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With hiking season getting underway, don’t forget that happy feet are just as important as great views when it comes to having a fun, enjoyable hike.
Comfortable feet start with good-fitting boots, of course, but that’s not enough. Why? Moisture exacerbates friction and can lead to blisters big enough to make a grown hiker cry. And it’s not just rain you have to worry about. Sweat can soak your feet even on a sunny day. And since sweat glands are most concentrated on your feet, they can produce more than a cup of sweat on a daylong hike. Use these tips to keep your feet dry.
Choose the right socks.
The best boots in the world won’t be comfortable if your socks are ill-fitting or constantly damp. Look for socks made from merino wool, a synthetic material, or a blend of the two—no cotton! Both of these fabrics have wicking properties that pull sweat away from your skin. Thinner socks tend to be better since they don’t absorb as much moisture as thicker models. Try on socks with the boots you hike in and check fit: You don’t want any bunching or pressure points.
If you have ongoing problems with blisters, try using liners, which are thin socks worn underneath your outer socks. The liners wick moisture away from your skin while the dual layers slide against each other, minimizing rubbing on your feet. Check boot fit as liners add bulk, and pull them up tall, ideally above the top of your boot cuff. This allows sweat vapor to better escape.
On hard, hot hikes, your socks will inevitably get damp from sweat. Change into dry ones and hang wet socks on your pack to air dry. Rotate again as needed.
Air dry your feet.
Remove your shoes and socks during breaks to let your feet dry. Kick back and rest your feet on your pack or log. By elevating them, you‘ll help the blood flow back into your legs, which helps relieve swelling. Aim for at least 20 minutes of fresh air for maximum effect.
Wear breathable boots that allow sweat to escape.
This used to be a challenge since waterproof/breathable liners couldn’t wick moisture from the bottom of your feet (the sweatiest part of your body’s sweatiest area.) The waterproof La Sportiva Nucleo uses Gore-Tex Surround Technology to solve this problem. With Surround, a sponge-like spacer beneath the footbed pumps sweat vapor away from your skin and out through side vents in the shoe, making for a drier micro climate than you normally get with waterproof boots. The Nucleo’s high, stable ankle and leather upper, combined with superior breathability, makes it extremely versatile. It’s durable and supportive enough for rough, rocky terrain, totally waterproof against cold rain and shallow rivers, and breathable enough for hot-weather hikes when you feel like you’re trekking through a sauna.
This story was written as a collaborative effort between La Sportiva and Backpacker Magazine’s Content Specialists.