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Obvious but true: You can only go as far as your feet will take you. So if you want to do a long-distance trek this summer–anything from a monster day to a thru-hike–heed the advice of Russell Secker. The 52-year-old from Austin, Texas, is a self-taught expert when it comes to preventing–and treating–foot problems. In 2005, he ran 725 miles across France. Last year, he traversed 750 miles in Germany in 17 days. But those were just warm-ups. In 2009, he plans to run 3,000 miles from Italy to Norway in the TransEurope-Footrace.
Here are his hard-earned tips to conquer long days of many miles.
Swelling Normal-size shoes constrict the natural inflammation that occurs after hours of hiking. To compensate, Secker buys running shoes a half-size large, and adjusts down from thicker to thinner socks as his feet bloat. Long-distance hikers can regulate their footwear the same way–or by loosening boot laces over the toes. Secker reduces serious ankle swelling with a combination of ice, compression socks, anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen, and elevating his feet during sleep.
Blisters To prevent rubbing, Secker swabs his feet and toes with friction-reducing Vaseline. When blisters occur (as they nearly always do when you cruise 300 miles in a week), he drains them with a sterile needle. Exception: He covers intact heel blisters with medical tape because they are more prone to infection.
Pedicure Take care of your toenails, says Secker. He snips his short and swabs them with antibacterial solutions and iodine.
Vigilance The key to less pain and more miles, says Secker, is to check your feet and shoes often. “Deal with any foot or ankle problems quickly,” he says, “and you’ll be amazed at how much happier you’ll be.”