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breaking in your feet

12:57 p.m. on July 11, 2012 (EDT)
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with today's lightweight boots, you don't read much about breaking in boots. when all-leather boots were the standard, most people couldn't just take a new pair of boots out of the box and go hiking.  break-in meant starting to wear boots gradually, on smaller hikes at first, so the leather would soften a little and form to your feet a little.

today's footwear may not present the same kinds of challenges, but they do require a similar approach sometimes.  for me, water shoes, minimalist shoes and sandals in particular require a similar kind of gradual approach.  if i take any of these out the box and just wear them on a half-day hike, i'm usually going to bruise or blister something. 

i think some of the old-school approach still works, though:

-start gradually with any new shoe.  for me, it is almost inevitable that tight-fitting minimal shoes & water shoes will give me hot spots the first couple of times I use them.  eventually, wearing any shoe will cause them to yield a little.  also, even if your feet get a little raw, gradually increasing usage allows your feet to recover and toughen up.  a callus here and there isn't necessarily a bad thing. 

-when wearing a new pair of shoes, be sensitive to foot pain.  if your toes are getting whacked, if you are developing hot spots or blisters, picking up on that early can save you more pain later.  i carry a pair of safety scissors, some clear surgical tape, and a good-sized piece of moleskin.  they have saved me a lot of pain over the years. 

-socks can make a difference - make sure yours work with your shoe/boot of choice.  this doesn't work for water shoes, obviously, but wearing toe socks with vibram fivefingers completely changed (improved) the experience for me. 

-treat your feet well after you hike.  have a comfortable pair of shoes for camp.  if you are home & your feet are banged up, soaking them in an ice bath (big pasta pot with cold water and a bunch of ice cubes) helps heal bruising faster, and there are a number of products that can help heal your skin.  i have been happy with bag balm, badger balm, lanolin ointment (eg lansinoh, marketed for a different purpose), shea butter. 

1:11 p.m. on July 11, 2012 (EDT)
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leadbelly, have you ever heard of the alcohol treatments of various areas of the foot to toughen up the skin for blister protection?

I found this interesting:

http://www.backpacker.com/community/ask_buck/382

1:30 p.m. on July 11, 2012 (EDT)
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Just like making tape gloves for crack climbing you can similarly tape your heel to prevent blisters

1:49 p.m. on July 11, 2012 (EDT)
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i hadn't heard of that, Rick.  i wonder if bourbon works....

1:59 p.m. on July 11, 2012 (EDT)
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leadbelly2550 said:

i wonder if bourbon works....

I would think that it would work better if it were "high test"(ie Wild Turkey.)

 

4:02 p.m. on July 11, 2012 (EDT)
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leadbelly2550 said:

-socks can make a difference - make sure yours work with your shoe/boot of choice.  this doesn't work for water shoes, obviously, but wearing toe socks with vibram fivefingers completely changed (improved) the experience for me.

I tried Injinji Toe Socks (made for the Vibram Fivefingers) in my old fabric hiking boots when I started getting blisters between my toes on hot days. Since the rubbing was happening between the two layers of fabric, not skin on skin, the blisters didn't happen.

In my regular boots (leather and well-broken in), I'm now using a thin poly liner inside a pair of Wright double-layer running socks.

6:20 p.m. on July 11, 2012 (EDT)
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-when wearing a new pair of shoes, be sensitive to foot pain.

Maybe breaking in your feet is more common with today's footwear.

-socks can make a difference

I just bought some toe'd socks to give them try in my GTX trail shoes and MX boots.  I anticipate and hope that they will help with moisture management and transfer better.

-treat your feet well after you hike

Arrr  if I only had someone to give them a good rub down, of course after I step out of a shower.

6:29 p.m. on July 11, 2012 (EDT)
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Best way to condition your feet is to walk......and walk.......and wal..... It isn't just the footwear you need to worry about getting your feet used to it is getting your feet themselves in great shape just as much as your legs.

2:36 a.m. on July 13, 2012 (EDT)
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Rick-Pittsburgh said:

leadbelly2550 said:

i wonder if bourbon works....

I would think that it would work better if it were "high test"(ie Wild Turkey.)

 

Soaking your toes in Wild Turkey is Blasphemy!

Besides, whisky is more effective taken internally to kill the pain, than externally to toughen up feet.

Ed

12:23 p.m. on July 18, 2012 (EDT)
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All good info. but, Leather boots need conditioning. Start with lubricating thand treating the leather first, then hike!

Secondly, going slowly in the work-up to a great fit is smart as mentioned.

Lastly, while out hiking day after day, take care of your feet first thing. 1). Take a break and change socks mid-day, or change to clean socks 2). in the evening, sleep in thin "sleeping socks" only--not to be worn socks, and 3). use alcohol wipes in the evening to "kill" bacteria grow--smelly feet?

Thanks, kjf

12:26 p.m. on July 18, 2012 (EDT)
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whomeworry said:

Soaking your toes in Wild Turkey is Blasphemy!

Besides, whisky is more effective taken internally to kill the pain, than externally to toughen up feet.

Ed

 Good point. 

1:41 p.m. on July 23, 2012 (EDT)
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sound advice from karlj

 

6:28 p.m. on July 23, 2012 (EDT)
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leadbelly2550 said:

sound advice from karlj

 

 Indeed, qite sound. But while conditioning and breaking in the leather boots, don't neglect continued walking and foot conditioning even if not while wearing those boots. The muscles of the feet need strengthening and conditioning too. If you attend to foot fitness, you will get more out of those dogs in terms of miles and less barking!

11:09 p.m. on July 24, 2012 (EDT)
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The hardest lesson I learned after wearing a too-short pair of Dunham Waffle Stompers was that the constant micro-trauma on the downhill slags ruined my great toe nails. I've had them cut back due to necrosis and had one removed secondary to infection.  They're ok now but I do pad them up with gel or blister dressings  (I'm a retired wound care nurse).  I've never had a blister! I now hike in size 10 narrows and my toes breathe easy!  So really make sure your toes do not touch the ends of your shoes on descents. Cheers, Spider 

9:36 a.m. on July 25, 2012 (EDT)
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ATHikerGal said:

The hardest lesson I learned after wearing a too-short pair of Dunham Waffle Stompers was that the constant micro-trauma on the downhill slags ruined my great toe nails. I've had them cut back due to necrosis and had one removed secondary to infection.  They're ok now but I do pad them up with gel or blister dressings  (I'm a retired wound care nurse).  I've never had a blister! I now hike in size 10 narrows and my toes breathe easy!  So really make sure your toes do not touch the ends of your shoes on descents. Cheers, Spider 

 This can also happen in great fitting boots without proper lacing. Take time to lace properly....especially on the down hills. Undulating terrain can take special attention because you just HAVE to have the stability you need for the foot to remain motionless inside your boots. I lost 7 nails in february 2012. I have them back now, but they are ugly and once you lose a nail, it tries hard to get the nail fungus we all hate. I get pedicures all the time and keep my nails short, but when my big toe nails came back, I now fight them to keep them from going all ingrown on me. I never ever had a nail problem before hiking in either bad fitting or wrongly laced boots.

April 23, 2014
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