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Hiking and Camp advice always love your Feet

Updated on July 22, 2015
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The Single Most Important Tip – Take care of your Feet

The simple truth is that you can have the best equipment money can buy but if your feet are painful then you are not going to enjoy hiking and potentially put yourself at risk.

Warm food, dry clothing and protection from the elements are all important, but it's your feet that are going to get you from A to B, and if you can't walk then you are a casualty and require rescuing.

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One Mode of Transport – Shanks Pony

Shanks Pony or as it is sometimes referred to Shanks Mare means that the only form of transport available is ‘walking’. Well that’s not a problem, we love walking. That’s why we hike.

It’s not a problem, until it becomes one and by that stage it has the potential to be serious.

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Everyday Walking V Hiking

When I took the London underground to work I regularly got off one or two stops before my final destination in order to walk the last couple of miles to work. It was only a mild exercise, but knowing that I would spend the best part of my day at my desk I thought it better than nothing.

Now I have semi retired I make a point of walking every day providing the weather isn’t too bad.

Most of us walk everyday and if you do then ‘Well Done - Keep it up’, but most of us are walking in regular shoes or trainers and not the boots or shoes we hike in. Consequently our feet get used to our regular shoes or trainers and when we put on our walking boots or shoes our feet feel different

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Preparing your feet for hiking

I’m not going to attempt to give any medical advice as to creams or ointments to apply to your feet. I might be an experienced hiker, but I have no medical qualifications. No the way I prepare my feet and prepare my boots at the same time is to wear my boots and go for a long circular walk. I walk a circular route or one close to circular because this method means that I never travel too far from my start point and if there is a problem I can simply cut across the circle and head home.

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Boots v Walking Shoes

I have always preferred boots, possible because being ex military and I’m used to wearing them and hiking many, many miles with heavy packs.

When selecting Boots or Walking Shoes you need to give serious consideration to the type of hiking you intend undertaking. If walking over rough terrain or if any climbing over scree, broken or loose rocks you might want to consider boots with a higher ankle support. If you are walking over relatively flat land you might prefer walking shoes.

If walking through boggy marsh you are less likely to lose a boot to mud suction than a shoe. A high upper boot with the tongue attached to the inner boot should help keep water out, whereas with walking shoes the lower rim makes them prone to letting water in.

The Boots V Walking Shoes debate

Which is your preferred Choice when Hiking?

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Be a Cinderella

Wearing the socks you intend walking in try on as many pairs of shoes or boots as necessary until you find the pair that suit you.

Selecting your Socks

I prefer socks made of wool and try and avoid manmade fibres. This however is a personal choice. I also prefer to wear two pairs of thin (Long Length) socks rather than one thick pair of socks; I find that wearing two pairs reduces blisters and sore feet, but again this is a personal choice. If you take my advice and break your boots in from the safety of your home you can experiment which type of socks works best for you.

Always Test every piece of equipment including your boots before setting out on a trek

In the words of Nancy Sinatra

“These Boots are made for walking”

Can foot blisters be avoided?

If you walk every day, as I did when I hiked around Europe I avoided blisters

  • I had excellent broken in walking boots
  • I wore two pairs of wool socks
  • The skin on my feet hardened up

But honestly blisters are often a common feature of trekking.

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Preventing foot blisters and rubbing sores

I find the best method of treating foot blisters and rubbing sores is to prevent them happening. A foot blister occurs when your skin is rubbed forceful causing fiction and a small pocket of fluid forms within the layers of skin.

The material you boots or walking shoes is made of is going to be tougher than your skin and in any rubbing contest you are going to lose. So why not toughen up your skin by applying some ‘Padded Moleskin’ plasters to the soft parts of your feet before waiting for blisters to appear?

I always take a couple of spare packets of ‘Padded Moleskin’ plasters with me.

Don’t forget to take a small pair of scissors to cut the Moleskin to the required shape and size.

Foot care

There are numerous medical products available to help keep your feet in good condition. I’m not going to endorse any particular product, because different things work for different people. I only offer up two pieces of advice to keeping your feet in a good condition.

  1. Keep them clean
  2. Keep them dry

Dirty feet can lead to infections especially if you have any open sores or cuts.

Wet feet can lead to fungus type infections.

My personal Foot care list

  • Three packets Moleskin

  • Small scissors

  • Anti Fungal foot powder

  • Spare clean socks

  • Disposal wipes

My Evening Camp Footwear

Once you have established you evening camp you don’t need to keep on wearing your boots or walking shoes, but you do need to wear something on your feet to keep them clean and protect them.

I normally take a very light pair of Canvas Deck Shoes because the soles are just about thick enough to protect your feet and because the canvas is so thin they dry quickly if they get wet.

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