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4 Hiking Tips For Your Feet And Ankles

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Whether you are hiking a well-trodden footpath through level forests, or climbing craggy peaks to a triumphant summit, your feet are one of your most important tools when you are on the trail. Even a badly tended to blister can become a major medical emergency when you are miles from civilization. The following tips will help keep your feet happy and healthy when you are traipsing through the backcountry.

Tip #1: Pick the Right Shoes

There are two types of acceptable footwear for hiking – hiking boots and trail runners. Generally, hiking boots are best when you need heavy ankle support and protection from piercing hazards on the trail. For most established trails, you can wear lighter trail runners, which are basically reinforced sneakers, as long as you have strong ankles and aren't prone to ankle injuries. Have the shoes professionally fitted and put fresh insoles in them when the old ones begin to flatten. These insoles are vital for taking pressure off of your foot and distributing it equally.

Tip #2: Socks Matter

The right socks are vital to avoiding issues like blisters and trench foot – which can cause the skin on your foot to peel right off. Generally you want to wear a thin wicking sock, which is designed to move moisture away from your foot, covered by a thicker absorbent synthetic or wool sock. Bring extra socks and change them if they become wet.

Tip #3: Treat Blisters Promptly

Blisters are one of the more insidious problems you can encounter on the trail. If you feel a hot spot – which is where a blister is forming but hasn't yet erupted – stop and treat. Keep adhesive-backed moleskin in your first aid kit. A small piece over the hot spot can keep a blister from forming. Duct tape can also work in a pinch. If you already have a blister, heat a safety pin in a flame to sterilize it. Let it cool and then pierce and drain the blister, but otherwise leave the skin in tact. Finally, cut a hole the size of the blister in a piece of moleskin and place it over the top as padding. Cover this with a bandage.

Tip #4: Watch Your Step

Twisted and sprained ankles are the next major concern. If you begin rolling your ankle or if your ankles start to hurt, take a rest break. You may also want to wrap the ankle with a cloth sprain bandage to add extra support. If the problem persists, it's time to cut your hike short for the day. Rest and return to the trail another day instead of chancing a more severe injury.

Contact a local podiatrist—like Jeffrey M Marks DPM and doctors at other offices—if you have experienced any foot or ankle issues. They can help find the cause of the problem and offer treatment solutions to avoid these issues in the future.