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  1. #1
    wanna be hiker trash
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    Default Foot care on the trail.

    In my research for my upcoming thru hike, one of my primary concerns is foot-care. After all I will be taking over 5 million of them.

    My first question is about my shoe size growing. I now wear a 10.5 or 11 in some footwear. I have always been very active and spend 10 hours a day on my feet many days. Should I just buy a size larger and wear liners and heavy socks until my feet swell to wherever they end up?
    Secondly, I have heard that applying rubbing alcohol to my feet for a month before my journey with toughen my feet, and help to alleviate hot spots and blisters. Is there ant truth to this?

    Thirdly is Body Glide. I know that it helps runners and cyclists with chafing. I have also heard that if I apply it to my feet that it will alleviate blisters. Maybe use it until my feet toughen up on the trail?

    Number 4 is liners. Sounds like a silky smooth layer next to my # 1 asset on the trail is a very good idea. At least until my feet are trail leathened. (not a real word).

    Fifth is foot-care. Should have been #1. What is best? Water and a little Dr. Bronners. Let them dry, then an alcohol treatment?
    i
    Then there is the 6th question. The best way to address a hot spot before it becomes a blister, and how to treat blisters.
    If I can't fix the shoe problem, I hear that athletic tape holds better than moleskin or duct tape. I also read that it is better to cut a little slot in a blister instead of just poking a hole with a pin, so that the blister will keep draining.

    What do you veteran thru hikers think?
    “Every path but your own is the path of fate. Keep on your own track, then.” Thoreau.

  2. #2
    wanna be hiker trash
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    5 million steps.
    “Every path but your own is the path of fate. Keep on your own track, then.” Thoreau.

  3. #3
    Garlic
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    Yes to all the above. Or maybe No to all the above. Everyone has his or her own needs, depending on many variables. You'll be kind of lucky if you get all right the first time.

    About all you haven't mentioned is pre-hike soaking the feet in strong tea--some people swear by that. I've never tried it but haven't needed to. I'd be a little careful about repeated and prolonged exposure to alcohol, but that's my skin, not yours.

    For a blister, I find draining is a good idea then keep it uncovered overnight. You'll be amazed at how much you can heal in one night. For chronic blisters or any other problems, find the problem and fix it, maybe even change your pace or take some time off.

    I personally like the athletic tape, more than any other hot spot protection. Liners do not help me and can make even things worse in some conditions, but others swear by them.

    You also didn't mention aftermarket insoles. Some use those successfully, some hate them.

    Frequent washing of feet and socks is a good idea. I find my feet are OK when wet, but mud is about the worst thing for them. Turn your socks inside out occasionally and remove any "pilling" or bunching of the wool or fabric.

    Your skin is your largest organ and you need to take care of it well on a multi-month hike. In addition to blisters, exposure to sun, insects, poisonous plants, fungi, chaffing have all ended hikes if not cared for.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

  4. #4

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    You'll get a ton of opinions on this. Everyone comes up with a different system, or variation on a theme.

    Shoe size. You'll go threw several pairs of shoes. Start out with what fits best at the time you leave. You can adjust size, type or style as you go along to meet your needs. Some think "I'll need five pairs of shoes, so I'll buy them all now." Then they find out that shoe was a bad choice or no longer fits and are stuck with the remaining shoes.

    Getting ready: Not sure that using rubbing alcohol would help toughen up the feet pre hike. I've heard tell of using strong tea, but I've never been brave enough to try it. The best way is to simply do a lot of walking for the month prior.

    On the trail: Personally, I don't like liner socks. That's something you have to decide by yourself with experience. A major cause of blisters is wet feet. The trail is a wet one, especially in the spring and fall. I use GTX (gotex) lined boots to keep my feet reasonably dry. Gaiters can be a big help in the spring.

    Blister treatment: This is a serious subject as a bad case of blisters has sent many a hiker home. Get one infected and your in real trouble. At one time or another, I've tried all the schemes and what works the best for me is New Skin liquid bandage. It disinfects, seals the wound and with two or three applications a day, morning, noon (optional) and night, can take care of a blister in a few days.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  5. #5
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    change socks at lunch.
    Don't use duct tape or athletic tape. They don't breath and adhesive can tear delicate skin. Rock Tape,KT or Leuko tape (or CVS generic version)

    IF you know in advance where you blister...ie heels...put rock tape there for protection.

