Sore Feet After Hiking?
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Sore feet after hiking?

Foot care for hikers can be a sore subject.

Many people write and ask me the pivotal question:

Why do my feet hurt after hiking?

If you suffer from sore feet after hiking, there are many, many things you should consider as you solve this problem.

Rule out the following ten factors, one at a time, until you find relief after putting in miles on the trail.

And if your back is sore, too, read this.

What? Sore knees after hiking, too? More reading for you!


Ten things to rule out or change

Let's get started with a check up

1. Get your foot soreness checked out by your health care provider. You want to rule out issues with

  • muscles
  • bones
  • blood vessels
  • nerves
  • lymphatics.

Be honest with your doctor by noting the distance you hiked, trail conditions, weight of your pack, and onset of your symptoms.

Sore feet may also have something to do with your body weight.

Losing a bit of poundage may alleviate the problem, so ask your doctor about this.

Hiking for weight loss tips are here, if you're interested.


Weighty issues

2. What is the weight of your pack?

Too much weight, or weight which is unevenly distributed, can show up as foot pain.

Play around with a different pack, and always use the sternum (chest) strap and hip belt to distribute weight properly through your lower body.

Don't be shy about tugging and adjusting each and every strap on your pack until the load is balanced and your feet feel some relief.

And lightening up your pack is always a good idea.


Boot check!

3. Boot check! If you've been wearing the same boots for years, it's time to check the tread, the inserts, the laces, and whatever else plays into a snug but not binding fit.

Hiking boots wear out more quickly if:

  • they get wet and are dried too fast near a strong heat source (a stove or fireplace).
  • they are put on a shelf with lots of grit and dirt clinging to them.
  • they're stored in direct sunlight for months on end, going through temperature extremes and exposure to UV radiation.

You owe it to yourself to try several different brands of boots - beg, borrow, or rent them.

If you're purchasing new boots, be absolutely sure they fit the contours of your feet. Read this Ultimate Guide on choosing hiking boots.

And only make major hiking purchases from a store that will take them back if they don't work out.

  • REI is a reputable U.S. gear coop that I recommend to hikers.

Sock it to yourself - in a good way

4. Are your socks playing nicely with your boots?

If your hiking socks are sliding around creating friction (and therefore heat), you may be setting up an inflammatory cycle leading to pain.

No wonder you have sore feet after hiking!

Tip: Be sure your toenails are trimmed so they aren't snagging your socks and/or bumping against the boot with each stride, especially downhill striding. Even the best hiking socks can't stand up to that.


Try hydrotherapy to increase circulation

5. Half way through your hike, take off your boots and socks, and do a little hydrotherapy in nearby surface snow/water or with your own water bottle.

At the very least, rub your feet and ankles to stimulate drainage.

  • Use a lotion or cream with peppermint in it - gives a nice tingle and it feels great!

Giving your feet a little break from the confining environment of your boots could be the solution to sore feet after hiking.


Foot massages

6. Consider getting regular massages. Ask the therapist to concentrate on your lower body, and loosen up the connective tissue along with the muscles.

Extra time on the feet, please!

Your pain could simply be a case of poor circulation due to tight soft tissue.

And I'm assuming you stretch before/after your hike. This includes your feet!


Hydrotherapy

7. When you get home from your hike with throbbing feet, consider doing some contrast hydrotherapy.

  • Start with a 15 minute soak in warm water and be sure to add Epsom salts to the water. This fits inflammation.
  • Then do 10 minutes of cold - an ice bag to rest your sore feet on, or cool water.
  • Follow it by another round of warmth.

I recommend always ending with cool water, because it lessens the chance of trapping congested blood in your feet.

Don't be one of the folks who overlook the cheap, powerful effects of minerals in the water - I've had people use the word "magic" in relation to how fast they felt much better.


Fight sore feet after hiking: use inserts

8. Consider boot inserts to cushion your feet.

Here's a selection of insoles made just for hikers, also called:

boot inserts

Podiatrists can measure your feet for custom made, more expensive orthotics.

  • These are specific to your feet, and will dictate which hiking boots you'll be able to buy, but they may be your solution to your sore feet.

Are you hydrated?

9. Hydration - are you drinking enough water during your hike?

Your feet are sweating inside your boots, and you want to keep supplying them with their lifeline: blood flow.

The amount of sweat glands in your feet would boggle your mind!


You also might want to consider adding a packet of electrolytes into your water bottle.

This helps all of your muscles work at peak capacity, including all of the intricate foot muscles. Sore feet after hiking may be related to muscle cramps.

I add powdered electrolytes to my hiking water year round (warmed up on cold weather months).

Try this flavor!


Fungus among us? No thanks!

10. Check your feet for a fungal infection.

Look carefully at your toenails, between your toes, on the heels and balls of your feet. Anything patchy or odd looking?

Fungal organisms can create a burning sensation as they feast off your dead skin cells.

They aren't called "dermatophytes" (skin lovers) for nothing!


Sore feet after hiking is normal!

There you have it, ten tips for dealing with sore feet after hiking.

But realize that all of the weight bearing your feet performed during the hike will probably leave them a little bit sore, no matter what you do.

  • If the soreness escalates into unbearable pain, back off your hiking distance and pack weight as you play with all of these variables.
  • Mildly swollen feet after a hike is normal, unless there is pain (inflammation) associated with it. Use those links to sort out the difference.

If you still suffer from exquisitely sore feet after hiking even after trying all of the above, you need to see a foot specialist ASAP to get to the bottom of your soreness.

It's normal to have aches & pains in any body part after a long hike, but hot burning feet which don't feel better quickly are not normal.

Take action! Sore feet are a sign that something in your hiking routine needs to change.

And now you have ten ways to do just that.

Happy Feet are priceless on the trail, I'm sure you will agree.

Curious about the products I use to keep my feet in top hiking condition?


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