"We've all seen hikers accomplishing great feats such as completing the Pacific Crest or Appalachian Trails and these stories inspire us to undertake more challenging or longer hikes," says Gregory Catalano, DPM, FACFAS, a Massachusetts-based foot and ankle surgeon and Fellow Member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. "As the number of people hiking increases and they take on more challenging terrain, we are seeing an increase in injuries of all levels of hikers, from Achilles tendon and heel pain to more traumatic injuries including sprains and fractures of the foot and ankle."
Hiking-related injuries range from minor concerns, such as blisters and bruises, to more serious conditions, including stress fractures and ankle sprains. These complex hiking injuries may initially be assessed as less serious or even overlooked as an overuse injury that will repair itself. Some hikers first attempt to treat pain by modifying their walk or pace, or by switching shoes. While these kinds of modifications seem straightforward, they can actually contribute to complications and further injury.
Careful preparation can help reduce the chance of injury and make it easier for professionals to treat when problems occur. ACFAS advises hikers to take a few key steps that can make an important difference:
- Protect toes from blisters and toenails from bruises by wearing proper fitting footwear.
- Select material for socks that wick away moisture and protect from the cold.
- Condition boots before setting out on a hike.
- Know the hiking route and options for accessing medical assistance.
- Carry supplies, such as bandages and wraps, to help immediately protect and stabilize injured feet and ankles.
For more on hiking safety and other foot and ankle health information, visit ACFAS' patient education website at FootHealthFacts.org.