The sun is out, and summertime is finally here. Whether you stay local and take a hike to enjoy the breathtaking views of the Pacific Northwest, visit a theme park or take a vacation out of town, there’s a good chance that there will be a lot of walking involved.
While the summer months are a great time to explore and be active outside, nothing ruins a trip faster than blistered and aching feet. Before you head out on your summer adventure, here are a few tips we recommend for protecting your feet while traveling.
The right accessories
The best thing you can do for your feet is ensure that you wear the right shoes. Shoes that have a small rise in the heel and a firm midsole are best for a lot of walking. If you’re planning on wearing sandals, choose a pair that provides support, such as Chaco or Merrell.
It is also important that you break in shoes before your trip for maximum protection against blisters and skin irritation. When you get a new pair of shoes, you should stretch them out by wearing them on several walks, hikes or whatever activity you plan to do on your trip.
In addition to good, comfortable shoes, socks also play a role in preventing skin irritation. We advise wearing thin, breathable, double-layer socks that will wick perspiration away from your feet and prevent rubbing against your shoe.
Avoid cotton socks in really hot weather, wet conditions or if you’re prone to sweating, as damp socks on skin can cause friction that leads to irritation and blisters.
Also be mindful of thick socks, which can make shoes tighter and slow blood circulation.
Along with good shoes and socks, you should also consider bringing along a foot-care kit. Being prepared will help prevent or minimize skin irritation, blisters and other injuries. The kit should include an extra pair of breathable socks, bandages, antibiotic ointment, medical tape, nail clippers and tweezers.
Even with the right equipment and preparation injuries can still happen. Here are some of the most common foot injuries and tips on what to do:
•Blisters — When skin is damaged by friction or rubbing, blisters can form. If you get a blister, be sure to apply antibiotic ointment and cover it with a bandage to ensure the skin is protected from further friction.
If the blister is intact, meaning it has not popped, do not pop it, and leave the “roof” on.
If the blister has popped, then we recommend you remove the roof so that it does not add to the friction on the remaining skin.
•Sore feet — Walking, hiking or running for extended periods of time can cause sore feet, especially if you aren’t used to that level of activity. Make sure to take adequate breaks to give your feet a rest to prevent pain.
Rests are also a great time to ensure you are drinking lots of water to help prevent dehydration.
•Foot or leg swelling — Anytime you are inactive for long periods of time, your body is prone to blood clots, since blood circulation slows in the veins of your legs. Therefore, the feet and lower legs are particularly susceptible to swelling and blood clots.
For long flights or car rides, it is especially important to take short walks, which will keep blood moving and reduce the risk of blood clots.
You can also pump your calf muscles by moving feet up and down at the ankle for 10 to 15 seconds every so often to keep blood moving.
•Sprained or broken ankle — Ankle injuries are common when hiking on uneven ground or participating in other physical activities.
If you hurt your ankle while traveling, the first thing you should do is get off of it immediately. Apply light compression, elevate the ankle above your heart and put something cool on it. We recommend bags of frozen peas or corn, which conform to your body better than a bag of ice.
It can be difficult to tell the difference between a sprain and a break. Push gently on the ankle bone, and if it’s tender, it could mean that it is broken. Increased pain over the soft tissue is more indicative of a sprain.
If pain persists for more than three days, you should visit a podiatrist. A podiatrist can help you identify the problem and make sure that your injury is healing properly, to get you back on your feet and on to your next adventure.
DRS. GREGORY GRANT AND KIRK ALEXANDER both practice podiatry at Pacific Medical Centers (www.PacMed.org). To comment on this column, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.