Travel Foot Care 101
Climbing nearly 400 steps to reach a hostel in Northern Italy, running around the Paris zoo during my first marathon, doing back to back to back walking tours in London - without a doubt, I explore the world with my feet! And I bet a lot of you do too! Walking (or running, or climbing) is a great way to see a city's hidden nooks and crannies and explore the natural wonders of the countryside. But all that roaming can really rough up your feet and few things can ruin a trip like sore, peeling, swollen, blistered feet. Here's how to keep your most valuable travel asset happy and healthy before, during, and after a trip.
Before You Go: Pre-departure Foot Care
1.) Chose footwear with care and select products that are appropriate to your destination and activities. Try on shoes at the end of a long day when your feet are swollen and tired - and bring your loaded backpack along for an authentic test drive. There are many ways to cut corners and save money while travelling but you should never go do with your footwear. I'd give up a few days of travel to save enough money for the right shoe.
2.)Break in new shoes before you travel. If you favor shoe inserts or liners, make sure they are made of solid foam and are not gel liners. Believe it or not, gel liners are classified as liquids by the TSA and therefore are technically not allowed.
3.) See a doctor or physiotherapist to treat what ails you. If you are prone to foot and ankle injuries, be sure to ask for some daily strengthening exercises.
4.) Avoid pre-departure pedicures. Your feet need a protective layer of tough outer skin. Opt instead for a relaxing herbal soak, some registered massage therapy, and maybe some nail painting.
On The Plane
1.) Wear supportive medical stockings if your health care professional does not object.
2.) Wear comfortable, supportive, non-restrictive shoes.
3.) Consider taking off your shoes all together - just be sure to wear thick, clean socks as a courtesy to those around you.
4.) Do lower leg and feet exercises at your seat and get up every few hours to walk around and do some more extensive exercises.
1.) While I love packing light, I always make room for extra shoes. A trip is easily ruined when you don't have a back up pair of shoes to relive sore, blistered feet. High quality, cushioned flip flops aren't ideal for long adventures but are perfect for letting your feet relax at the end of the day.
2.) Socks are just as important as shoes. I prefer anti-rubbing, anti-blister, anti-microbial, moisture wicking socks. I travel with socks made by Tilley Endurables for every day use (which dry overnight), the Running Room (for sports endeavors) and Smartwool (for the plane and keeping warm during chilly nights). I keep a spare set of socks in my day pack when I'm out exploring. Changing from damp to dry socks can go a long way in preventing blisters.
3.) Bring along a foot treatment kit. Mine includes Body Glide to prevent chaffing and high quality adhesive bandages and 'second skin' products. Deep Steep solid moisture sticks in rosemary-mint and honeydew-spearmint are soothing and refreshing and the Body Shop sells a TSA friendly reviving peppermint foot salt soak.
4.) Keep your feet clean and dry and treat minor scrapes and cuts with careful consideration. Seek medical assistance for major injuries, as well as those minor ones that aren't responding to basic first aid care.
5.) Wear flip flops in showers and never walk barefoot. I once saw something squiggling under my flesh after walking barefoot on a Malawian beach. Apparently there is a world full of microscopic animal fecal parasites just waiting to crawl through a minuscule break in your skin and build a nice, warm nest.
6.) Tired, over heated, swollen feet want TLC at the end of the day. A cold water bath is my favourite, but in a pinch I've plunged my feet into an ice filled sink, wrapped icy cold, wet towels around my feet, and even rolled tired arches over vending-machine cold cans of soda.
During Your Trip
Once You're Home
1.) See a health care provider to follow up on any lingering foot concern. Registered massage therapy and physiotherapy treatments feel great and also ensure foot strength, range of motion, flexibility, and stability.
2.) Re-evaluate what worked well on your trip and what didn't and take the time to restock your first aid kit and invest in new socks for the next trip.
3.) You've earned your pedicure! It's time to indulge!
Time For Controversy! To Pop or Not To Pop Blisters?
Medical opinion generally favors keeping blisters intact, as an open wound is an invitation to infection. All that squishy fluid is actually protecting your sensitive, healing skin. The only time you should pop a blister is when it is so large and uncomfortable it prevents activity. Runner's World provides comprehensive information on blisters which is valuable for non-athletes. The Mayo Clinic provides easy-to-follow steps on how to drain a blister hygienically if you feel it's absolutely necessary. (For the record, I find it to be nearly impossible to resist the temptation of popping a blister and if indeed you possess such phenomenal discipline, I applaud you!)
I'd love to hear from you! What's the best city for walking and wandering?
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