Anyone that spends a lot of time in the field will tell you that the single most important thing you need to take care of, is your feet. Hiking around all day, under weight from a pack from either hunting, fishing or just a couple days off in the woods on a camping trip, can really do a number on the feet. You can only go as far as your feet will let you go so it is vital that you take the proper steps before you actually go out and take steps. First, you are going to need to find yourself a good pair of socks, you are going to need a good pair of boots, and you are going to need to take proper medical care of your feet while in the field.
I have spent most of my life in and out of the bush, I spent 7 months in West Africa, I was a Park Ranger in the high desert of Montana, I have marched in nearly every climate under load. So through my experiences, both good and bad, I am going to enlighten you on how to take care of the two things that give you daily support, no matter what. Those little doggies need attention.
Before we go out and spend money on boots, we need to spend a little bit on socks. Everyone has different feet but we all have similar issues when hiking, they sweat, they can get blisters and painful rashes. All of these can be avoided easily, starting with making sure you have the right pair of socks. No matter what you are looking for, you need to make sure these socks can wick away sweat from your skin leaving your feet dry. You also need to make sure they have a nice, thick cushioned sole which will help cut down on those impact blisters. Making sure they are made out of the right material for your feet and climates, I prefer a nice thick pair of wool socks in both the summer and the winter, in the summer it wicks the sweat away and keeps them dry and in the winter it holds in the heat and keeps them warm. When getting socks, you need to, of course, get several pairs and pack them in dry bags if possible. You are going to need them later.
Now you need to find yourself a good pair of boots. If you are thinking of going out on a hike in a pair of comfortable tennis shoes that you have, don’t. You run a very high risk of mechanical injury to your ankles by not having the proper support. Boots will give you that support and help prevent those rolled ankles that can turn a hike into a survival situation. My suggestion would be to head to as many local sporting goods stores as possible and try on as many boots as possible. When you are trying on these boots make sure to bring the socks with you. If you try on boots with different socks they will fit completely differently with others and you want to avoid that. You want them to be waterproof, have good sturdy laces, and good support for both your feet and ankles. Try both of them on, walk around in them for a while. Keep in mind these are going to be on your feet 8-10 hours a day as you hike over rocks, trees, limbs, in mud, dew, rain, maybe even snow, so you need to make sure they fit. Once you find a pair that fit perfectly, do yourself a favor and head online. You can find some amazing deals online, but you really need to make sure they fit you right before you buy them, ill-fitting shoes can cause you a lot of pain and could land you in a survival situation with microfractures on your feet.
Of course with socks and boots, we are ready to roll right? Not quite, we still need a few more items for our kit and some information that will make your trip better for you and everyone around you. Get yourself some foot powder, not only will this make you more pleasant to be around when you take your boots off at night, you will also have dry feet. I cannot stress to you enough how important dry feet are when you are in the field. Failure to dry out your feet property can result in some very painful and eventually life-threatening issues. As someone who has had trench foot, let me tell you how much you want to avoid that. The extra socks you brought with you were brought so you could change socks as often as need be. If your socks are damp, reapply foot powder and change your socks. Check your feet every time you stop, let them have some air and keep an eye on areas that cause rubbing and treat the area as needed. The key here is preventing problems before they become a problem. Your feet are going to get wet, which means your boots are going to get wet. As long as you keep changing your socks and are able to dry them out overnight, you will be fine. Waterproof boots are the way to go obviously, but sometimes you step in water over the top of your boots and you should be ready for that. Not only that but no matter how good your socks are, eventually they are going to soak up with sweat. Having the powder, extra socks, and airing the feet out will save you a lot of misery.
To some people hiking is just a means to get from point A to point B, from my truck to the hunting spot or fishing hole. For others, it is a great way to spend the day in the wild and around nature. However not having the right care for our feet makes even the shortest of trips an unbearable one. So we want to make sure we take care of our feet, by getting the proper kind of socks, the right pair and correct fitting boots, and of course by taking proper medical care of our feet. We can only go as far as our dogs can carry us, so we need to make sure we treat them right. We can’t get to that big buck in the hills, those hard to get creeks in the backcountry, and that perfect secluded camping spot any other way than on our feet. Care for them.