Having foot issues? As many hikers set out on their thru-hiking season I keep hearing about tragic foot pain. In an effort to reduce some of the tears, I wanted to share a few things that have worked well for my persnickety feet.

Rinse The Grit Away

Try carrying two pairs of socks. Switch them mid-day, and rinse the morning pair out. If you have extra water, give your feet a mid-day wash too. During the dry desert sections just whack the heck out of your socks to get the dust out instead of washing them with your precious water. I still switch them anyway, and wash them near the next water source- remember- don’t wash them directly in the water sources!!! Yuck- toe funk in your water-Eeeeew!

I find that washing my socks regularly helps them last miles and miles longer (like 150-300miles longer!), and keeps my feet happier.

rotating socks and drying insoles

rotating socks & removing insoles in camp on the BFT

Take Your Shoes Off!

airing out my feet during lunch

airing out my feet during lunch

One of my other foot care secrets is to have at least two breaks a day when my shoes come off, my insoles are pulled out & shaken off, and my feet & shoes can have some time apart. I usually give myself a foot massage & elevate them on my pack. Chilling in that lounging reclining position for a bit seems to really help my body get a better rest & lets my feet deflate a bit.

Relaxin and propping the feet up on the ODT

Relaxin and propping the feet up on the ODT

Keep ’em clean with Dirty Girls

gaiters can help cut down on the "Pearl of Pain"

gaiters can help cut down on the “Pearl of Pain”

Using lightweight gaiters (like Dirty Girl Gaiters) can help keep grit & seeds out of your socks & shoes. Blisters can be caused by dirt creating friction between your skin and the shoe wall, sometimes called the “pearl of pain”. Gaiters can help keep those friction causing agents at bay, but thick gaiters can trap a lot of moisture and heat in your shoes. Dirty Girls work well for me, being light enough to let my shoes breathe while providing their magical “pearl of pain” protection features.

Uh-oh…. blisters happen…

Blisters aren't too fun

Blisters aren’t too fun

Avoiding blisters can be really hard, especially at the start of a hike before your feet have had a chance to toughen. Taping your hotspots before they become blisters is a good idea. Bring some tincture of benzoine, nuskin, or just find some trailside tree sap & rub it on the friction zones. Avoid putting any of these substances directly on open blisters-ouch!! If you do get a blister or ten, treat them like serious wounds. Clean them, bandage them, check and re-check. Pop your blisters in controlled environment whenever possible. With sterilized equipment & small incisions, puncture & drain your blister. Be sure your hands are clean as you push the funk out of your blister. You might have to re-drain your blister again later, and that’s ok. If you can keep the “lid” of your blister on, your healing can be faster, but be wary of dirt creeping under the flap & causing infection. Using second skin (a burn gel film available at most drug stores) can really help sooth a burning painful blister. For blister taping tips, check out my video.

Sole Pain Sucks!

Towards the end of the day my feet become stricken with what I call Sole Pain. It feels as if my feet have been beaten to a bruised pulp and I start dreaming of shoes that are made of pillows. Sole Pain SUCKS!
crocks are as close as I can get to walking on pillows

Crocs are as close as I can get to walking on pillows

I have a couple of solutions for my sole pain, and they all add more weight to my pack. #1:  stop hiking for the day. This adds weight by making me have to carry more food & water because it slows my daily pace. #2: bring an extra set of very cushy insoles to put on top of more supportive superfeet style insoles for the last miles of the day. #3: bring a pair of Crocs. This is the closest I have come to finding a way to walk on pillows. As long as the trail is not too rocky or steep, I can cruise along in crocks well. I wear socks with them & they do get filthy. I sometimes put my insoles inside the Crocs, especially in the desert sections where cactus spines can sail through the Croc soles.

I’ve found that my feet are the gods of my through hike. I spend about an hour a day pampering the crap out of them, and I carry extra things for them.  In exchange, they let me walk thousands miles. No matter what I do, my feet are still prissy little princesses. They complain loudly, and I have to listen, after all, it’d be pretty hard to leave them behind! Each hiker is blessed with their own two feet, and you will have to learn what they like best. Good luck with your feet, and may they carry you on wonderful journeys!

Sweet Feet

May Your Feet be Sweet