One of the biggest mistakes those staring out in the hiking hobby is to fail to properly plan for the care of their feet. This discussion will cover boots and socks. Plus basic foot care while on the trails.

Tennis shoes/sneakers/active wear are not acceptable. You will need much thicker soles to protect your feet from the pounding on packed trails and rocky surfaces. Uneven areas especially when on rocky sections will put extra stress on ankles. Twisted, broken or injured ankles are the number one injury SAR groups have to deal with. Not only must the soles of the boots be thick enough, they should be of a anti-slip traction grip design. And they should be water resistant. Not water proof like waders but at least be able to repel weather when you must cross streams or muddy areas. Serious hikers will have multiple pairs of boots, including insulted cold weather boots and boots for hotter arid areas that will assist with keeping feet dry.

An important thing about hiking is actually changing socks. The military and other long distance walking groups/activities, recommend changing socks often. If walking during inclement weather such as rain or snow, the importance of changing socks often increase dramatically. Wet feet from either sweating in your boots or from water you are walking can blister and develop sores rapidly. While in the Army, when on long hikes, we would carry two pair of socks. Every couple hours we would stop. The ones on our feet would come off and be looped on our belts under our field jackets to dry. The ones under the jacket which would now be dry and warm would go on our feet. It was recommended that we take three pair, putting the ones from our belt in out back pack, the ones from the back to our feet and the ones being worn on out belts to dry out.

Regardless of the method you use, it is highly recommended that you carry at least one spare pair of socks if not two pair. Some people also will carry baby powder or other foot powders to use to help keep their feet dry. Wet feet not only will blister but will get cold faster and there is nothing worse then cold feet when walking. Been there – done that.

If you do start to develop a blister or sore, treat it immediately. This is where you basic first aid kit comes into action. Depending on the severity of the sore/blister, it might be advisable to retreat to the trail head for medical treatment or to at least get to a safe location. The last thing you want to do it to trek farther into the wilderness and then have to be rescued by being carried out. With a minor blister/sore and closer to the trail head, a couple rescuers might be able to assist you with a shoulder to brace you with. If you have to be carried out is could require 15-20 people working in groups of six to eight to haul the litter. Many rescuers have themselves been injured during litter carry operations.

Below are a few examples of boots to help you begin your search for idea hiking foot wear. These are by far not the only options, but reading the information will help provide an information base to build on.

Good quality high cushion socks are a must when hiking or walking long distance. Military socks have extra sole cushioning just to help relieve the stress of the pounding on the ground by the walking. Some commercially available socks are below, but also check out a military surplus store or supply to see that the pros use.

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Courtesy S. Ward – Farris Wheel