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Anupama Pradeep

Trench Foot Guide! -How to Keep Your Feet Dry?

Since winter is approaching, the hikers are facing new challenges with their set of ultralight gear. The wet and the cold climatic conditions point out to the limitations in using the ultralight footwear in several ways. Flitting through the woods with your branded sneakers and a pair of wool socks is one of the primary delights of ultralight backpacking.

However, these can turn out to be highly disappointed when the temperature approaches the freezing point and when the precipitation starts to go down. It is always better to avoid the cold and wet feet by adequately choosing the hiking gear since there are high chances to get blisters, swellings, forced foot smell and many more.

Taking good care of your feet starts prior to planning a hike. The best pair of boots and the right pair of socks will help you stay comfortable all through the journey.

hiking in rain can cause wet foot and lead to trench foot

Hiking in rain can make your feet wet!

Why Hikers Says No to Cotton Socks?

The only thumb rule for the best hiking experience is to avoid hundred percent cotton socks, especially during the winter seasons and also while you trek in cold and wet areas. There is a significant reason why the hikes claim that ‘cotton is rotten.’

The fact is that cotton socks will absorb the sweat which is generated in your feet and dries only slowly. This, in turn, gets feet wet, stay wet and will end up in a soggy kind of socks inside the boots all the way while hiking. Remember that there is no insulation offered by the cotton socks and hence no breathing. They pave the way for the formation of blisters, and therefore it is always better to avoid things that make you wet.

Care Your Feet!!!

Another factor is that you should always ensure that you have got an extra set of socks inside your backpack before you hit the trail. Change the socks when you think that there is a chance for the formation of blisters or spots on your feet.

There are professional hikers who highly recommend changing the socks on every four to six miles, no matter whether you have wet socks or not. This may also help to avoid boot rash. After changing your wet socks, clip the damp or the dirty socks to the backpack and then dry them out properly. 

The Need for Waterproof Shoes!!!

Even though the waterproof or the breathable membranes inside the shoes provide a hot environment within, these are a necessity for certain climatic conditions for avoiding blisters as well as maceration.

If you are sure that your feet are going to be exposed to wet or cold conditions, then considering a waterproof-breathable membrane one will aid you in keeping drier and warmer than buying those meshy shoes which leak at every point of time. 

river crossing can wet your foot, even if you were wearing waterproof shoes!

River crossing can wet your foot, even if you were wearing waterproof shoes!

Importance of Dry Feet!!!

Maintaining a dry foot is one of the most critical factors in avoiding fungal skin, blisters, nail issues and warts. Incorporate the below-mentioned tips in your day to day routine for keeping the feet dry and also for maintaining health hygiene:

  • Take out all the liners from the shoes
  • After every use, try to keep the boots next to a heat source to ensure complete dryness
  • Dry the feet properly after taking a shower or once you step inside a river, particularly in between the toes
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    Try to use wool toe socks since it helps to maintain moisture content away from the feet skin
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    If possible, use baby powder inside the socks as these helps in retaining the dryness while wearing them
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    For avoiding foot or shoe odors, make use of natural medicated foot powder
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    Dry the shoes after each use and remove all the moisture content as this will prevent the growth of odor-producing fungus as well as bacteria
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    If you have extra money to spend on, then try getting a shoe dryer
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    Above all, ensure that you buy a ‘No Cotton’ pair of socks

Bye to Wet Sock – Get the Right Waterproof Ones!!!

Getting the right pair of waterproof sock is a good option for shallow stream crossings since they work great for you. Try to use insulative, merino wool blend and also crew height socks as they are right in offering additional insulation for your foot.

These dry feet socks are the best option while being in terrains where you can expect wet climates. Ultralight and thin socks are the right choice for trekking in summer; however, there are limitations for them when the temperature drops down considerably.

If you are hitting a wet or cold weather terrain, then upgrade yourself to heavyweight or mid weighted socks for getting better insulation. On the other hand, heavy socks are slow in drying and are one of the significant disadvantages of heavier socks.

Is Waterproof Socks A Necessity?

Apart from the camping usage, waterproof socks will provide many on-trail benefits for the hikers. They help to stay away from soaking the trekking socks while you cross the shallow streams. In addition to this, they are also good at offering the required warmth during the first two hours of hiking in wet and cold climatic conditions.

Wet Socks Treatment

There are many ways in which you can treat the wet socks. However, few of the most commonly adopted methods are mentioned in this article. You can stuff them well inside the thermal underwear when you wear it, placing each of the socks on the upper portion of the thigh and then dress into sleep. Another technique is to wrap up the socks on the hand towel and then hold it as the dampness gets neutralized within the items.

Yet another way is to keep the wet socks on your hands and warm them cautiously within a low-setting camp stove. Above all, the easiest method is to activate a hand warmer inside the socks and let it dry. You can also try stuffing the socks on the base portion of the sleeping bags.

Wet feet can lead to....

Trench foot is a condition which results from the prolonged wetness of feet. Some of the visible signs and symptoms of this condition may include blisters, blotchy skin, redness, skin tissues which die and falls off, etc.

Signs and Symptoms of Trench Foot

Signs of trench foot may include itching sensations in those wet areas, wrinkled feet, pain, cold or blotchy skin, swelling, heavy feeling, numbness, etc. Sometimes, the foot may even show redness in the affected area, and when the area is dried, you might feel the pain. Following the pain, there are high chances for the blister formation, and gradually the skin or the tissues will die and start falling off. If left untreated, the infection may spread to other areas such as toes, heel or even the whole foot.

blisters on foot

Blisters on foot

How to Prevent Trench Foot?

Whenever possible, try to air dry or elevate the feet and change the wet socks. This will help in the prevention of the development of trench foot. The treatment mode is the same as that for the treatment which we apply for frostbite or the swamp foot disease. The below mentioned steps will help you in preventing trench foot:

bare foot- make it dry
  • Clean and dry the feet properly
  • Use clean and dry socks daily
  • Use warm packs in those affected areas or trying soaking in the warm water (for a short period of five minutes)
  • While you are resting or sleeping, don’t use socks

If your foot is having a wound and has higher tendencies to get infected, check those areas during the hike at least once and make sure that the conditioning is not worsening.

Trench Foot Treatment

The very first thing which any hiker should do to overcome this situation is to take rest and sit with feet on an elevated position. This will help to increase blood circulation. In addition to this, it would also help to prevent the formation of new blisters and any wounds. If you notice any early signs of trench foot, then it can be easily treated with simple home remedies.

first aid applied on trench foot

The basic things which you have to do are to remove the dirty socks and clean the foot hygienically. Now dry the feet thoroughly and use heat packs on those affected areas for getting better relief.

Keep in mind that even if the condition is not under control after applying home remedies, don’t wait anymore. Rush to the nearest hospital and get the first aid for avoiding further complications.

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boot, camping, foot, Footwear Guide, hiking, rainy, shoes, socks, trench foot, wet

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