I did some quick calculations recently and it turns out that I walk more than 1,000 miles every year. Lucky me! Great for mind, body and soul and I love every minute of it. But it also got me thinking…these feet of mine are really being put through their paces (literally!). So I thought I’d share with you my personal tried and tested ways to look after your feet and ensure that they will carry you for many more miles into the future. May I present, The iFootpath Girl’s guide to footcare for walkers…
Boots are an essential piece of kit to keep your feet safe while walking. (Actually, there is a school of thought that says barefoot walking is better for your body, as it reduces heel strike and the force this puts through your joints. I’ll write a blog post on that some other time but, for now, let’s assume that the risks of barefoot walking in unknown areas is too great and return to the idea of boots). Don’t presume that you need expensive walking boots to do the job. You need the walking boots that are right for you. Waterproof is ideal, plus supportive and protective round the ankle and – most importantly – well-fitting and comfortable.
And to go inside those boots you will need walking socks. I find the padded types give better protection from rubbing and blisters. Wool is the most tried and tested material but I’m actually allergic to wool and find cotton and synthetic blends do the job just as well. Bamboo is a great natural material, but I’m afraid it is not very hard wearing so don’t be surprised if bamboo socks begin to dissolve after 50 miles or so!
Blisters and rubs can ruin an otherwise beautiful walk…I talk from personal experience. I (stupidly!) did a 9 mile walk in the rugged North York Moors in brand new knee-high winter leather boots and paid the price. For the next two days I was laid up in the holiday cottage, while the holes in the backs of my heels began to heal. Never one to sulk, I used the time to do some blog writing but I would have much rather been out exploring with Richard and Bobbie. So the lesson here is that wearing your boots in slowly is a must, and there are also some really useful blister plasters out there that can be a god-send (before or after the event!).
I find it’s always best to listen to your body and trust its signals. When your feet tell you it’s time for a rest, it’s probably time for a rest. And after a long day of rambling it is always nice to give your feet a bit of a treat. The simplest treat for your feet is just to elevate them. Remove your shoes and socks to let the air at them and then raise them by laying out on the sofa or using a footstool. Any slight throbbing and swelling should quickly subside. If you fancy an extra pamper, try giving your feet a soak in some warm water with a dash of muscle-soak salts or aromatherapy oils. My favourite mix is tea tree oil (for its anti-bacterial properties) plus lavender and chamomile (for their calming and healing properties).
If you rely on your feet to take you long distance, then it’s worth putting in some effort to help with their resilience. Preventing the build-up of hard skin is a proper mission for me. I’ve seen other people that have let hard skin get out of hand, leading to deep cracks and infection, and I don’t ever want that to be me. I’ve tried pumice, chemicals and foot files over the years, but these days I swear by the battery-operated files with a spinning coarse roller. Hard skin is gone in an instant.
And once all the hard skin is gone, I love to treat my feet with a layer of footcream. There are footcreams (in both the luxury and budget categories) that give you an instant feeling of comfort but some can also help your feet in the long term. The best creams can help prevent the build-up of hard skin, can give resistance to infections and odour (with ingredients like lavender and tea tree oil) and can also help with the condition of your nails. If you want to give a more intense treatment, apply a thicker layer at night and then slip on some cotton socks and let this combination work its magic while you sleep.
Finally, I also like to try to vary my everyday habits to keep my feet in tip-top condition. At home I never wear slippers, instead I use orthotic-style sandals that give good arch support and help to promote great foot posture. I also try not to wear the same shoes every day. By varying shoe styles and heel heights, I like to think that my feet get a good work out without ever getting strained in any one place.
Here are a few of my favourite foot treats in case you’d like to give them a try…
Treat yourself to:
- Compeed Blister Plasters
- Cotton Blend Socks
- Molton Brown Soak
- Scholl Battery Footfile
- Elemis Footcream
- Margaret Dabbs Footcream
So, that’s it folks, the iFootpath Girl’s guide to footcare for walkers. I hope this is helpful but, of course, please use common sense and always seek medical advice if you have any particular concern or if you suffer from a long-term medical condition.
26 October 2016