    However many pairs of socks you THINK you need...bring one more pair. When you switch socks at lunch...hang the used ones off your pack so they dry.

    Darn Tough socks are really good...especially the lifetime guarantee...

    Understand the worse blistering occurs when your feet get wet...from sweat or rain. Pay attention to steep down hills...Often your first "toe blisters" will occur here.

  6. #6

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    yes applying rubbing alcohol to your feet 2-3 times a day for a month before your thru-hike or hike in general will toughen your feet.

  7. #7

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    Get the book "Fixing your feet", for many answers.
    Preventing blisters is the only rational way to deal with them. Once you have them, you've got a problem.
    I think you are on the right track with bigger shoes (your feet swell during the day) and body glide.

  8. #8
    Registered User AO2134's Avatar
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    I generally don't take breaks when I hike. I usually don't stop for lunch. That being said, I recently found it to be very helpful to take 1-2 15 minute breaks to air out my feet, socks, and boots in warmer weather. It has done wonders for reducing blisters and some general foot pain.

    My feet swell a lot. More than normal. I bought 1 size larger to accommodate; however, most hikers suggest 0.5 size larger.

    I used to use liner religiously with heavy top sock. I still use them; however, I prefer now to use a single darn tough sock.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by RockDoc View Post
    Get the book "Fixing your feet", for many answers.
    Preventing blisters is the only rational way to deal with them. Once you have them, you've got a problem.
    I think you are on the right track with bigger shoes (your feet swell during the day) and body glide.
    This. That has always been my approach. I do not carry much in the way of repair items for my feet. I spend all my foot time preventing foot problems. I have never had foot problems... until this year. Vermud changed my plans from the Long Trail to doing my remaining 18 of the NH 48. Foot problems can knock you off the trail. It is best to prevent them than try to deal with them.
    In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years. - Abraham Lincoln

  10. #10

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    The best thing you can do is to do some long mile days in the shoes and socks and other paraphenalia that you think are best for you and see what happens. Use this experience to adjust your approach to longer hikes. Personally, I tend to get blisters forming when I exceed 12-15 miles a day before my feet toughen up (which usually takes 7-10 days on trail). If the blisters are small, I leave them alone. If they are big, I drain them. I find Leukotape to be the best "hot spot" pre-blister treatment for me. Liner socks help me a lot. I use Darn Tough outer socks and synthetic (summer) or merino wool (winter or summer) liners. Using an antiperspirant on your feet for a few days before you start will reduce sweating. If my feet are wet, they blister more. I like goretex socks (not goretex shoes) when hiking in rain or on really wet trails to reduce foot moisture. Have never tried rubbing alcohol or tea. I find that if I just keep hiking, the blisters become callus after a number of days and then I'm fine. YMMV.
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  11. #11

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    I would strongly discourage the alcohol trick... it's actually one of the things that wrecked Joey Camp's feet on his last PCT attempt.

    Walk barefoot on sidewalks a few times a week, just casually, don't need a pack or to go fast.

    Leukotape.

  12. #12
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    1) I prefer cycling chamois cream to body glide because it lasts longer and applies easier to foot/toe shapes. Body glide CREAM may work as well as chamois cream, I haven't compared it.
    2) Train with you pack weight and long hikes. Pack weight is huge in blister creation as is time on the trail (I don't get blisters until hiking over 10 miles and with a pack).
    3) Climber's tape is like athletic tape, except it's much stickier and doesn't ooze glue like leukotape does. It's fantastic.

  13. #13
    wanna be hiker trash
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    Good stuff. Thank you all for your sage advice. I am going to read Fixing Your Feet, and try some of the Green Superfeet inserts for now, and get out for some short shakedown hikes. I am close to the Water Gap, So I will preview some of trail close by for my prep. training.
    “Every path but your own is the path of fate. Keep on your own track, then.” Thoreau.

