When on a long distance hike, it becomes critically important to take care of your feet. After all, they ARE your only mode of transportation!
Today’s boots don’t need long periods of breaking them in. Even so, any time along the way hot spots may occur. The first moment you notice discomfort, stop immediately and remove your boots. Sometimes the fix is as simple as readjusting a wrinkled sock or retying boots a different way. If a red or white spot is developing, it’s time to cover the irritated area with…duct tape! Yes, you read that right. Lowly duct tape is a great way to prevent blisters and it stays on far longer than bandaids or moleskin! (Note: the more colorful it is, the more it makes me smile. No boring gray tape for me.)
Other typical “owies” on the trail are scratches (which need cleaning and anti-bacterial ointment), twisted ankles or knees (just hope it isn’t severe), and achy, swollen knees (don’t forget your “vitimin I” … ibuprofen).
Some injuries are more severe and may require getting off the trail for healing and recovery time. I met one southbound thru-hiker who had to go home because of severe shin splints. Another hiker aborted her thru-hike attempt because of an injured Achilles tendon but is back on the trail this week to get in more miles before winter.
Many of you know I most likely broke my toe on our sixth day out. (I was foolishly walking barefoot on the smooth deck at a shelter…there were no splinters but I jammed the toe on a support beam under a bench.) With a couple of zero days to rest and elevate the foot, alternating ibuprofen and Tylenol for swelling and pain, lots of prayer, and concentrating on not limping (to avoid injuring that knee, in addition to the toe), I’m still hiking. It aches when we walk longer days, but the bruising is gone and it is less swollen.
I suspect most long-distance hikers have to be stubborn enough to push past the “owies” to stay on the trail…and all of us joke about the “hiker hobble” (walking strong while hiking but looking crippled up in the morning or after a long sitting break).