Looking after your tootsies....

12th Oct 2014

I always advise clients who are joining us on expedition to minimise their expenditure on gear wherever possible but to ensure they don't scrimp on getting both a well fitting rucksack and comfortable and supportive boots.  If either of these items cause discomfort they will soon know about it and it doesn't take much for that dream trip To be spoilt completely.  But this advice piece is about feet and, although having well fitting boots is very important, there is more to keeping your feet in good condition than boots alone.    Here are some Peak Mountaineering top tips for tip top expedition feet........
Choose the right socks
All socks are definitely not created equally and you generally get what you pay for.  Buy cheap and you'll soon realise the fabric isn't wicking moisture away from your feet well and the seams are rubbing in just the wrong place.  They are also likely to wear more quickly and be slower to dry after washing.  A lot of technology and research has gone into making those higher performing socks work their magic.  We like models by Bridgedale, Lorpen and Thorlo although there are certainly other good choices on the market.  Visit your local quality outdoor retailer and ask their advice.  They should also be able to let you try some on to check the fit and, if you have your boots already, it is worth taking them along to check how they work together.
Wear the right sock combination
We wear a skinny pair of liner socks next to the skin and then one thicker pair on top.  The skinny liner socks help wick moisture away from your feet and create a slippy layer which reduces friction against your skin.  The thicker sock then adds warmth, cushioning and a further wicking layer.
Manage your socks efficiently
If I have to carry all my kit I make do with 2 pairs of liner and outer socks and on supported treks I take 3 pairs of each.  With the 2 pair system I keep one set completely dry and change into these at the end of the day.  The other pairs are worn each day although I always try to dry them in the evening by hanging them up or, in more difficult conditions, sometimes putting them inside my insulating layers and close to the skin.  If three sets are available I keep it very similar to the 2 pair system but often have my third set washed and hung up to dry so I've always got a fresh set available for use.  This might be hung on a line to dry outside my accommodation or tied to the outside of my rucksack as I travel.  There is nothing better on trek than to pull on dry socks at the start of each day.
Deal with small problems before they become big ones
As you trek along monitor how your feet are doing and, if you identify a problem, stop and deal with it.  Usually you will feel if your foot is starting to rub and develop what is commonly called a 'hotspot'.  This may be a problem with your socks being bunched up or the seam of your sock being in an awkward position.  Alternatively,  your boots may be too loose or too tight or your sock combination is wrong.  Try and work it out before the hotspot becomes something worse.
Come prepared for hotspots and blisters
Besides dealing with the cause of the hotspot it may be worth applying some form of anti-blister treatment at this point and carrying some remedies with you is highly recommended.  Compeed has become very popular and works really well but there are lots of other blister treatments available such as moleskin and felt sheets that can be cut to size.  Sometimes creating a slippy layer to reduce friction with something like Duct Tape can also work a treat.  Carry a range of different options for different situations. 
Keep your feet clean
Trekking is hard on feet and they will stay in better shape if you pamper them.  When you've finished a day on the trails take the time to wash them and, while doing that, you can identify if there's any problems springing up.  Washing them may be by using cold water and travel soap or, if you are lucky, on supported treks your team may be able to supply some warm water for you.  In more challenging conditions you may only have access to a few wet wipes but they'll still do the job.  Clean in between the toes, check the nails, identify any hotspots that are developing and maybe give them a little massage to show them how much you care.  They will definitely repay your kindness tomorrow.
Apply foot powder
An anti fungal foot powder such as Mycil is well worth carrying.  It helps dry your feet and prevent the onset of fungal conditions such as athletes foot.  Before you leave home decant some into travel size mini ziplock bags (you can buy them very cheaply online). An alternative is to make little wraps in cling film.  You may get some funny questions if the customs staff find them at airport security but either of these systems saves you bringing more than you need.  We make up a wrap or mini bag for each day of trekking.
Keep your nails in good shape
Keep them neatly trimmed and take something along on your trek such as a multi tool with scissors  and file or a small pair of nail trimmers to keep them in shape. 
Air your feet 
On multi day treks you often have a leisurely lunch relaxing in the sunshine.  Some would argue that removing your boots mid way through the day allows them to swell and makes it hard to refit your boots properly.  We say there is nothing nicer than to give your feet a breather and to allow your sweaty socks to air in the sunshine.  It's a real joy of trekking.  You'll know if your feet are prone to swelling and causing you problems but we've never found this to be an issue at all.
Five minutes a day on foot care will be very well rewarded and your whole trekking experience will be far more pleasant.  We hope these tips help on your next adventure.
Posted by Paul