Backpacking Fitness

How to Do Everything: Stop Muscle Cramps, Blisters, Rolled Ankles, and More

Hike farther, faster, and pain-free with these training tips and exercise.

Banish Blisters

Should you pop? We settled this hot-button topic in April 2001. Yes, except for burn blisters. Here’s how Clean the blister, and puncture it with a sterilized pin. Cut a slit at the base, and massage out the fluid; leave the skin flap in place. Dab on antibiotic cream. Cut a donut-shaped piece of moleskin, place it over the blister, and cover it with another moleskin piece; secure with tape. Prevent Wear boots that fit (toes should wiggle and heels shouldn’t slip), keep feet dry with wicking socks (synthetic or wool), and rub Sportslick or Bodyglide on problem areas. If a hot spot develops, tape it ASAP.

Treat Shin Splints

These sharp pains often arise from overtraining. Treat Walk on your heels, toes pointed up, for 90 seconds or more; then stretch by pulling your toes into a pointed position for 30 seconds. Do three sets. Stretch your calves, too: Stand on a flat rock and let your heels hang down.

Treat Muscle Cramps

The culprits: dehydration, fatigue, and low electrolytes, resulting in a sustained contraction. Treat Straighten the cramped muscle; stretch and rub it. At the same time, contract the opposing muscle. So if your hamstring spasms, contract your quads. Also, quaff a sports drink.

End Ankle Rolls

Improve balance and foot strength by doing the squats or lunges above with your eyes closed. Or while brushing your teeth, stand on one foot, eyes closed. To make your arch more supple, roll one sock-clad foot atop a golf ball for one minute. Eventually, you’ll be able to do this while standing.