Keep On Hiking! Protect your feet & ankles
Hikers and nature lovers take advantage of the beautiful Southern California to explore the mountains, foothills, and wilderness parks year round. Feet can take a beating from long and vigorous hikes, but following these tips can ward off possible foot & ankle injury.
“Hikers and others who love the outdoors often don’t realize how strenuous it can be to withstand constant, vigorous walking on uneven terrain,” says Dr. Bennett of Orange Country Foot & Ankle Surgeons. "Lax physical conditioning and inappropriate footwear bring scores of outdoor enthusiasts into our office each fall for treatment of foot and ankle problems such as chronic heel pain, ankle sprains, Achilles tendonitis, fungal infections and severe blisters."
“Walking up and down steep hillsides, and tramping through muddy fields puts stress on the muscles and tendons in the feet and ankles, especially if you haven’t conditioned properly before hitting the trail,” says Bennett. “Also, many don’t realize that cross-training athletic shoes aren’t the best choice for extended hiking. Had some of my patients worn sturdy, well-constructed hiking boots, they wouldn’t have suffered sprained ankles or strained Achilles tendons.”
Buy top quality hiking boots
Bennett advises hikers and hunters to make the investment in top-quality hiking boots. He says strong, well-insulated and moisture-proof boots with steel or graphite shanks offer excellent ankle and foot support that helps lessen stress and muscle fatigue to reduce injury risk. “The supportive shank decreases strain on the arch by allowing the boot to distribute impact as the foot moves forward. So if a boot bends in the middle, don’t buy it.”
Wear the right socks
Even arid southern California can experience wet and cold weather during the fall and winter, especially in the mountains. Wearing the right socks can help prevent blisters, fungal infections and frostbite. For warm days, Bennett recommends synthetic socks to keep the feet dry and reduce blister-causing friction. On cold days, add a second layer of wool socks to 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,” Bennett adds.
What happens if your feet or ankles hurt during a hike?
Bennett says pain usually occurs from overuse, even 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,” he explains. “To avoid a serious injury, such as a severe ankle sprain or an Achilles tendon rupture, rest for a while if you start hurting.”
According to the ACFAS consumer website, FootHealthFacts.org, pain is a warning sign that something is wrong. “Serious injury risk escalates significantly if you continue hiking in pain.” Bennett likens hiking to skiing, in that beginners should take on less difficult trails until they become better conditioned and more confident.
Evaluation by a foot and ankle surgeon is recommended if there is persistent pain following a hiking outing. “I’m most concerned about ankle instability and strained Achilles tendons. Inattention to these problems at their early stages may lead to a serious injury that will keep you off the trails for a long time,” Bennett says.
Hikers seeking further information about ankle sprains, Achilles tendon injuries and other foot and ankle problems can set up an appointment online or give us a call at 714-888-6860.