When people think of the preparation involved in a long-distance hike, people think of route planning, packing, arranging their food and drink, and arranging transportation. Very few people think of footcare as an important planning phase.

For a hiker, our feet are of paramount importance. They are the things that take us to the far-flung corners of the globe. They are what make us summit time and time again. Looking after them should be a priority.


However long your hike is, keeping your feet clean throughout the duration of the hike is essential. If you end up with a blister, having clean feet could mean the difference between a minor irritation and a nasty infection. Every time you stop for a sustained period of time, like for lunch, take your shoes and socks off. Air your feet out and get rid of any stones or sand from your shoes. At the end of each day on a multi-day hike, give them a thorough clean and sanitize them to prevent infection.


The standard insoles in boots are not up to the job of walking hundreds of miles. They compress and increase the pressure on pressure points, causing irritation and blisters. Every time I buy a new pair of shoes, I get a new pair of insoles to put in them to keep them comfortable for longer.


Before heading out on a long height, clip your toenails. If your boots fit perfectly on your foot, having long nails will result in pressure on the nail from the front of the boot and cause severe discomfort.


Hydrated skin is much more supple and better equipped to prevent blisters. Any moisturiser will do, but my own personal secret is coconut oil. I massage a little into my feet each night and they feel better for it. Don’t believe me? Well, I haven’t had a blister on the trails for the last ten years.


I am a lightweight hiker and always keep a light pack, but I won’t skimp on socks. On my long, thru-hikes, I alternate between 3 and 6 pairs of socks. I may only take two pairs of underwear, but I will take many more socks. As soon as one pair of socks feels dirty, damp or just uncomfortable, I grab a fresh pair. Always use wool. You can wear them for longer before they feel worn and uncomfortable.


If you suffer from swelling out on the trails, invest in a pair of compression socks or sleeves, particularly on multi day hikes. Swelling can cause all kinds of disruption on a hike and give even the most comfortable of boots a tight, restrictive feeling. To combat swelling, incorporate compression socks or sleeves into your wind-down routine at the end of the day, and massage your feet regularly to maintain good circulation.

There you have it. The ultimate guide for footcare on the trails. Look after your feet and they will look after you. Find out what works for your feet and incorporate it into your trail planning and preparation. Trust me, you will be glad you did once you are two days into a 9-day thru-hike.


Do you have any other ideas for footcare on the trails? Share your ideas below.

Oli Ward
Oli Ward

Oli has camped and hiked his way around Australia and most of Europe. He also loves writing about his experiences and sharing his knowledge.