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As spring flowers begin to bloom, hikers nationwide will migrate to mountains, woods and fields, but many, unfortunately, are ill prepared for the beating their feet will take.

Hikers and others who love the outdoors often don’t realize how strenuous it can be to withstand constant, vigorous walking on uneven terrain.  Lax physical conditioning and inappropriate footwear bring scores of outdoor enthusiasts into our office each spring for treatment of foot and ankle problems such as chronic heel pain, ankle sprains, Achilles tendonitis, fungal infections and severe blisters.

Walking up and down steep hillsides and tramping through wet, slippery fields and wooded areas puts stress on the muscles and tendons in the feet and ankles, especially if you haven’t conditioned properly before hitting the trail.  Also, many don’t realize that cross-training athletic shoes aren’t the best choice for extended hiking and hunting. If patients wear sturdy, well-constructed hiking boots, they will not suffer sprained ankles or strained Achilles tendons.

Hikers should invest in top-quality hiking boots consisting of well-insulated and moisture-proof boots with steel or graphite shanks.  These boots will allow excellent ankle and foot support that will lessen stress and muscle fatigue in order to reduce injury risk. The supportive shank decreases strain on the arch by allowing the boot to distribute impact as the foot moves forward. So if a boot bends in the middle, don’t buy it!

In wet weather, wearing the right socks can help prevent blisters and fungal infections.  The first layer should consist of synthetic socks to keep the feet dry and reduce blister-causing friction. The second layer should consist of wool socks to add warmth, absorb moisture away from the skin, and help make the hiking boot more comfortable. Wool lets moisture evaporate more readily than cotton, so fewer blisters develop.

What happens if your feet or ankles hurt during a hike? Pain usually occurs from overuse, even from just walking. If you’re not accustomed to walking on sloped or uneven ground, your legs and feet will get tired and cause muscles and tendons to ache. To avoid a serious injury, such as a severe ankle sprain or an Achilles tendon rupture, rest for a while if you start hurting.

Pain is a warning sign that something is wrong. Serious injury risk escalates significantly if you continue hiking in pain.  You should view hiking like skiing, beginner skiers should take on less difficult trails until they become better conditioned and more confident, the same as hikers should do with nature trails.

If you experience persistent pain following a hiking outing please call one of Our Offices for an evaluation.  We are here to help!