March 2015

March 2015
Blog of Education
Foot Health and Hygiene

Protecting your feet March 2015

There’s nothing like resting your dogs after a good hike. Take care of your feet and they’ll get you home

Napoleon said, “an army marches on its stomach” and he was correct, metaphorically. Literally, an army marches on its feet and his failed Russian campaign highlights the importance of keeping your feet in good health. From soldier to hiker and from runner to worker, footwear problems are universal. Luckily, there are only a few concerns to keep in check to ensure proper foot health and hygiene. Foot care starts long before a trip starts but even if a problem is encountered on the trail, easy remedies are available until better care is available.

It is absolutely essential to have correct fitting footwear. Toe blisters result from tight shoes and heel blisters are common in loose fitting shoes. It is never too drastic to alleviate blister pain by packing a shoe with extra padding or cutting relief points into the shoe itself  if no other option is available. Blisters are generally treated by draining fluid with a sterilized needle and covering with your standard moleskin kit. Just remember to always drain a blister with the point of the needle working away from the body from the base of the blister. There is no need to cut away the excess skin as exposed skin underneath causes discomfort.

Equally as important in your foot care is keeping your feet dry. Dry feet are happy feet and a second pair of socks should always be carried. This second pair should be kept dry to ensure maximum warmth when sleeping at night or when starting a second leg of a long hike. The practice of “wear one set, dry one set” allows one pair to dry on the outside of a pack or near the body while the other pair is being used. Wet feet are prone are more prone to blistering and as the skin gets softer, they are more prone to abrasion from any dirt or debris inside the footwear. Also, bacteria grows most readily in warm damp places. It is not a bad idea to carry anti-bacterial powder, talcum or baby powder to throw on your feet before socking them up in a dry set at the end of the night. In winter, two socks can be worn in extreme cold with a chemical hand warmer pack sandwiched between the two if dry socks alone won’t bring warmth back to feet.

Often overlooked are clean and short toenails. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t continue to grow after death as the nail bed recedes. They will however, continue to grow and become a nuisance on extended trips. Make sure to have a means of trimming them down like a pair of nail clippers or even the small scissors found on most Swiss Army Knives. The best time to cut nails is after immersion in water if feet can be rinsed in a creek or pond clippers or scissors should be at hand.

Estela Wilderness Education Blog of Education 2015

Kevin Estela hiking in Big Sur California. Great fitting boots and wicking socks provide all the comfort necessary to focus less on your feet and more on your surroundings.

Splinters and thorns are not uncommon problems and are remedies with a sharp pair of tweezers or a sharp needle if deeply embedded. A remedy for jagged and exposed splinters is to drag a piece of wool or light fabric over the splinter in the opposite direction it entered the skin. The wool will catch an edge and remove it.

Human-powered adventures require healthy feet and with an ounce of prevention and a pound of care, foot health and hygiene can be ensured.