“The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art,” said Leonardo Da Vinci, but like all hiking gear, you need to take care of it to make it perform optimally. When it comes to your feet, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, which is why we recommend protecting your feet from common hiking foot injuries and afflictions before they occur rather than suffering the consequences on the trail. That said, mishaps happen and we encourage you to carry remedies for the most common foot care issues to minimize your discomfort.
Here are the top foot care products we use and recommend for hikers and backpackers.
1. Leukotape Sports Tape
Leukotape is a sticky blister prevention tape with a strong zinc oxide adhesive that won’t come off, even in very wet conditions. It’s also breathable, so it can be safely worn by runners and backpackers for several days at a time. It’s best used as a preventative barrier over potential hot spots. Leukotape is not intended for use on pre-existing blisters, however, because the adhesive can pull off loose and broken skin. While it comes on a roll, the best way to carry Leukotape in your first aid kit is to pre-cut it into strips and attach it to the shiny paper (called release paper) that adhesive labels are attached to. Go into any UPS or FedEx office and they’ll give you tons of the stuff for free. I’ve been using Leukotape for years and still tape my heels before day hikes and backpacking trips.
2. Darn Tough Socks
3. Dirty Girl Gaiters
Dirty Girl Gaiters
4. Superfeet Insoles
5. Vaseline Ointment
Cheap and plentiful, Vaseline ointment is good for reducing the friction between your toes or between your footwear and feet which can lead to blisters. It’s also useful for treating dry and cracked skin which is the precursor to a callous, by locking in the skin’s natural moisture and helping it to heal from within. Vaseline is available in a 1.7 oz travel size which is small enough to carry or you can repackage it in a small tub to carry with you. Vaseline also makes an excellent firestarter when smeared on a cotton ball, something that other anti-friction powders and creams can’t claim.
6. Lotrimin Ultra Athletes Foot Cream
Athlete’s Foot is a highly contagious fungal infection that affects the skin on the toes and results in a scaly rash that itches like hell and is very unpleasant. It’s easy to pick up if you visit public places barefoot including shower stalls, locker rooms, or swimming pools and thrives in hot and sweaty closed footwear. Athletes’ foot is easily treated with a prescription strength topical cream, like Lotrimin Ultra, but you have to be vigilant and consistent when you use it in order to eliminate the infection or it will persist. Treatment usually takes about a week, although you may want to continue longer to make sure the fungus is fully eradicated. Lotrimin Ultra can also be used to treat jock itch, another frequent and unpleasant skin irritation experienced by hikers and backpackers.
7. Victorinox Nail Clipper
The Victorinox Nail Clipper folds flat to keep your toenails trimmed short to prevent them from banging against the front of your footwear, turning black, and falling off, which can be a painful process. They also include a coarse folding file that can be used to file down thickened or flaking toenails that have grown away from the nailbed as a result of repeated nail trauma. This is pretty common amongst serious hikers, but the coarse file makes it easy to keep them short and flush with the top of your toes to avoid irritating them further.
8. Engo Blister Prevention Patches
9. Band-Aid Hydroseal Blister Cushion Bandages
10. Pro-Tec Athletics PF Sleeve
The Pro-Tec Athletics PF Sleeve is a compression sleeve designed for plantar fasciitis that can substantially reduce your heel pain and keep you on the trail. Overuse injuries such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis can result in significant swelling in the foot, ankle, or lower calf. Compression of these areas prevents fluid from accumulating in them and relieves the pain associated with swelling. Compression also helps blood flow from the extremities back to the heart through the venous system, increasing the flow of fresh oxygenated blood through injury sites, particularly where blood flow is normally poor like the Achilles tendon and foot fascia. I’ve used this PF sleeve myself. It slides over your foot and provides added support for the arch of your foot. You can wear a hiking sock over or under it and still wear your favorite footwear while it’s at work.
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