View Full Version : Foot Care

02-11-2003, 11:47
Since the feet seem to be both the most valuable and most vunerable physical asset while hiking the AT, what are the steps you take to insure their health?

I have been rubbing mine with rubbing alcohol to toughen them a bit, and plan to take medicated powder with me to put in my socks each morning. My boots are well broken in. I have not yet decided on a sock yet, but am planning on taking at least four pair. I usually hike with two pair until my feet have toughened. I'll take moleskin and probably duct tape.

I am interested in what others do to protect their feet, and which brand and type of sock that you may prefer (and why).

Lone Wolf
02-11-2003, 11:56
Thor-los or Smart Wool and baby powder with cornstarch.

max patch
02-11-2003, 12:14
I had no blisters on my thru-hike:

1. Both pairs of boots and the pair of running shoes I used were well broken in before my hike.

2. At lunch and at long breaks I took my boots and socks off and let my feet dry off.

3. At the first hint of a hot spot developing I immediately applied moleskin/foam, white athletic tape, or a bandaid.

4. I started off using wool rag socks and later switched to thorlos. I used a liner sock with each.

5. I never used footpowder/cornstarch on the trail or alcohol prior to the trail.

SGT Rock
02-11-2003, 12:24
Max, sounds like good advice.

I've gone miles without blisters by using Thorlos and broken in boots are shoes. I don't use liners with thorlos, but I have started using liners only with running shoes. I have tried running shoes without socks which worked well, but after three days of wet feet I got raw places on my ankles.

Just dry and air feet whenever possible. I also like going barefoot as much as I can to toughen your feet. You can get by without camp shoes if you toughen up enough.

Forrest Phil
02-11-2003, 12:48
I agree, feet are the most important asset. I believe that proper fitting footwear is very important. It does not matter if the footwear is boots. running shoes, or something in between. I use footbeds. I like Superfeet. I like the custom fit ones the best. As mentioned above, getting your feet dry as often as possible is important. I also use Gold Bond Foot Powder. It helps to keep away The Funk. I also stretch my feet throughout the day and elevate them at breaks.

02-11-2003, 13:27
Thorlos! That's all I needed.

02-11-2003, 16:27
Well, I had one blister on the trail the whole way, so we must have done something right. Started with new boots that I had never worn before, and smartwool socks.

I think that changing socks frequently, and simply taking CARE of your feet is a good start. There were people who rubbed their skin raw, put duct tape on and and kept walking, wondering why they were getting these vicious infections everywhere. I used custom-molded Superfeet insoles but I don't think they added anything in the way of blister prevention. Try to keep your feet dry, get out of your boots or hiking shoes when you get to camp and let your feet air out; powder them when you can, and take proper care of blisters and such before hey become huge porblems, and you shold have no problem. I became a little bit obsessive about my feet after Pearisburg, and bought foot lotion and a pumice stone to put in my bounce box, and laways had strong, healthy feet for the remainder of the trip. My doctor said that lots of the toe-numbing problems people get are becuase of the callous build up on their feet...

Good luck!

02-11-2003, 18:22
Thanks for all of the thoughts. Sounds like common sense and attention to detail go a long way to maintaining proper foot health.

I would also ask those who have worn trail running shoes which brand and style worked the best on the trail. Being used to fairly sturdy hiking boots for all of my past activities, I find that I am having a hard time seeing something that looks like a tennis shoe being effective with a thirty pound load. I guess from reading some of the comments here that clearly I need to get used to the idea.

SGT Rock
02-11-2003, 19:14
Nike Air Pegasus running shoes. About 300 trail miles on the current pair. They are running shoes, not those trail shoes. I also jog in the same model.

02-11-2003, 19:28
A blister might seem bad, but I don't see how its going to kick you off the trail permently.

Much worse are the stress fractures and metatarsalgia (which basicly means pain in the ball of the foot). The metatarsalgia is what kicked us off.

To prevent stress fractures, don't do big miles until you've conditioned your body well. I would say you need at least a month before you start doing big miles (over 17). You might feel able, and a lot of people probably do that, but you are taking a chance because you muscles are developed to 20 mile days. The tired muscles let the bones take the beating, leading to stress fractures. Of course a month may not even be enough. From marathon training, it takes 18 weeks to go from nothing to ready to run 24 miles. But that's only training 5 days a week.

The metatarsalgia (often described as the ball of your foot feeling bruised) is much more difficult to figure out. It can be caused by several things, including neuroma's (Morton's Neuroma is a common one).

A neuroma is a nerve between your toes (the most common one to be a problem is the one between the 3rd and 4th toes, 1 being the big toe. It can happen between the 2nd and 3rd too) that is aggravated each time you take a step. Eventually it becomes inflammed, and can become perminently painful. It can be fixed by orthotics if you are lucky, or surgery if you aren't. Another option is getting Cortisone shots on trail to let you keep hiking. We think this is what happened to my wife in 2001. We are finally (!) getting around to getting to the foot doctor to see if he can truely diagnose it.

Other things that can cause metatarsalgia is shoes that fit too tight in the toe box, bad foot structure or bad cushioning. Or all three. It's tough to say why some people will never have a problem, but I think most people feel that bruised feeling in the ball of the foot at some point. Most likely due to the nerves getting pounded.

There are a few things that we are going to do to make sure we don't get knocked off trail again.

1) Get the current problem diagnosed and fixed, whatever that takes. We will do long section hikes to make sure that it is really fixed.

