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Hiking is a great way to keep fit and explore the great outdoors. But excessive moisture and friction on the skin from improper socks and shoes can cause foot pain and lead to injuries that will stop you in your tracks. Before you climb your next peak, consult your local Foot Health Practitioner to make sure you are using the right footwear for your hiking adventures. Whether you are going out for a short walk or for a multi-day trek, there are specific shoes and socks you should be buying to avoid discomfort and possible injury. Here are some helpful tips on hiking gear that will keep you going mile after mile.

SOCKS

STEP #1: PICKING THE RIGHT SOCK

The right hiking sock depends on the type of trip you have planned and the weather conditions you expect. Here are the basic categories you have to choose from:

  • Liners - Sock liners are thin, lightweight wicking socks designed to be worn right next to your skin and under your socks. These liners wick sweat away from the surface of your foot to keep you dry and more comfortable.
  • Lightweight hiking/backpacking socks - Designed for warm conditions and easy trails. These socks are thicker, warmer and more durable than liners alone and provide extra cushioning.
  • Mid-weight hiking/backpacking socks - These socks provide cushioning and insulation in moderate to cold conditions. Many models have extra padding built into high-impact areas like the heel and the ball of the foot for maximum comfort. They should be worn with liners.
  • Mountaineering socks - These are the thickest, warmest and most cushioned socks available. They are designed for long trips, tough terrain and cold temperatures.

STEP #2: CHOOSING A FABRIC

  • Cotton - 100% cotton socks are not recommended for backpacking. Cotton absorbs sweat, dries slowly, provides no insulation when wet that can lead to discomfort and blisters out on the trail. However, a cotton blend sock (with wool or other wicking and insulating fibers) is perfect for light summer hiking.
  • Wool - Wool is warm, cushioning, and retains heat when wet. Unfortunately, it can take a long time to dry and it can be scratchy next to your skin. To get the best wool has to offer, choose a sock that combines wool with synthetic materials.
  • Synthetic materials - Synthetics trap warmth like wool, but are softer on the skin. They also dry more quickly, are more comfortable and are available in a variety of sock styles and thicknesses.

STEP #3: TEST RUN

  • Take a quick walk in the sock styles you are considering for your hike to get a feel for how much cushioning they have. Be sure you buy the right size - bunched up sock material can make any backpacking trip an uncomfortable one.

FOOTWEAR

Foot Health Practitioners agree that choosing the right hiking footwear is the key to happy feet. Your hiking shoes and boots need to be comfortable, durable and protective. Here are some helpful tips for purchasing hiking footwear:
Step #1: Consider the hike
Begin your search for the right boots or shoes by choosing the category that best matches your hiking trips:

  • Lightweight hiking - These boots and trail shoes are designed for day hiking and very short overnight trips only. They stress comfort, cushioning and breatheability. As a result, they are less supportive and durable than the options below.
  • Mid-weight hiking/backpacking - These boots are designed for on- and off-trail hiking with light to moderate backpacking loads. They are more durable and supportive than lightweight hiking boots, but still intended for mainly short to moderate trips over easy to moderate terrain.
  • Extended backpacking/mountaineering - These boots are designed for on- and off-trail hiking with moderate to heavy backpacking loads. Durable and supportive, they provide a high degree of ankle and foot protection for multi-day trips.

STEP #2: KEEPING YOU DRY

Moisture can cause abrasions when hiking so be sure to differentiate between the following:

  • Waterproof leather -This is leather that's been treated to be waterproof. It's great stuff to have, but remember -- leaks may still occur depending on how well the boot is made.
  • Waterproof (or water-tight) construction -This refers to construction techniques designed to keep leaks out such as seam-sealing, special stitches and precise design. Water-tight construction is typically combined with waterproofed materials.
  • Waterproof liners -These are the special waterproof barriers described above that are built right into the boot to protect you from whatever leaks make it through the boot materials. These liners typically do a great job of keeping you dry. But remember, they don't last forever.

STEP #3: TEST FOR FIT

Once you've narrowed down your options to a handful of boots or shoes, the best way to decide between them is to try them on. Here are some helpful sizing tips:

  • Sizing - Have an experienced salesperson measure both of your feet and use these measurements as your starting point. If one foot is larger than the other, which is quite common, fit your larger foot first. You may need to use extra socks or an insert to take up additional space in the other boot.
  • Wear socks - Try your footwear on with the type of socks and liners you'll be using out on the trail.
  • Check the initial fit - Lace up the boots and stand up. They should feel snug around the ball and instep of your foot, but loose enough that flexing your foot forward is not uncomfortable. Your heel should be held firmly in place.
  • Test your boots- Take a walk and check for any looseness, foot movement and/or heel lift. Good-fitting boots will hold your feet firmly in place without binding or pinching them. After a quick walk across a flat surface, step onto an incline facing downhill to check for slippage. Your feet should not slide forward easily, nor should you be able to move your heel from side to side.
  • Know your options - Try on a number of boot models before you decide on a single pair, even if the first pair feels good.

INJURIES AND TREATMENT

Hiking puts an enormous amount of stress on your lower extremities and can result in a number of foot related injuries. While some ailments can be self-treated, it is always best to see a podiatrist to ensure a small foot problem doesn't turn into a serious injury. Here are some common problems that hikers may experience.

PROBLEMS TO WATCH FOR

Blisters - Friction in hiking footwear often causes blisters. Do not pop a small blister, but if it breaks on its own, apply an antiseptic and cover with a sterile bandage.

Neuromas - Enlarged benign growths of nerves between the toes, called neuromas, are caused by friction in tight footwear and can result in pain, burning, tingling, or numbness. Neuromas require professional treatment, including an evaluation of shoes.

Shin splints - Pain to either side of the leg bone, caused by muscle or tendon inflammation. This may be related to a muscle imbalance between opposing muscle groups in the leg. It is commonly related to excessive foot pronation (collapsing arch). Proper stretching and corrective orthoses for pronation can help prevent shin splints.

Sprains and strains - The stress of hiking can result in sprains and strains of the foot and ankle. They can be treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). If pain persists, seek medical attention.

Subungal hematoma - Pressure in the toe box of a hiking boot can result in bleeding under the toenail known as a subungal hematoma or "blackened toenail." See a Medical person to help prevent the loss of a toenail.

Corns and calluses - Such friction injuries are readily self-treatable, yet care should be taken to ensure that self-treatment does not aggravate the problem. When treating corns and calluses, do not try to trim with sharp objects. Instead, buff problem areas with a pumice stone after bathing.

 

Contact Us

mapTrekeek Foot Health Clinic, Trekeek Farm, Camelford, Cornwall, PL32 9UB

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