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Prevea Health

Hunters and hikers: Long, vigorous hikes take a toll on feet and ankles


Hikers, hunters and others who love the great outdoors often do not realize how strenuous it can be to withstand constant, vigorous walking on uneven terrain. Lax physical conditioning and inappropriate footwear often bring outdoor enthusiasts to the doctor’s office. Common problems include chronic heel pain, ankle sprains, Achilles tendonitis, fungal infections and severe blisters.
Here are a few tips to help make the hunting and hiking season injury-free.
  • Proper conditioning
    • If you have not conditioned properly before hitting the trail, then walking up and down steep hills and tramping through wet, slippery fields and wooded areas can put stress on the muscles and tendons in the feet and ankles.
  • Appropriate footwear
    • Many people do not realize that cross-training athletic shoes are not the best choice for extended hiking and hunting. Investment in top-quality hiking boots that are sturdy and well-constructed is recommended. Sturdy, well-insulated and moisture-proof boots with steel or graphite shanks (the supportive structure of a shoe that sits between the insole and outsole) offer excellent foot and ankle support and also help lessen stress and muscle fatigue to reduce injury risk. The presence of a supportive shank decreases strain on the arch by allowing the boot to distribute impact as the foot moves forward. Thus, generally avoid boots if it bends in the middle as you walk as that is a sign of a shank not in the shoe.
  • Suggested socks
    • In wet and cold weather, wearing the right socks can help prevent blisters, fungal infections and frostbite. It is recommended to wear synthetic socks as the first layer to 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, leading to fewer blisters.
  • Rest if needed
    • Pain usually occurs in feet or ankles from overuse, even from just walking. If you are 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 bit if you start hurting.
For more information about treatment for foot and ankle problems, visit the Prevea Foot & Ankle Center.