Undercover Dirtbags

How to keep your feet from getting trashed on the trail… Part 2

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So your feet are toast. Blistered, dirty, swollen and painful… but you’re 20 miles from the closest town. What are you supposed to do?

The key here is proper planning and preparation. Weight of course is an important consideration in your hikes, but at the same time some things just shouldn’t be left at home. There are a lot of things that are debated as need vs. want, and in our opinion a foot care “kit” is a necessity. I would guess our kits weigh in at maybe 3 ounces at the most.

Disclaimer- We don’t claim to be the experts. Also, some of the tips you’ll read here are disputed in terms of safety, risk of infection, etc. These are what we practice, and if you disagree, feel free to do otherwise 🙂

Alcohol prep pads-

Great for cleaning a blistered/injured area. You don’t heal if it’s not clean. I carry 6-8, and have more sent to me if needed on a long trip.

Sewing needle and thread-

If you’re going to pop a blister, always pop it from the side. Tie your thread to the needle and run the needle through the blister- in one side and out the other. The idea is that the thread pulls fluid out of the blister, speeding up the healing. It’s a good idea to clean the needle and thread with your alcohol preps before doing this. This is recommended to do at night before you go to bed. Let the blister drain and breathe while you’re sleeping.

Duct tape-

Duct tape is gold. We carry duct tape in a few places. One is wrapped around each trekking pole near the handles. The other way is to wrap a decent amount around a half-pencil. Duct tape is priceless when you have a blister or hot spot that you need covered until you can treat it properly. It’s also great for minor repairs.

Blister pad kit-

There are many different blister kits available at your local store. We use the kits that have the small round moleskin pieces. They’re handy for a quick fix on the small blisters.

Antibiotic cream-

We buy the small tubes of neosporin for our kits. Infection control is important, so we like to put a little of this on anytime there is an opening in the skin.

FOR BLISTERS WHILE HIKING-

Clean the blister and skin around it. Use an alcohol prep pad to wipe the area well.

Use the prep pad to clean the needle.

Poke the side of the blister and push down on the blister to push the fluid out.

Once it looks like the fluid is out, wipe the area one more time with the alcohol prep pad.

Take a piece of duct tape long enough to cover not only the blister, but all the way to the top of the foot. I’ve found that when I put a piece over just the blister, it tends to sweat off quicker than when I use a king piece.

FOR BLISTERS AFTER YOU GET TO CAMP-

This is the last thing you do before bed. Take care of your blister(s) then go to sleep, letting them heal through the night.

Clean the blister and skin around it. Use an alcohol prep pad to wipe the area well.

Use the prep pad to clean the needle and thread.

Tie your thread to the needle and run the needle through the blister- in one side and out the other, leaving the thread in the blister. Cut the thread off of the needle and let the blister drain.

A few last tips-

Wear the shoes you’ll wear on the trail daily for at least a few weeks before your hike.

Clip your toenails short, before your hike. Be careful though. You don’t want to cut them too close to your departure day, as you will be risking infection due to small cuts or hangnails.

Shake out your socks every day. If you have the opportunity, wash them in a body of water. Be sure to dry them COMPLETELY. Spend time without shoes and socks on, but be careful where you walk. It would be a shame to get an infection in your foot from a cactus while you’re trying to give your feet a rest.

Elevate your feet whenever you get a chance. Like literally EVERY time you can. When you crawl into your tent at night, prop your feet up onto your pack and sleep with your feet up. Makes a world of difference in the morning.

Lastly, take a small hard ball with you. Something firm but light and small. This will make your feet feel a million times better after you roll it around under your feet. I accidentally came across a croquet ball at “Mike’s Place” on the PCT in 2017. I was at about 22 miles for the day, and thought my feet were done for. After using this ball, I was able to squeak out another 6 or so miles.

Interestingly enough, as I sit here and type this at work, I’ve noticed that these waterproof/bio-hazard-proof/air-proof boots have given me a blister between my toes. So I think I’m going to go ahead and treat that now! Till the next post…

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