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When you ruck, you know your feet are your most important asset. They take you through miles and miles of rough terrain, and they need to be in top condition to get you to endex. Foot care is not something to be taken lightly, and if you neglect it, you could be in for a world of pain.
So, how do you take care of your feet during those long miles? Here are some tips to help you keep your feet healthy and pain-free.
Choose the right footwear
The first and most important step in foot care is to choose the right footwear. You need shoes that are comfortable, durable, and provide good support. Look for shoes that are specifically designed for long-distance running or hiking, and make sure they fit well.
You may also want to consider using insoles or orthotics to provide additional support and cushioning. Experiment with different shoes and insoles to find the combination that works best for you.
Fit: The most critical factor when selecting shoes is ensuring a proper fit. Shoes that are too small or too big can cause discomfort, blisters, and other foot problems. Make sure to try on shoes with the socks you plan to wear during your rucks, and take your time to walk around and test them out before purchasing. It's tempting to buy shoes online off recommendations alone, so be sure your purchase has a return policy!
Purpose: Are you rucking on rough terrain, or will you be on a flat surface? Will you be rucking in hot or wet weather? Choose shoes that match the type of terrain and weather you'll be rucking in.
Arch Support: Make sure the shoes provide proper arch support for your feet. The arch support should match the shape of your feet, and there should be enough cushioning to absorb shock and reduce the risk of injury.
Traction: Choose shoes with good traction to prevent slipping and sliding, especially on wet or slippery surfaces. Look for shoes with deep, multi-directional lugs on the sole for better grip.
Breathability: Choose shoes that allow your feet to breathe to prevent excessive sweating and odor. Shoes with mesh panels or perforations are a good choice for better ventilation.
Weight: Lighter shoes are generally better for rucking as they reduce fatigue and make it easier to move quickly. However, make sure they still provide adequate support and protection.
Keep your feet clean and dry
When you're rucking for hours on end, your feet are bound to get sweaty and dirty. It's important to keep them clean and dry to prevent blisters and other foot problems.
Take breaks during your ruck to air out your feet and change into dry socks if necessary. Use a foot powder or antiperspirant to help reduce sweat and odor. Here are some other tips on how to care for your feet while out on your ruck:
Change socks: Carry extra socks with you on your hike and change them whenever your feet get wet. Wet socks can increase the risk of blisters and other foot problems, so it's important to keep your feet as dry as possible.
Apply foot powder: Use a foot powder or talc to keep your feet dry and reduce friction. This can help prevent blisters and other foot problems.
Use blister pads: If you have hot spots or blisters, use blister pads or moleskin to protect the affected area from further irritation. Apply the pads before putting on fresh socks and shoes. We recommend using these blister bandages as needed.
TAPING YOUR FEET
Taping your feet is a common practice among long-distance ruckers, and to prevent blisters and other foot problems.
You'll want to tape your feet prior to leaving for your ruck. First, make sure your feet are clean and dry. Using medical-grade tape specifically designed for skin is recommended to avoid potential irritation or damage. Start by applying a layer of pre-wrap to your foot to protect your skin and make it easier to remove the tape later.
Identify the problem areas of your foot, such as the heel or ball, and create a barrier with the tape. Using a figure-eight pattern, wrap the tape around your foot starting at the base of your toes and continuing around your heel and ankle. Make sure the tape is snug but not too tight, as you don't want to restrict blood flow.
Smooth out any wrinkles or bumps in the tape as you go to ensure a comfortable, even surface against your skin. Once you've finished taping, test it out by putting on your socks and shoes. You want to ensure that the tape is not too tight or too loose and that it feels comfortable and supportive.
Use moleskin or blister pads
Even with the best footwear and foot care, you may still develop blisters or hot spots on your feet. To prevent these from getting worse, use moleskin or blister pads to protect the affected area.
Apply the moleskin or blister pad to the area before you start your ruck, and replace it as necessary during breaks. This will help reduce friction and prevent blisters from forming.
Stretch and massage your feet
After hours of rucking, your feet will be tired and sore. Take a few minutes to stretch and massage them to help alleviate any discomfort.
Sit down and stretch your feet by pulling your toes toward your shins. You can also roll a tennis ball or foam roller under your feet to massage them and help increase circulation.
Know when to seek help
If you develop a foot injury or persistent foot pain, it's important to seek help from a medical professional. Don't ignore the problem and try to push through the pain, as this could make the injury worse.
If you're experiencing severe pain, swelling, or other foot problems, make an appointment with a podiatrist or sports medicine specialist as soon as possible.
Foot care is essential for ultra-distance and long distance ruckers. By choosing the right footwear, keeping your feet clean and dry, using moleskin or blister pads, stretching and massaging your feet, and knowing when to seek help, you can help prevent foot problems and keep your feet in top condition for your next ruck.
If you're looking to take your rucking game to the next level, joining PATHFINDER, the ultimate 12-week online-based, self-paced ruck training program. PATHFINDER provides the support and guidance you need to achieve your fitness goals, with a unique blend of Challenges, workouts, and mileage requirements inspired by military training. Join PATHFINDER today and take your ruck training to the next level!
Amy Petersen is PATHFINDER Ruck Training's Director of Programming, an ACE-CPT, PN-1 and PN-SSR. Email her at email@example.com