The WildeBeat

The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.


The WildeBeat edition 41: Getting Fit Feet, part 2

This is a supplementary transcript of our audio program. CLICK HERE to listen to the original program, and see the associated show notes.

Your feet are your main means of transportation on most wilderness adventures. But how do you keep them in top working order? This week on The WildeBeat; Getting Fit Feet, part two.

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News from the WildeBeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.

This is program number forty one.

I'm Steve Sergeant.

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STEVE: Last time, I talked to John Vohof, the author of the book, Fixing Your Feet, published by Wilderness Press. John explained how to prevent the most common foot problems suffered by hikers and runners. This week, John talks about how to solve some of those problems after you've discovered them. Here's John Vonhof.

JOHN VONHOFF: Everything that you do around your foot, on your foot, sock, shoe, insole, taping, how you trim your toenails even, skin care, all works together to potentially prevent blisters from happening. So you have to be attentive to your whole foot and all of your footwear because everything works together.

STEVE: So what do you use to prevent the hot spots?

JOHN VONHOFF: I think most people use tape. Unfortunately, some people choose band-aids, and I don't suggest that. Duct tape, medical tape, there are patches out there made by Spenco, and they have several out there. So once you have a hot spot, you need to take your shoe off, check and see whether it is in fact a hot spot coming on, straighten out your sock, because you may have a crease or fold in your sock. You may have a small pebble or some kind of a small irritant in your shoe, and so that can be taken out. Check the inside of your shoe to make sure there aren't any seams or any other things going on in your shoe itself, and if that's all fine then cover up that hot spot area with either a piece of tape, a blister patch.

STEVE: So presume we've failed to prevent that blister, and now we need to protect it from getting worse. Is that tape still the right thing to use?

JOHN VONHOFF: If the hot spot has evolved into a blister and you actually have take your shoe off, and find that there is a little bubble under your skin, and there's fluid in it, then yes, you have a blister. So you need to decide what to do. If it's larger than half an inch, the rule of thumb is you pop it. If it's smaller, you've got two options: Either pop it still, or keep going and hope it doesn't expand. If you're in the middle of a hike, if you're just starting out, if you're in transition you may be better off to simply pop it, even if it is small. And often, even the small ones can be very bothersome, so you're better off to pop them anyway. If there's blood in it, you do not pop it, because you open up your circulatory system to a chance of infection. So that's a very important statement. If you're out hiking, and you're on day three of a five day hike, you could have an infection set-in before you get back to your car. Because it can be a major injury that can, if not checked, cost you your foot. The recommended way that I teach people to pop them, is not with a pin or a needle, I suggest the use of a scissors. A pointed scissors or a nail clippers will make a V-cut. And that V, unlike a needle hole, will not seal up on itself. And that's very important because you want the fluid out. Make sure you sterilize whatever you're going to use with either an alcohol swab, or under the flame of a match. When you go to actually pop it, you want to do so in at least two places, preferably where gravity will allow the draining action. So as an example, if you have a blister on your heel, I would make one hole at the bottom, and I would make one hole at the top. Then, you need to cover it, because if you don't do that the skin is going to tear off. A blister patch, or one of the tapes can be easily put on top of it, however you don't want that tape on the skin because your skin will pull off. So take a dab of your lubricant, if you have it, or a piece of tissue, and cut it in the shape of the top surface of the blister, and put it on the tape. So when you put that tape over the blister itself, you're not taping over the top skin. That tape will generally hold if you clean your skin well, and it'll stay on there for a long time. One thing I caution people, is when you take time to patch a blister on your foot, make sure that you don't take your socks and just pull them on, because you you can pull that tape off. So roll your socks up in a ball, toward the toe of the foot, and then roll them on your foot. And same thing for taking it off.

STEVE: Is there a bare-bones, basic kit you think everyone should be carrying for foot care on a multi-day trip?

JOHN VONHOFF: I wrote an article for Backpacking Light dot com on the one point five ounce foot care kit. And it was a lot of fun attempting to figure out what to put in there and how I could keep the weight down as little as possible. All these pieces, as small as everything is, will fit inside of a small Ziplock bag. Small enough to fit in your fanny pack, the side of a backpack, and for the average person, should be enough to last you for five days.

STEVE: So do you think it's actually possible for a person to hike days on end and not have any foot problems whatsoever?

JOHN VONHOFF: Just two weeks ago, I talked with Any Skurka, who did the sea to sea trail, and he had very minor foot issues, and in fact claimed to blister only a couple of times in his almost seventy seven hundred mile hike. So yes, it is possible. However, what that means is one has good-fitting footwear. One takes care of their toenails, and their skin. Has good socks, and changes them accordingly. You have got to take care of your feet because they are your main means of transportation. And if you're out there, you have to be able to get out on your own feet, so you have to manage your feet, and not let your feet manage you and your hike. In nineteen ninety seven, when I wrote Fixing Your Feet, and now seen it come out in the fourth edition, it has many stories of what people have found works for them. And I think that's a lot of the value in learning what works for each of us.

STEVE: Your fourth edition, what's going to be new in it?

JOHN VONHOFF: There are three chapters that are new. One I'm extremely happy with, it's called "Twelve Mega-Distance Athletes Talk About Foot Care." Where I interviewed people like David Horton, who this last year speed-packed the Pacific Crest Trail in I believe sixty eight days, to Andy Skurka who did seventy seven hundred miles. People who have done huge distances, and I asked them all the same eleven questions. The other two chapters are one entitled, "You can have healthy feet," and then third chapter that's new is, "The Best of Ten Years of Fixing Your Feet." Because it's been ten years since I started this, and then of course, every product and web site has been updated. I've added a number of additional sections and topics, and I suspect it'll probably add thirty pages or forty pages on top of everything else in there.

STEVE: John Vonhoff, thank you talking to me about fixing feet.

JOHN VONHOFF: Appreciate it. And I know all of us with a little bit of time and patience can have happy and healthy feet. STEVE: You can find links to John Vonhof's "Happy Feet" weblog, his "Fixing Your Feet" E-zine, and an extended version of my interview with John, on our web site.

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Next time -- A wild bird chase.

The Wildebeat is produced by Steve Sergeant for Effable Communications. Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. Please see our website for ways to support future editions of The WildeBeat. Contribute your comments to webmaster at wildebeat dot net, or call our comment line at 866-590-7373.

This has been The WildeBeat, program number forty one. Thank you for listening.

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