“Collapsing on the road, I lit a candle and peeled off my socks to assess the damage. The skin on my feet was white, puffy, and lifeless; the bruises on my ankles and lower shins had broken into open sores. Pain was returning to my feet—a good sign.”
—David Halsey, Magnetic North (1990)
I’m determined to take better care of my feet this season. After all, they are what mainly get me around out on an adventure. A twisted ankle can be debilitating; a case of athlete’s foot can be nerve-racking; a single blister can be crippling.
I treated myself to new hiking boots and half-a-dozen pair of socks (including a pair of thick woolies to wear around the camp with sneakers or sandals). A sock a day keeps the foot doctor away, right?
I also decided to try out SuperFeet Trail Blazer Insoles. I’ll provide more details on these the more I use them, but for now I find them incredible. They help disperse the impact while going up and down hills, which greatly prevents my toes from hitting the front of the boot. They’ve already helped with odour control—and I haven’t even been on a trip yet.
To avoid blisters forming on your feet, make sure your footwear is well broken in before your trip. I once met a canoeist who had just finished travelling the Steel River Loop—an extremely difficult route north of Lake Superior—who had worn a brand-new pair of hiking boots. He had lost most of his toe nails (which he’d oddly stored in an empty tin can to display on his fire mantel back home) and produced enough blisters on both feet to make him crippled for weeks after the ordeal.
The Happy Camper
If you happen to have a blister starting to form while on a trip, make sure to place a piece of moleskin on it right away. Adventure Medical Kit makes an excellent light-weight package for your first-aid kit.
It can literally save the trip. Moleskin is a felt-like material that comes with a very adherent backing and is supplied in sheets that can be cut to the exact size and shape of the blister. Just make sure to clean and dry the skin before you apply it.
Another helpful product to toss in your first-aid kit is Second Skin. It’s available in strips and is conveniently packed in a resealable foil envelope. After cutting off a strip, the plastic peels off one side and the gel film is placed on the skin. It can be held in place by a larger piece of moleskin.
Clean, well-fitting socks are also essential on any trip if you want to keep your feet free if blisters, not to mention to rid your tent of foot odour (which always seems to linger even after your tent partner has tossed your boots out the front flap of the tent). This pattern of changing your socks daily will also keep you safe from getting “trench foot.” The aliment, which got its name from soldiers constantly standing in wet trenches during World War I, is like frostbite in theory. Prolonged exposure to moisture and/or cold will create nerve and muscle damage. The results vary from just having a slightly swollen, discolored and tender foot to excessive swelling and blisters, which later form ulcers, leading to gangrene.
The Happy Camper
Click here for more blister-busting tips to avoid foot injuries on your hikes and adventures.