Foot Care: Minimalist Backpacking

  One must take care of your feet on the trail.  They are the thing you use the most while hiking, so why not take better care of them?  As a multi-month athlete, it is not uncommon to lack a shower for weeks at a time.  Learning proper hygiene is a must; to keep each step pain free.  Taking time to address issues as they arise, being able to use the things around you to keep the body in tune, Are all important skill to learn.   Will share some of the things I do, maybe it will help someone.

backpacking in sandals
Multi- month trip in Sandals. 

  Like everything in backpacking, it seems everyone has a different style and list of items they carry.  Only carry things that work best for you.  How does one learn?  Experiment and don't be scared to try new things.  Rule out what doesn't work and keep around what does.

My Top 3:

  1. Super Glue
  2. Wilderness friendly Soap
  3. 2 inch piece of Sponge 

  Choosing proper footwear is of utmost importance (whole different blog post) for an enjoyable walk.  Basically if your feet can't breathe, softens up the skin, socks fill with moisture (if you wear them), defects in the fabric or improper fit; causes friction point and hot-spot is formed.  If that place in the skin is not allowed air and rest.  The surface will then start to break down causing a blister and eventually a break.

  Best advice I can give to a person wearing modern footwear.  Stop every few hours, take off your socks; at this time rotate them up to 4 times a day with an additional pairs; dirty ones hang to dry off your pack (washing can be done, but careful not to stretch the fabric by ringing), let your feet air out, visually inspect for redness and address any issues ASAP.

  Super glue is the best thing I found to treat hot-spots, blisters, cracks or cuts.  Simply clean the surface with water, to remove all dirt and oil as possible, air dry, apply glue and let dry.  This whole process can been done in minutes with repetitiveness.   Then you can continue on with your day.  Addressing an issue soon as a hiker feels or sees redness is the best way to stay pain free.

Baby those suckers! Prevent getting cold feet in winter.

  Dead skin will start to build up on your feet with time.  This can be caused by numerous things.  I have found that this is no good, besides for on the direct pad of your foot.  One needs to find a way to remove skin a dirt build up on the trail, to stay pain free and avoid cracking.

  Several times a day I like to scrub my feet at a creek crossing with a coarse stone.  In the desert I collected water and walked away from the spring to accomplish this.   No soap, just good old fashion removal of dirt build up and dead skin.

backpacking foot care
Rock Scrub. 

End of day Soak
  One of the most beneficial things you can do for your feet, is stick them in cold water.  This will help loosen dirt built up in your skin, well as bring down any swelling that has occurred through your day of walking.  It is also proven to speed up recovery times.

soak feet backpacking
Soaking feet in Ferry Basin

Pre Bed Wash
  At the end of the day I try to wash my feet with wilderness friendly soft soap in camp (away from water source).  This will help the feet recover and prevent dry skin while sleeping.

Bedtime Treatment
  Still playing with different Foot Lotions or Balms to put on before sleep.  Haven't had any success with products used.  The main thing you don't want to have happen is over oil your skin.  This will cause sliding on the surface of your footwear.  Overtime will lead to blisters.

Taking care of your feet can mean all the difference when it comes to a successful and enjoyable trip into the backcountry. Learning how to properly pack your backpack will help fight foot fatigue as well. This helps the load feel more balanced on your feet.

Updated May 2015