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boots, blisters and beer . . .

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  • robert shattuck
    Friday night and I get a request to dispense advice––what did I miss? Dear xxxx, My dear friend YYYY tells me you are off to Spain, intending to do some
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 27, 2012
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      Friday night and I get a request to dispense advice––what did I miss? 

      Dear xxxx, 

       My dear friend YYYY tells me you are off to Spain, intending to do some hiking, and might want some advice on how not to get blisters. I do a lot of hiking, but I am no expert, or maybe I am. 

      I think the big secret is, get comfy shoes that are appropriate to what you are doing. And wear them before you go on your trip, so that you can break in both your feet and the boots. 

      I used to wear a pair of Fabiano Leather mountaineering boots. They were over-kill for most things; they weighed about 3-4 pounds each and they were as hard as concrete, which was nice if I ever kicked a rock or anything as they were as good as wearing steel-toed boots, but for my long, fast, days, they really wore me out.

      Plus I only wore them backpacking and I would spend the first few days getting used to them, getting blisters and then, the trip was over and my feet a mess. 

      I used to wear two pairs of socks also. I think a lot of people still do; a silky light, liner sock and then a heavier sock over that, but I don't do that anymore. 

      I still like hi-tops. I wouldn't go out into the mountains in trail-runners, especially if I am going to be carrying a load and certainly since I am not young and nimble anymore . . well, I am, but (54!) generally the more support the better, in my book. 

      I have had a lot of near misses, rolling my ankles on a trail, but I owe a lot to good ankle support and more importantly, TREKKING POLES. They have saved me many a time. 

      If you are headed into the mountains, buy a good pair of trekking poles. If you have the money, buy a pair of high-end LEKI POLES, or Black Diamond . . . don't go to K-mart and buy some junk brand for $15 . . . 

      Another item I highly recommend would be a pair of Gaiters. If you are not going to be hiking in snow, then a low-rise pair, just high enough to cover the boot and sock, will greatly enhance your comfort. If you really have a good idea of the territory and there will be a lot of literal "bush-whacking" then you might buy a pair of calve or knee-high gaiters, to save you from lots of abrasion. 


      The gaiters keep dirt and debris out of your boots. I have a habit of always kicking up rocks and without gaiters, those rocks end up in my boots. Very Annoying. Also, after a long day of hiking you might take off your gaiters and notice how dirty your legs are, but your socks are clean, somewhat. Clean socks are another must-have in the fight against blisters. 

      I usually do my hikes with three pairs of boot socks, and a very light pair for sleeping. I usually change out the socks once a day . . . maybe at lunch I will get my feet in a stream and wash the morning pair, or just strap them to my pack, to dry. 

      It should be obvious that any boot you buy should be thoroughly tested out before you hit the trail. wear them around the house, around the block, on uneven terrain and wear them with a load of some sort, at some point. 

      This said, there are a lot of boots out there that are very comfy right out of the box and will not bother you at all. I have been fortunate a few times, buying a boot within a week of my hike, wearing them enough to scuff them up and then they've been just fine. 

      I am currently wearing a pair of Salomon  3D fastpackers and they were fine right out of the box. 


      As far as further blister prevention, I carry a pair of sandals. I haven't needed the sandals since buying the lighter boots, such as the Salomon, but what I do is, upon finding a hot spot, I switch out to the sandals and hike in them for a while. Really feels good on the feet and lets them, as well as the hot spot, breath, aside from saving me a good amount of pain. Nothing like a small blister to really mess up a hike. 

      There's also standard prevention. Once you feel a blister or a hot  spot, coming on, stop and dress it with some moleskin, or change into sandals, as I do. But depending on several factors, the moleskin might be the way to go. I think a lot of people prefer not to hike in sandals––they use them for camp, or for crossing streams––you might not feel comfortable carrying weight and dealing with uneven terrain in them, so avoiding them and going with moleskin would be the smart choice. 

      So this is what I know. Again, I can't say enough about buying a good pair of trekking poles––I think they'll greatly complement a good pair of boots. 

      I would also mention that while using trekking poles, my advice would be, use the straps while on flat or uphill terrain and when going downhill, keep your hands out of the straps. 

      Not very often, but now and then, the trekking pole tips will get lodged in a crack of rock and you don't know how hard it is to pull them out, especially if you are going downhill, carrying a pack and a little momentum. It's often hard enough just to let go of the poles, without having to be strapped into them––you keep moving forward, the poles stay firmly planted––on a flat or uphill grade, no big deal, but going downhill, this can be a problem. 

      Anyway, this is all I know, or all that a few friday night beers will let me do . . . if you have any other questions, please let me know and above all, I hope this small bit if advice helps you to enjoy a pain-free ramble through Spain. 

      Best, Bob



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