncture a blister at the edge.
Some hikers sterilize thread and slip an inch through the blister then cut
off the thread leaving it there to auto-drain while walking the next few
days while the blister turns into a callous. Almost all hikers do this—but all my
nursing student-backpackers say it is the
wrong treatment and that the protein in the blister is a God-send. You decide. c. Air
feet out at night. You’re so exhausted at night you'll be tempted to
drop into bed without removing tape from the blisters or hot spots.
Better: take the tape it off and let feet air-out dry-out harden-out