Don’t hike! There. Simple as that. If you don’t go on a hike, you don’t have to worry about trashing your feet on the trail.What fun is that though? Personally, we take it as some what of a trophy, or a reward for a hard day’s work when we peel (sometimes literally) off our socks to find filthy, swollen and occasionally blistered feet.
I take pictures of my feet. A lot. Like, it might be unhealthy. Sometimes we’ll go to great lengths (sketchy, high altitude lengths) to take feet pictures. It’s quite a rush hanging your feet off a high ledge with no safety gear just to take a picture. Why, you might ask? Those feet are what got you here. They got you to the top of that mountain, across that raging river, or from one end of a pass to another. They’ve carried you and all your gear, and although they kick (haha) and scream sometimes for you to stop, you keep them moving and they didn’t give up on you. And now here you are- sitting at the summit that you worked so hard to climb, with your feet dangling over the edge enjoying that majestic view with you. After taking in that view, you ask them to give you one more ride to camp, where you peel off those sweaty dirty socks and finally give them the break they deserve.
Don’t get me wrong- on the trail, foot care and hygiene are very important. Not taking care of your feet can end a trip very quick and painfully. Sometimes, however, there’s not a lot you can do! In the desert, you may be in an area where water is very hard to come by. The last thing I would be willing to do is give up some of that precious water to wash some feet.
So what can you do? We’ll throw out a few tips in this 2 part post that have been found to be helpful to keep from having to tap out of a hike due to injury, or at least to get you to the next location where you have the ability to properly address your screamin’ ‘tootsies’.
There is a lot of debate over what shoes to wear on hikes. Some people say tall boots, some say mid-boots. Some say trail runners, some say tennis shoes. We stick with trail runners on probably 99% of our hikes. The only times I personally have regretted wearing trail runners have been in deep snow (trail runners aren’t very waterproof) and for a small portion of my hike on the trail to Havasupai. The deep sand wore on my ankles and I wished I would have had better ankle support.
In hot climates such as desert areas when you will be putting in a lot of miles (like 50+) during the heat of the day, we recommend buying trail runners at least 1/2 size bigger than what you normally wear, to account for the swelling that is bound to happen. Some people even go a full size or bigger, but in my experience a half size was enough. When you hike the desert you will tend to hike later in the day as well, or at night when it has cooled down. The swelling in your feet will go down and your foot moves around a lot more in the shoe. Blisters can become an issue at this point due to friction.
Otherwise, trail runners with a wide toe-box, zero drop, and gnarly tread is definitely the way to go. Lighter, better fitting, better cushion, better grip.
I tried the Altra Lone Peak 4 trail runners and hated them. I would recommend finding the 3.5’s.
An essential part of the hiking uniform if you ask me. Gaiters keep that excess sand, dirt and pebbles out of your shoes. The more extra crap in your shoes, the more potential for blisters and injury due to inadequate foot hygiene. The shoes recommended earlier (Altra lone peak) actually have “gaiter traps” that help secure the fairer to the back of the shoe, while a metal hook and loop secure the front.
Oh, the socks. Another subject of debate. There are two favorites at this camp- wool socks and toe socks.
Wool socks are great if you get the right ones. They breathe, they dry quick, they stay warm if you get them wet. They also are just plain more comfortable and last a lot longer than cotton. Don’t go el cheapo off the discount rack at the department store.
I wish I had a pic of one of us in darn toughs, but I guess all I have is one of me (2hundo) using them as gloves!
Toe socks are a new addition to the family. Recommended at first by a friend at work, I put the idea aside as “eh maybe I’ll try them someday”. Then I ended up on the PCT in Idyllwild California with a gnarly blister between my toes that wouldn’t go away. The local outfitter suggested I try the injinji toe socks, saying they would keep the toes separate from each other (reduces friction), as well as allowing air flow between them. The added bonus was that the fabric from the socks soaked up all the pus and goo from my blister. The result? Dried up healing blister within about two days, maybe less.
Side note- This pic is from a room we rented for the night in Idyllwild. It was great to put up our feet!
In the next post we will discuss some more tips for foot care; we’ll talk a little more about the gear, then get into hygiene. Cleaning, first aid, and temporary fixes.
In the mean time, stop staring at your screen and go put some miles on those feet!