How to Prevent Feet Swelling During Hiking

diagram of foot
Plantar fasciitis is a painful swelling of the plantar fascia, a tissue which runs along the bottoms of the feet. People who exerciseon their feet a great deal, particularly walkers, hikers and runners, are at the highest risk to develop fasciitis. Fasciitis results when the fascia gets torn, stretched or inflamed. The condition can range from mild discomfort to debilitating pain. Plantar fasciitis is the last thing you need while hiking, especially on a long hiking trip, but there are things you can do to prevent developing the condition.
  1. Buy shoes which provide more than sufficient cushioning, comfort, and ankle support. Don’t hike in flat, worn-out shoes. You may need to get your shoes or boots specially outfitted with inserts. Go to an outdoor gear store and get yourself properly fit with the correct type and size of shoes. Feet swell once they have been walking for a while, so don’t get shoes which will become too small out on the trail.
  2. Stretch your calves and Achilles tendon every day before setting off on your hike. Tight calf muscles can make it difficult to bend your foot correctly, so the more you can loosen your calf muscles before you begin walking, the better. An easy calf stretch is the toe dip: stand on a low ledge, stair step, or curb. Keep your toes on the ledge, but allow you heels to dip down. Relax and let your calf muscles stretch down. Repeat three to five times. If you do both feet at the same time, you will get a better and safer stretch.
  3. Take an anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. These will reduce swelling in the tissue (References 1).
  4. Ice your feet after exercising. If possible, put ice directly on the bottoms of your feet, or let them soak in some cool water.
  5. Massage the bottoms of your feet before and after hiking.
  6. Avoid hiking on hard surfaces. If you have the choice, hike on soil or grass, as opposed to pavement. Pavement is much harder on your feet, and can cause foot pain quickly—even if you don’t get or have fasciitis.
  7. Rest regularly. Even if you are not in pain, regularly resting your feet during the hike and, if you are on a multi-day hike, at the end of the day at camp can help prevent fasciitis.
  8. Lighten your load. Carrying as little weight as possible in your pack can also help prevent fasciitis. Carry only what you need, and eliminate as much extra weight as possible, using hiker tricks like cutting off extra straps and tags and using ultralight gear.

By Amber D. Walker


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