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Foot Care in the Desert

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    • Foot Care in the Desert

      So on this years PCT section hike I had severe foot problems. Not blisters really, more like whole sections of skin rubbing off. It wasn't my shoes and I do not normally have foot problems. The issue I am afraid was lack of cleanliness.

      The trail is dusty, needless to say, and the grit gets ground into your socks turning them into #220 sandpaper. The arches of my feet, bottom and tops of my toes were flayed.

      Normally on my hikes I work with two pair of Darn Tough socks. The ones I am wearing that day, and a pair that gets washed and dried on the back of my pack. In the desert there were few opportunities to wash because of the lack of water, so the grit just built up. In addition the salt build up on my feet grew to toxic proportions. The skin between my toes was sloughing off too. Again, no water to wash with. My feet became a bloody mess which hobbled me considerably.

      My proposed solutions for next year's desert hike:
      1) I plan on bringing some moisturizer for my feet. This should help the skin and protect against the salt buildup. I talked with another hiker who did this with good results.
      2) I plan on bringing seven pairs of socks. This should give me a fresh pair every day until I get to the next town stop. I love my Darn Tough, but I plan to switch to 'diabetic socks' next trip. I don't know if everyone is familiar with these. They are cheap, lightweight, and seamless. If I cannot wash them frequently enough, I should be able to buy more along the way.

      Let me know your thoughts on his plan.
      “Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
      the saddest are these, 'It might have been.”


      John Greenleaf Whittier
    • Wow, that sounds painful.

      Did you use gaiters? On my couple of short, PCT hikes, my thought was that dirty girl gaiters were a must due to the sand/dust. They don’t totally cover the toe-end of my shoes but they do a good job of keeping out a lot of debris.
      In life there are no limitations. Except stupidity. If you're stupid, you're screwed.

      Stephan Pastis
    • i'm not a desert hiker -- i hate hiking in the desert -- so what do i know?

      back in the day we wore light liner socks under our ragg wool socks. i'd try a liner under your darn toughs to add another layer of protection.

      and at breaks i'd use a bandana to dust off my feet.

      anyway, that's what i'd try if google didn't exist. but since it does -- i'd be googling "socks to wear when hiking in the desert" and variations on that from now til i left.
      2,000 miler
    • Traffic Jam wrote:

      Wow, that sounds painful.

      Did you use gaiters? On my couple of short, PCT hikes, my thought was that dirty girl gaiters were a must due to the sand/dust. They don’t totally cover the toe-end of my shoes but they do a good job of keeping out a lot of debris.
      I don't wear gators. I noticed that some hikers did, some didn't. I'm not sure the hikers that didn't were any worse off, but it is something I should try.
      “Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
      the saddest are these, 'It might have been.”


      John Greenleaf Whittier
    • jimmyjam wrote:

      Wise Old Owl wrote:

      Uh no socks keep your feet dry and in sandals....

      I remember a crappy hike across the Australian desert. The winner was close to bear foot as possible.
      what about sand Spurs and cactus?
      Oh well watch this recreation and understand when they recreated it - they used boots. She was clearly in sandals. I hiked some 80 miles in Canada in Sandals.
      Be wise enough to walk away from the nonsense around you! :thumbup:
    • New

      Thought I would update this thread based on my 2019 section hike from Big Bear to Agua Dulce. I changed a few things and it was a vast improvement in terms of my foot problems.

      First the things that I changed
      1) Instead of rotating my usual two pairs of Darn Tough socks, I bought six pairs of Diabetic Socks. If you are not familiar with diabetic socks, they are usually available in drug stores. I bought nine at Walgreens, got six pairs for about 8 dollars. They are super light, flimsy and seamless. They do not last long, but with six pairs I could put on a clean pair most every day. They weighted about the same as two pair of the heavier Darn Tough, which I could not wash often enough in the desert. I love my Darn Tough and will continue to wear them in the cooler and wetter East, but in the desert it will be Diabetic socks for the win

      2) I also put some 'Bert's Bees' foot cream on my feet every morning in the beginning. Sure made my feet smell nice :) but after a while I stopped doing it because the improvement really seemed to be due to the change in socks.

      3) My daily mileage was lower than last year and that helped too. Temperatures started out cooler, but near the end I was hiking in 106 degrees F, so my feet definitely got tested.

      4) My only problem was from a 'twisted toe' I have that causes the nail of one toe to dig into another no matter how short I clip it. That could have developed into a problem but I brought along this product...


      Chiroplax Toe Sleeves

      ...and they saved the day.

      I still have a few hundred miles to go in Southern California, so another update on this subject will probably come next summer.

      Cheers,
      Scott
      “Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
      the saddest are these, 'It might have been.”


      John Greenleaf Whittier