Thru-Hiker Foot Care: SOBO Days 128 – 137

My feet are aching. And my ankles are in a state of inflammation. My hips are cracking with every step and my shoulders are crying out from the weight of a too-heavy jar of peanut butter.

And then I see the shelter.

Take Care of Your Feet

As a thru-hiker, your feet are your prized possession. It’s one of the only pieces of gear that cannot be replaced. And they’re fragile things — finicky and picky about their treatment.

As they should be.

In my off-trail life, my sister devised the ultimate (read: bare minimum, about as much as I could handle) skin care routine for me. I followed it every single day, relishing both the routine and the resulting clear skin.

On-trail, the skin care routine has been utterly abolished (and yet, I think the sunshine and fresh air might actually be more beneficial than any cream, but that’s another story). In place of a nourishing skin care routine, I have a strict foot care routine.

Damascus to Hot Springs

Arriving at the shelter each night, my feet aren’t usually at their best. I’ve been lucky, knock on wood, to avoid major injury on trail. However, I usually have some kind of a twisted ankle or toe blister calling for attention by the last couple miles of the day.

From Damascus to Hot Springs, I hiked through the Roan Mountains, which took my breath away with their beauty. I found myself pausing mid-step to take in the views. I was hiking big miles, for me, and with lots of elevation. While listening to the audiobook, Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon, I excitedly learned that the book takes place around the same mountains I was hiking, so I smiled a lot during fictional descriptions of the very real nature around me. I felt great, fulfilled, happy, but I definitely had weary feet.

As I hiked towards Hot Springs, North Carolina, I took special care to make sure my feet were feeling pampered by the time I went to bed and were refreshed for the new day of hiking by the next morning. This routine was fantastic for me, but of course, a disclaimer that everyone is different. I’m not a doctor and have no special knowledge of foot care, I’d advise you to do your own research!

Ducky’s Evening Foot Care Routine

1. Peel off grubby trail runners and four-day old socks; toss far, far, aside.

2. Wet wipe those puppies to a state of moderate cleanliness and air dry.

3. Apply a generous amount of baby powder or better yet, Gold Bond powder, to the soles of the feet.

4. Slip on cozy, and dry, and relatively clean, sleep socks.

5. Pause to make dinner because you’re hungry and simply cannot wait another moment.

6. Remove sleep socks enough to coat any particular sore spots with Tiger Balm or my personal favourite, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Balm. For me, that’s usually around the ankle, maybe the calf, and sometimes my shins. Get those socks back on, because it’s about to get chilly.

7. Use the massage ball that was found on the ground in Andover, Maine to slowly roll out feet.

8. Use an exercise band to perform physiotherapy-recommended ankle exercises.

9. Put those feet inside the quilt and fall asleep knowing that those ten minutes of foot care are going to carry you another couple dozen miles the next day. Yay!

A Note on Stretching

I’ve occassionally been scoffed at for stretching on trail, a habit that I held onto strongly until this section. Some people aren’t sure that it makes a difference. Everyone is different. I really think it did make a difference for me.

However, with snow in the forecast, the mornings are becoming too cold to stretch for my liking. Excuses, excuses. Maybe I’ll resume after the Smokies. Or in Georgia. Or maybe when I’m home.

Either way, I think it’s important to pay attention to your feet. Mine have carried me 1900 miles and I’m still asking for a little more out of them. So, if I can even hit a few items on that list every night, I’m considering it a win. And my feet probably do too.

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