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Hikers and Hunters: Long, Vigorous Hikes Take Toll on Feet, Ankles

November 7, 2014 - TCO

Hikers and Hunters: Long, Vigorous Hikes Take Toll on Feet, Ankles

As brightly colored leaves dazzle the fall landscape, hikers and hunters nationwide will migrate to woods and fields but many, unfortunately, are ill prepared for the beating their feet will take, warns Dr. Benjamin Clair.

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.  Common injuries associated with fall activities include foot and ankle problems such as chronic heel pain, ankle sprains, Achilles tendonitis and severe blisters.

Proper Attire

Hikers and hunters should make the investment in top-quality hiking boots.  Strong, well-insulated and moisture-proof boots with steel or graphite shanks offer excellent ankle and foot support helps lessen stress and muscle fatigue to reduce injury risk.

In wet and cold weather, wearing the right socks can help prevent blisters and problems from exposure to the cold.  Wearing synthetic socks as the first layer will keep the feet dry and reduce blister-causing friction.  For the second layer, wool socks 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.

Know When to Rest

Pain usually occurs from overuse, which can happen 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 awhile if you start hurting, serious injury risk escalates significantly if you continue hiking in pain.

When to Seek A Physician

Evaluation by a foot and ankle surgeon is recommended if there is persistent pain following a hiking or hunting outing.  The biggest concern is ankle instability and strained Achilles tendons and ignoring these problems at their early stages may lead to a serious injury that will keep you off the trails for a long time.