Right about now, some wincing NOBO is having a “come to Jesus” moment regarding his feet. It always happens this time of year that people fight the Sisyphusian battle of keeping feet in trail shape. A man with an Adonis body or a woman who resembles Xena the Warrior Princess can be laid low by foot trouble.
In THRU: An Appalachian Trail Love Story, I describe what descents can do to hikers in their first few days: On the downhills, your feet slide inside socks and boots and jolt to a dead stop time after agonizing time — the genesis of blisters. If ignored, blisters turn from annoying hot spots into bulging, fluid-filled skin sacs. Untreated, they burst on heels, arches and toes. There are few prospects uglier than blisters turning into an oozing blight, a sight presaging a hike ending in its infancy.
I have had no blister problems in the many thousands of trail miles I’ve recorded over the last half-century or so. On a couple of occasions, I’ve had some irritation but never anything requiring precautionary treatment or causing me to lose time hiking. My main advice is take action early. My buddy, Tortilla Tosser, suffered untold misery over the years resulting from blisters. His totally successful solution is to swath his problem areas in moleskin before he even takes one step. Now, I can’t keep up with him anymore. The lesson from all this? Don’t wait for trouble. Attack it early. And if you sense a hot spot, don’t do like Captain Stupid in THRU and ignore the problem. Pull out every piece of artillery and attack the problem. Stay vertical and keep walkin’!