off the grid south america

No Small Feet: Foot Care for Backpacking

I have received information and materials from © Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. 2017. The opinions stated are my own. This is a sponsored post. #ForWhatMattersMost #CollectiveBias

There are few things in life that a good hike can’t cure. Backpacking has been my favorite form of therapy during a very unpredictable year. I went to Torres del Paine with a pair of  trail runners, a roll of duct tape, and a DIY first aid kit, not completely certain of what I was getting myself into. The 8-day trek both changed my life and completely busted by body. My beloved trail runners wore thin, so I duct taped them. The tape tore off, so I taped them some more. The holes grew bigger, so I wore thicker socks. The thicker socks gave me blisters, so I taped over them too. Then my blisters got blisters, but I had to wake up and keep hiking anyway. Without sufficient time for my feet to heal before my next hike, the cycle continued until my feet looked something horrible.

Since coming home, I’ve pledged to start taking better care of my feet. Not so they look better in peep toes, but so I can still walk down my own driveway at age 54. Want to know some secrets for foot care for hikers? We’re sharing tips for taking better care of your feet for all of your backpacking ventures along with everything you never wanted to know about blister prevention.

Wearing the right shoes is everything.

But what exactly are the right shoes? Some people swear by heavy hiking boots while others dig their trail runners. The most important thing is that the shoes fit and are appropriate for the kind of trekking you’ll be doing. If you’re hiking in a hot climate or forging through streams, choose something breathable and quick to dry. If you’ll be carrying a heavy pack or scaling rocky terrain, look for something with a thicker sole. It’s often a good idea to replace the shoes flimsy inserts with something thicker. The right shoes largely come down to personal preference, but some shoes are definitely better than others.Foot Care for Hikers - Picking the Best Shoes for Hiking

Good shoes are nothing without good socks.

A pair of great socks can compensate for a lousy pair of shoes just as easily as a pair of terrible socks can destroy a perfect shoe. First and foremost, socks need to be the right fabric for the climate. Always pick something breathable and avoid cotton at all costs. Even if you’re wearing the same clothes the entire trip, a few extra pairs of dry, clean socks can make the difference between comfort and misery.

But even good socks and shoes might rub your feet the wrong way.

As ridiculous as it sounds, one of the best secrets of foot care for hikers is taping your feet. By adding a layer of tape between your sock and your skin, you can help reduce friction and ultimately cut down on blisters. The best areas for tape on your feet are your heel, the ball of your foot, and between your toes, but there is a methodology for just about any part of your foot you might want to tape. While you can use medical tape, I’ve found duct tape to be the most multi-purpose tape to carry on a backpacking trip. Be mindful that duct tape is awfully sticky, and if placed incorrectly, can do more harm than good. Be sure to look into taping best practices before giving it a go on your own feet.

Foot Care for Hikers - Duct Taping for Blister Prevention

And even with duct tape you’re going to get blisters.

You’ve done everything right, but if you’re hiking for days on end, you’ll still get blisters anyway. As soon as you start to notice a hot spot, take off your shoes and socks. If your socks are dirty or damp or loose, change them out for a fresh pair. Cover any sore spots with moleskin or more tape to help you keep going, because you have to keep going anyway.

But once you get to camp, all bets are off.

Taking off your shoes and socks at the end of the day is all but divine. If you’ve developed blisters, be careful when removing the tape or moleskin to avoid tears. If you’re camping near a river or stream, sticking your feet in cold water is one of the absolute best ways to get your feet back to normal. Carry Extra Strength TYLENOL® in your pack as a way to help ease achey muscles in your feet and legs after a long day of trekking. Got blisters? The best way to treat a blister is to run a sterilized, threaded needle in one side and out the other, and leave the thread in overnight. This will allow the fluid to drain and the skin to harden without causing damage to the surrounding skin. Finally, be sure to bring along a pair of cushy socks slip-ons to wear as camp shoes so you can let your feet relax for the night. Foot Care for Hikers - Feet in a Stream

Foot Care for Hikers - Tylenol Bottle

Foot Care for Hikers - Tylenol in Hand

Wake up. Repeat.

After a good night of sleep, you have no choice but to get back to it. Drink some coffee and eat some food. Lace up your shoes again and put on your cleanest socks. Re-tape the sore spots on your feet. If you’re still struggling with minor pains, TYLENOL® can be of excellent help. Pack up your camp, and let the adventure continue.

The Foot Care Checklist

  • Broken Hiking Boots or Trail Runners
  • Slip-Ons for Camp
  • 3 Pairs of Dri-FIT Hiking Socks
  • Duct Tape
  • Moleskin
  • Extra Strength TYLENOL®
  • Sterilized Needle and Thread

This post was sponsored by TYLENOL®. If you’re looking to add Tylenol to your backpacking kit, you can find it in the medicine aisle at Target. We travel with a bottle in our hiking backpacks to help with headaches and body aches, but only use it as is absolutely necessary. The best ways to stay healthy while backpacking are drinking plenty of water, getting plenty of sleep, and listening to your body. 

What tips do you have to share about foot care for hikers? What’s the best way you’ve found to treat blisters and keep your momentum going on a long backpacking trip? Share it with us in the comments below!

I am not a medical expert, and this post is not medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. © Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. 2017. The third party trademarks used herein are trademarks of their respective owners.

You Might Also Like

10 Comments

  • Reply
    Michelle
    June 1, 2017 at 2:43 am

    I have never done hiking to that level, but those are great tips for my son as he starts to do more and more of this as a Boy Scout! #client

  • Reply
    Liz Chapman
    June 10, 2017 at 5:44 am

    Great stuff, Taylor, as usual.
    It’s a fine line, but the best blisters are a sort of badge of honor for hard work. But when they get too bad, I am curious how you sterilize a needle and thread?

    • Reply
      Taylor Record
      June 12, 2017 at 10:49 pm

      Liz, you’re so right! I kind of feel proud when I’ve done something hard enough to get a blister. I’m not sure if my doctor would approve, but I usually hold the needle in fire for about 10 seconds and wipe it down with Neosporin ahead of time. Do you have any insight on a good way to do it??

      • Reply
        Bobbi
        June 17, 2017 at 3:06 pm

        It’s easy – just boil them both.

  • Reply
    Kerry
    June 17, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    Once a blister develops and pops, tape no longer helps and the next day hiking can be quite painful. I carry 2nd Skin for this situation. Put it on and seal it up w duct tape so none of it can ooze out and you can hike pain free with a blister.

    • Reply
      Taylor Record
      June 18, 2017 at 9:47 pm

      2nd Skin is a great tip, Kerry! You’re right that there are times when taping over the blister can make it hurt worse.

  • Reply
    Mike B
    June 19, 2017 at 12:04 am

    Good recommendations. Clean socks and shies that fit are very important as is cleaning and soaking your feet frequently. I disput that you will get blisters on a hike. I’ll admit that my longest hike was only 200 miles in 13 days, but blisters don’t have to be a part of hiking so long as the shoes fit and you keep your feet and socks as clean as possible.

    • Reply
      Taylor Record
      June 19, 2017 at 10:43 pm

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Mike! I have never owned a pair of shoes that didn’t give me blisters, but I have friends with beloved boots who swear its possible. Here’s to hoping I find “the ones” eventually!

  • Reply
    Betty Duff
    June 19, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    Make sure you are OK on minerals and vitamins like magnesium and vitamn D for muscles. Use file on foot callous and apply lotion with aloe before and onto socks.

  • Leave a Reply