Warmer weather has arrived and as this article was written, thousands of hikers have already hit the trail. Hiking, especially long distance hiking, is a sure way to test your feet and overall foot health. A pain-free foot is key to transporting you from one camp to the next.
Dr. Eric Silvers of Advanced Foot and Ankle Center states “During a long distance hike, it is likely that a foot problem will arise and it is imperative to recognize a foot problem and treat it before it becomes the reason to throw you off the trail.”
Blisters- Caused from friction, moisture, ill fitting shoes and fungus, can lead to pain and infection and an altered gait. “Your skin is the largest organ in your body,” states Dr. Eric Silvers . “Its main purpose it so separate the outside from the inside of your body.” When compromised, infection, pain and even death can be the end result if an aggressive bacteria such as MRSA or e coli enters the blister and is not treated. Proper foot care and attention is especially important on multi day hiking trips when medical care is not easily accessible. It is important to tend to blisters immediately. First, clean the blister, release the fluid with a sterile needle or small pocket knife. Covering the blistered area with Mole Skin or Leukotape is effective after applying a very thin coat of triple antibiotic ointment or betadine/provodine ointment. Close monitoring of the skin around the blister is important so that an infection does not develop. If you notice increased pain, redness and drainage, it is best to get off the trail and seek medical attention for possible antibiotics and dressings. It is also best to re assess your shoegear if friction from the shoe is causing the blister.
Foreign bodies can also result when walking barefoot around camp. It is important to always wear some type of shoe when you are up and about. If you notice a foreign body that cannot be removed at camp with tweezers, it is important to seek medical attention before continuing with your hike as the chance of infection is high.
Various forms of tendonitis are common during hiking. The Achilles tendon along the back of the ankle and heel area is prone to becoming inflamed. Causes of Achilles tendonitis are frequent uphill climbs and also shoegear that may rub on the tendon. If you notice, pain and swelling of the Achilles tendon due to activity, it is best to add a heel lift for a few days, take an anti inflammatory medication such as Ibuprofen and take a rest day or two. Do not attempt to push through the pain from Achilles Tendonitis as it will not improve with continued activity. If the problem persists, a walking boot and immobilization will be required. Other forms of tendonitis such as peroneal, posterior tibial and anterior tibial tendonitis are common especially when you are walking through rocky terrain. If you are prone to ankle sprains, it is highly encouraged that you wear an ankle brace during your activities.
Foot stress fractures can develop during a hike. If you have not slowly introduced your body to hiking conditions, you may be prone to stress fractures. Signs and symptoms of metatarsal stress fractures include, swelling, pain and at times redness along the top of the mid arch area. Heel stress fracture symptoms are consistent with progressive heel pain during activity, swelling at times and pain with side to side compression of the heel. If you suspect that you may have a stress fracture, seek medical attention as soon as you can get off trail. Do not risk developing a displaced fracture by fighting through the pain.
Plantar Fasciitis is one of the more common foot problems that can present itself during a long hike. Symptoms are arch and heel pain that is present after rest and after long periods of standing and walking. The plantar fascia can also become strained. A strained plantar fascia will feel like burning and stretching in the area of the foot arch. “It is recommended to be evaluated for custom molded foot orthotics if you have had any issues with arch and/or heel pain”, states Dr. Silvers.
Insect bites to the foot from ants, ticks, spiders and mosquitoes can be avoided with Gaiters. If you do suffer an insect bite, it is important to monitor the bite for any signs of infection.
Advanced Foot and Ankle center is a full service podiatry practice with emphasis on sports medicine.