  14. #14
    Clueless Weekender Another Kevin's Avatar
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    I had a section hike early this Summer on a trail with truly horrible mud. I couldn't go even ten minutes without stepping in over my boot tops, and sometimes sank nearly to my knees. It was too beastly hot for gaiters, but they'd hardly have helped. They don't seal out standing water, so I'd still have wound up with socks absolutely full of mud. Even washing my socks several times a day - and I mean actually washing, in my cookpot with Dr Bronner's, and rinse in a bucket - they wound up full of grit, and of course were never dry. After three days of this, I had a horrible case of trench foot, and my toes looked like hamburger. (And I have my foot stuff pretty well tuned by now. I almost never get a blister.)

    A sometime hiking partner recommended a product called Hydropel - but it's not being made any more. I managed to get the ingredient list, and did some research for what might be similar. I found some stuff that comes from New Zealand called Gurney Goo that had pretty much the same set of ingredients - beeswax, petrolatum, dimethicone, and tea tree oil. I tried using that as my friend directed for the Hydropel: apply a liberal layer at night before putting on dry socks to sleep in, and then again in the morning before putting on the hiking socks, and refresh it every time you wash your feet (which should be often).

    I went back to the same trail a little over a week ago and found it nearly as muddy as ever, even in the driest season of the year. Once again, my socks were seldom clean and never dry. I tried using the stuff as recommended. My heavens, the goop is messy. But no trench foot.

    I think this stuff will replace the Body Glide in my pack. Of course, your feet are your feet, and what works for me might not work for you.

    I haven't yet tried it for preventing monkey butt. I've found in the past that simply wearing wicking boxer briefs, perhaps with a bit of Gold Bond, worked for me, but this last trip, I wound up with a pretty bad case of it from walking in 90 degree temps and near-100% humidity. (I was having trouble keeping my glasses from fogging, even with Cat Crap, and photography was impossible because I couldn't keep the camera lens clear.) I figure better waterproofing would help down where my legs meet my body, as well. I'm not accustomed to that sort of jungle weather. We don't get it Up North very often.
    I always know where I am. I'm right here.

  15. #15
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    Most important thing? For me? After a day's hiking, remove boots and socks ASAP and let your feet have some air and get dry. As dry as they can get, anyway.

    I suppose this is less of an issue when you're walking on dry trails in dry weather. It's been a big issue for me this summer -- slogging through a lot of really wet trail. To the point where my boots & socks were soaked through, day after day.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Another Kevin View Post
    I found some stuff that comes from New Zealand called Gurney Goo that had pretty much the same set of ingredients - beeswax, petrolatum, dimethicone, and tea tree oil.... I tried using the stuff as recommended. My heavens, the goop is messy. But no trench foot....I think this stuff will replace the Body Glide in my pack....
    I am interested. Where did you buy it?

    Edit: Found it here:

    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_no...Ck%3Agurneygoo
    Last edited by BirdBrain; 08-25-2015 at 10:02.
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  17. #17
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    So many of the foot problems that put an end to a hiker's journey have nothing to do with the exterior of the feet but rather the tendons (e.g., plantar fasciitis), bones (e.g., metatarsal stress fractures) and the muscles (pure fatigue). Anything you can do to strengthen the feet, and not merely the skin covering them, will likely be to your benefit.

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by AO2134 View Post
    My feet swell a lot. More than normal. I bought 1 size larger to accommodate; however, most hikers suggest 0.5 size larger.
    Be careful of doing that. If your foot slides around inside the shoe, that will cause blisters too.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  19. #19

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    Whatever else you do, never,ever wear cotton socks for hiking. Wet cotton = sandpaper.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by AO2134 View Post
    My feet swell a lot. More than normal. I bought 1 size larger to accommodate; however, most hikers suggest 0.5 size larger.
    I agree with Slo to the extent that a full size above might be pushing it. I wear a half size bigger on the trail. I did this originally because of the advice about swelling feet. However, my feet don't seem to swell much after all. I find the half size helps accommodate the thick Darn Tough socks I prefer. Your shoes might be too big if your feet slide around inside your shoes on downs. Nothing is set in stone. Everyone is different. But a full size? Might be a bit much. I have also heard stories of feet growing sizes permanently after a long hike. I am no foot doctor, but that doesn't sound good. Sounds like bone structure has collapsed or at least moved around. So far my feet seem to be the same after a hike. I have a pair of dress shoes that I only wear to church. They are about 30 years old. They still fit fine. I am rambling at this point. However, I can't help but think it is time to panic if your feet start changing sizes.
    In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years. - Abraham Lincoln

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