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If Hiking Makes Your Feet Hurt, do These 5 Things for Better Foot Health

Updated: Sep 19, 2021

I recently got the following question in my inbox: "I love my hiking boots for the first 6 miles, but after that, my feet start to ache, and my toes rub. Do I need new boots?" I encouraged the reader to try these simple fixes to better foot health and less fatigue.

  1. Take a stand: If you get that tired and achy, "My dogs are barkin'" feeling after a few miles, you may not be spending enough time on your feet when you're off the trail. Even if we exercise daily, most of us live sedentary lives. Our bodies try to find the most efficient way to exist, which usually means sitting for most of the day. Transportation, work, and entertainment are designed to encourage this efficiency. Therefore, while you might go out and run six miles in an hour several times per week, it might take you two hours to hike that same distance. Spending two hours on your feet is double your regular training which means more foot fatigue. To combat this, look for more opportunities to stand throughout the day. If you work in an office, transition to a standing or high platform desk. If you work from home, move your laptop to your kitchen counter for an hour each day. Stand on the train or subway, and walk whenever you can.

  2. En pointe: Exercising your feet is just as important as exercising the rest of the body. Take a cue from ballet dancers and rise on your toes for 25 repetitions while you're waiting for the microwave or brushing your teeth. Other foot exercises that improve foot strength are scrunching up a towel placed under your foot and writing the alphabet in the air with your foot.

  3. That's swell: Your feet will swell when you've been on them for a while. Therefore, you must consider that when you try on hiking shoes. The general rule of thumb is to go up a half to full size in your boots from your regular shoe size. However, the best time to try on hiking shoes is after a hike. This helps you get a better sense of how your feet will feel after being on them for a while.

  4. Twinkle toes: Hikers often see black toenails as necessary battle scars, but you don't have to suffer bruised nails. Hurt toes can change the way you walk to avoid pressure on the area, which might cause other problems. Therefore, prevention is best. Keep toenails trimmed short and cuticles healthy to avoid unnecessary pain in this area.

  5. Take a load off: Even when you are on the trail, you can enjoy a restorative yoga pose with many benefits, including decreasing the swelling in your legs and improving circulation. Try the legs-up-the-wall pose against a tree. Find a comfortable place to lie down clear of sticks and stones (and check for ants!). With your hips close to the tree or boulder, lie on your back and rest your legs and feet straight up against the tree in an L position. You might find five to 10 minutes in this restorative pose during your lunch or snack break rejuvenates you and gets you back on the trail with fresh feet.

After a little investigation, I discovered the hiker that reached out was wearing shoes that were too small. After six miles, her feet were swollen and getting cramped in her shoes.

Do you need help getting healthy so you can stop struggling on the trail and enjoy your hiking? Message me to find out how The Healthy Hiker program can help you reach your hiking goals!

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