Skill Builder: Treat Your Feet
Proper shoelace tying and foot care make for happy hiking.
By Karen Marks
The bunny runs around the tree and through the hole … Sound familiar? This is probably how you learned to tie your shoes as a child, if you are not part of the Velcro generation.
If you’re like me, you probably thought there was only one way to tie your shoes. That’s what I had thought, until I attended a Girl Scout hike with my daughter on Earth Day many years ago. Before starting out on the short hike, our guide showed us how to properly tie our hiking boots. Here’s what I learned then and still practice to this day.
When wearing ankle-high hiking boots, pull the laces snugly through the first few eyelets of the boot. Where the top of your foot meets the ankle, in the crease of the boot, tie a single overhand loop. Make this loop snug but not so tight that you cut off the circulation in your foot. Now, you are ready to continue the criss-cross lacing around the hooks to the top of the boot, finishing off with the standard “bunny ears” technique. I also find it helpful to finish off with a double knot to prevent my boots from coming untied.
This simple overhand knot tied at the bend in your boot will help keep your heel from slipping and causing blisters. A quick Internet search will reveal several helpful instructional videos, along with many other tying techniques.
Wearing a pair of high-quality sock liners under your hiking socks will also help prevent blisters by wicking away moisture and acting as a second layer of skin to reduce friction.
During your hike, take off your hiking boots and socks during your trail breaks to give your tootsies a breather — your feet will love you for this. If you are hiking all day, you might even consider carrying an extra set of sock liners. Should you feel the onset of a blister during the hike, stop immediately to inspect the problem. If the area is red but has not formed a blister, cut a piece of moleskin and apply it to the hotspot. Should you end up with a blister, clean the area with soap and water and apply a bandage made especially for blisters. Most of these products are flexible, provide added cushioning, have medication and are waterproof for ultimate comfort.
Before hitting the trail, be sure to trim your toenails, using a straight cut. During the hike and/or afterward, treat yourself to a nice foot massage. Have a pair of comfortable shoes waiting for you in the car for the ride home or, if you are camping, take a comfy pair of “camp shoes” to wear.
Our feet hold us up all day long and carry us along our journeys, so treat them well. As famed naturalist John Muir said, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”