Hike-a-Thon: Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
2012 Hike-a-Thoners scaled Burroughs Mountain trail in Mount Rainier National Park. Photo by Cheri Dahlke.
Hike-a-Thoners have been logging hundreds of miles in support of trails, and for some, it's been taking it's toll in the form of sore joints and painful blisters. Whether you are participating in Hike-a-Thon or not this year, check out WTA's tips for staying fit and trail-ready.
When it comes to blisters, the best cure is prevention. Find out how to prevent blisters in the first place.
It's also important to choose the right socks and get a good boot fit:
- When shopping for boots, try them on and wear them around for at least 10-15 minutes.
- Climb some stairs, both up and down (some shops even have simulated trail surfaces or ramps for this purpose).
- Take note: does your heel move up and down? Some movement is normal, but it should be minimal.
- On the downhill, note if your toes are smashing into the front of the boots. You'll want to ensure they're not too close for those downhill stretches.
If you've already got a blister, here's park ranger Ralph Radford's tips for treatment:
- Don’t puncture the blister unless it’s painful or prevents you from walking. The unbroken skin over a blister provides a natural barrier against bacteria infection.
- If you have to pop the blister, use a sterilized needle to puncture the blister near the edge of the blister.
- Apply antibiotic ointment and cover with a bandage or gauze pad. Look for signs of infection around the blister, including pus, redness or increase of pain.
Consider hiking with poles
Poles can take the pressure off your back and knees. Check out our tips on how to hike with poles. Here are a few advantages poles can give you.
- Sports medicine doctors say that a pair of trekking poles can take as much as 40 percent of the load off your legs.
- They help you go further, and arrive in better condition.
- They are great for saving the knees when going downhill, and you’ll get an arm workout, too.
- Out in the snow they not only help with balance, but they can chop foot grips into steep inclines.
Revisit these three conditioning tips
In Washington Trails magazine, John Colver (an avid hiker, athletic coach, Mount Rainier guide and author of Fit By Nature) shares conditioning tips [PDF] to get you into the best shape possible for hiking. The following tips are adapted from his 2011 Washington Trails magazine article.
- Think about your posture. As you walk, imagine yourself as a dancer—tall and elegant. This awareness can help align, or unkink your body in a way that you are now recruiting more of your muscles, especially in the middle of your trunk.
- Use the most powerful muscles: As you walk, focus on stepping off from your heels; this small action can increase the use of strong gluteus muscles as well as hamstrings. You can also reduce the strain on your quadriceps muscles, knees and calves and ankles while greatly increasing your efficiency.
- Maintain a neutral spine. It’s important to create equal tension in a way that neither strains our back or our core abdominal muscles. One way to do this is to imagine you had to carry a friend on your shoulders. You’d bend the knees slightly and quickly engage your core trunk muscles to protect your lower back and gain balance.