If my feet are miserable, I am miserable. It doesn’t matter if they are wet, cold, blistered, or just achy. Uncomfortable feet can nearly ruin a hike. Hiker foot care is extremely important to having a pleasant hike.
My feet swelled up so badly one time that by day four – and thankfully the last day of my hike – I thought I had a broken pinky toe. (Read about that four-day hike here.) Another time I had to finish the last mile of a three-day backpacking trip in the shoes I brought to wear around camp. They were flimsy Toms that did not survive the rain and the rocks on the the trail. But I didn’t care that I ruined a pair of shoes, I just wanted my feet to stop hurting.
So what do you do when your feet swell so much that you become miserable?
Before you hit the trail there are several things you can do to help prevent the suffering. Hiker foot care is important before you go on your hike.
Duct tape blister prone areas
If you know the areas of you feet where you are prone to blisters, you can add a little piece of duct tape. Where or when your boot rubs your feet while you hike, it will rub on the duct tape saving your sensitive skin. I have tested this hiking hack, out and it has made a big difference for me.
Prop feet up after long travel before you hit the trail
If you are flying into a destination or riding in the car for a long ways, your feet are going to swell before you even hit the trail. When you sit for long periods of time, the circulation in your feet does not work as well as it does when you are moving. In a seated position, it is harder for your heart to pump that excess fluid out because it has to work against gravity.
When you get to your destination try to recline with your feet propped up above your heart if possible. Let gravity work for you to help move that excess fluid out of your feet.
Your feet are going to swell on the trail no matter what. That is why you buy hiking boots in a size or two larger. But you don’t want to start out with your feet already swollen.
Be sure to clip you toenails
So I’ve not followed this rule a few time out of forgetfulness or laziness. Your toes rub together when you hike. And all the rubbing together with sharp or jagged toenails can literally cut you. Believe me, I’ve had this happen. It is not pleasant and is embarrassing to admit to your hiking partner.
Have a professional fit you
A proper fitting boot is so important. I cannot stress this enough. I bought a pair of boots once, and went up a size like I was supposed it. Normally I wear a six and a half shoe, so I bought a seven and half.
But I still had problems with my feet. I went back to get fitted and was put in a size nine in the same boot. I got another pair of boots with a wider toe box and was fitted to a size eight and half.
Professionals know the shoes they are selling. They will watch you walk and guide you in choosing the best boot for your foot.
Treatment on the trail
Even if you take all the preventative measures, your feet are still going to swell while you hike. But if your feet are swelling so much that it is making you uncomfortable, there are a few hiker foot care techniques you can do on the trail to help keep that swelling in line.
Soak in cold water
At the end of the day on a long hike, if you are near a stream you can soak your feet in the cold water. The freezing water helps bring the swelling down. It’s the same concept as putting ice on an injury.
Lounge with feet above your heart
Like I said before, let gravity work for you. When you are sitting around the campfire or reclining in your tent, prop your feet up on a log or you backpack. This will let gravity help your heart pump that fluid out.
My brother hammock camps. One thing he likes about it is that his feet are propped up while he sleeps. He has to get up and pee more in the night. But he is just getting rid of fluid that would have been in his feet.
(For other benefits of hammock camping read my Hammock Camping Versus Tent Camping post.)
Also when you break for lunch or to take in a view, try to prop your feet up to help that swelling go down.
Give them air as much as possible
Hiker foot care is important outside the boot too. When we hike in our clunky hiking boots with our thick wool socks, our feet don’t get a much air. So when you are lounging at camp or breaking on the trail, try taking your feet out of your boot and give them some air.
Hiker foot care
Taking care of your feet is extremely important to having a fun and safe hike. I have had so many blisters and my feet have swollen up so much, that all I could fit into them were my running shoes which are two sizes bigger than my normal shoes.