I often meet people in the mountains who are struggling with chafing and other injuries. I myself have only worn 4 different hiking shoes since the beginning of my adventurous life, all brand new. I haven't had a single chafe so far, and many people wonder how I manage to walk in shoe after shoe without getting a chafe. The answer is simple: good shoes and a focus on foot care.
I have tried shoes from many different hiking shoe manufacturers and have noticed a big difference in quality and fit. ALFA has always strived to develop shoes that are best in class. The shoes will contribute to better hiking experiences through a unique combination of quality and comfort. The focus on comfort rather than unnecessary seams, which are there just for the sake of design, I as an adventurer appreciate very a lot. The fewer seams, the less chance of chafing and therefore the more comfortable the shoe will be.
When choosing shoes, it's also important to focus on fit. Remember that every foot is different, and one hiking shoe can be drastically different from another, in every dimension. If you want to achieve maximum comfort and minimum risk of foot problems, it pays to take the time to find the shoe that fits your foot best. Choosing the right shoes is of course important, but focusing on foot care will also be essential to maintaining healthy and well functioning feet.
I think feet get surprisingly little attention compared to how important they are on a hiking trip. So here are some tips and tricks on foot care.
A major cause of chafing in most hikers is a lack of understanding of why chafing occurs and too little knowledge of preventative measures.
Chafing occurs due to friction against the skin. With too much friction, the skin will become hot and sore and fluid-filled blisters are created between new and old skin.
A few days before going for a walk, I usually remove the old skin layer with a foot file and cut my nails. For me, pre-trip work is very effective in preventing aches and injuries.
PRE-TRAVEL FOOT CARE
I usually remove hard skin before going for a walk. In hard skin, scars and chafing can easily occur, so it is an advantage to get rid of this layer of skin.
This picture shows what the skin looks like during filing. In my experience, I can file away a surprising amount of skin. I always try to be careful not to take too much and create open wounds. Before I start filing, I wash my feet properly and dry them well.
After filing away hard skin, the foot feels light and smooth. Here, the foot on the right in the picture is filed while the left still has the dark, hard skin.
These two have become great hiking buddies and are usually always in the backpack.
It's a bit special to hike for a year. Sores, cracked skin or fungus on the feet are a fairly rare occurrence for me. That's why I don't spend much time feeling how my feet feel during the trip. During the day I like to air my feet during a break and in the evening I try to do a more thorough check. Walking with damp feet for a long time is very stupid, mainly for two reasons:
- When feet dry out after being wet for a long time, the skin can become hard and crack.
- Damp feet can lead to fungus.
In addition to airing and washing my feet, I wear both talc and salicylic acid.
Talc is a natural mineral and has a cool and pleasant feel on clammy and sore skin. I sometimes use talcum powder on my feet when I feel my feet need extra protection from friction. My skin feels very soft after using talcum powder, and it's especially good to apply to my feet after a day where I've sweated a lot on my feet. When using talc, be aware that feet can become dry and cracked, so it's advisable to put some extra oil/grease on them.
To make sure my skin doesn't get dry and hard, I rub my feet with salicylic acid, which is an oily skin stick. The stick helps the feet remain soft and water repellent, thus preventing skin cracking and chafing.
OTHER TIPS AND TRICKS
The above tips are, in my opinion, the most important, but there are many other tips and tricks I have come across. Here are a few:
- Taping of exposed areas on the feet. If you know your heel is particularly vulnerable, it's much better to tape before you go for a walk, or as soon as you feel a chafe. Don't wait until you get blisters, as many people do. Tensoplast, or elastotape (attached with sports tape) will do the trick.
- Use a thin inner sock that fits snugly against your foot. This way you can ensure that any rubbing occurs between the inner sock and the outer sock, rather than between the sock and the skin. It will be basically the same as using tape. Some people use a thin tight sports sock, others use a nylon sock, for example. I have only tried the later. It worked well.
- Bring extra socks so you don't have to wear a wet sock for the duration.
- Lubricate exposed areas with the stick or apply chafing plasters to exposed areas.
So far on trips I have not needed these listed tips. I have followed careful foot care and have only worn relatively thin wool socks in my shoes. It has worked so far, and if I should feel any chafing I will probably quickly use the first item on the list, namely taping with tensoplast..
These were my tips and tricks for preventing sores. Hope this post can be of help to many hikers out there and fingers crossed that one or two now avoid having their future hiking trips ruined due to chafing. I know many people have tried different things. Something works for some, other tricks work for others.