2) Take breaks when the feet start to feel bad. Normal aches and pains when you start is par for the course, but pain that won't go away or that gets worse demands that you take a zero, or two, or even a week.

3)Increase the milage slowly

4)Get trail shoes with air soles in the front and back.

5) Make sure there is plenty of room in the toe box

6) Custom orthotics for both of us (NOT CUSTOM SUPERFEET! These are not made to give you the support that a proffesional will build in. They only match your foot shape. We had these and they were worthless for this problem.)

7) See a foot doctor if we get a problem. We might even (GULP!) fly back home to see the one that we are getting ready to see. There's a big difference in quality of docs when it comes to something as unique as long distance hiking. It's expensive, but it could keep us on trail.

8) If all else fails, cortisone shots and Vitamine I. In fact, we plan on taking Ibuprofen to try to manage the inflammation from the very beginning.

So that's about all we can think to do. Man, I can't tell you how much it stunk to get knocked off trail, but we will do everything we can to stop it from happening this time.

Gravity Man

PS Another common problem is achilles heel (streach those calves) and ache support. I strongly recommend seeing a highly acclaimed foot doc before hitting the trail. He will get you set up with orthotics to compensate for any structural problems with your feet. An ounce of prevention...

max patch
02-11-2003, 21:21
I used a pair of New Balance running shoes (don't recall the model.) My pack weight averaged from 35 to 45 pounds.

I'm guessing that the running shoe used most often these days would be one of the trail running shoes in the New Balance 802/3/4/5 series.

02-12-2003, 23:33
Anyone ever used Boric Acid to toughen feet? I've heard of tea soaks and lots of barefeet walking etc.... but what about Boric Acid?? If so what ration to water?

Wise Old Owl
06-07-2009, 11:11
Yup its an old thread brought back from the bottom of the heap. I am in some serious foot pain when I get up each morning and I know its the beginning of arthritis for me. I have to stretch the bones of the feet for a few minutes each morning. So I went looking for some old answers. Hiking makes it feel better, but getting up each morning to put the dogs out is hurting my dogs.

middle to middle
06-07-2009, 11:48
Thorlos ! Recall the guy who ran a marathon in a pair, no shoes ! No holes in sox ! Good enough for me.

06-07-2009, 19:41
First, it starts off with opting for the right shoe for my hike and my feet characteristics - different shoes(trail runners(both high and low tops, WP or non-WP, synthetic or natural or a combo), boots(same thing), after market orthotics(Soles or Superfeet(orange or green), opting for different socks and/or sock liners(Smartwool in the different wts. and styles usually are sufficient, but Durasock and Fox wool blends are also good). While on trail an anti-friction stick like Body Glide if it's hot, tea tree oil for nails, an assortment of hot spot and blister preventers(New Skin, blister bandages by Spenco, duct tape or medical tape, etc), nail clippers, maybe seperate ace bandage wraps for around each one of my heels, Arnica montana topical gel for soreness, and experimenting with different lacing systems. Epsom salts and callus file in town.

06-07-2009, 23:08
I have never thu hiked.
But when I started hiking my older brother told me to take care of my feet and how. He hiked and was in the army. Because of him, I have never had a blister on a hike. I have lost little toenails due to small sized boots but that is my fault. Lesson learned.
I use socks and liners. I like smart wool or thrulos and liners.
Elevate feet at breaks and take boots off in the PM to breathe and use something else besides boots to hang around. Take them off at noon break also if possible.
Treat a hot spot with moleskin at the first sign of any problem. Don't wait until it is uncomfortable. By then, it is a big rub.
Keep toenails trimmed short.
My best tip...our section was arid, I used my little supply of wet wipes to clean my feet every night.

06-08-2009, 00:25
I heard the barefoot sisters made a homemade balm of equal parts beeswax and olive oil melted together. Wonder if this would work like Hydropel.

06-08-2009, 09:48
I used to blister horribly and get the pain in the balls of my feet thing (metatarsalgia) frequently. Over my last 4 or 5 section hikes I have not had this problem at all due mainly to outside the box thinking.

First thing I did was ditch the hiking socks. Any type I tried made my feet sweat too much. I now hike in regular gray athletic socks that you get at Wal Mart.

Second thing was ditch the hiking boots. I have a problem that my feet bow out when I walk and my theory is I am putting unequal pressure on my feet and when I have a pack on it is intensified. The most comfortable shoes I have ever owned for general walking are the Nike Air Monarch IIIs. I started alternating btw my Merrill hiking boots and the Air Monarchs but gradually moved to just wearing the Nikes unless I know there is going to a lot of rain, mud, etc. When I do wearing hiking boots I use shock blocker insoles.

The third thing I do is bring an extra pair of socks for each day. Anytime I stop for more than 5 minutes I take off my shoes and socks and let them dry out completely. I also take every break sitting down. When I take my lunch break I take off the socks and massage my feet before putting on a new pair of dry socks.

I did 75 miles in 3 days last month in nothing but tennis shoes with no problems at all. They are lighter, roomier, and make me feel a whole lot faster.

06-08-2009, 10:07
I heard the barefoot sisters made a homemade balm of equal parts beeswax and olive oil melted together. Wonder if this would work like Hydropel.

Beeswax and olive oil is the best thing I've found to heal dry skin cracking on the feet and hands. It's available from on-line sources in bar form. I've never used it while hiking, but it's great after hiking while the thick callouses are cracking and peeling off. (I've never used Hydropel, so I wouldn't know about that.)