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Friday, September 14, 2007

Boots'r made for trekking

Good quality walking or hiking footwear will generally come with better fitting options and will usually last longer. Ill fitting footwear only inhibits progress making the trekking experience uncomfortable and potentially dangerous, especially in remote areas. It is your preference whether you wear shoes or boots and the all important thing is they fit the feet comfortably. Feet need to be familiar with your walking boots long before starting journey and it is not recommended to take new boots on a trek. Shoes are usually lighter than boots but do not have high ankle support which is sometimes required when climbing steep slopes. With good fitting shoes you can wear ankle straps which are supportive. It takes more energy to walk down slope and sure footedness is critical. The sole of the shoe should be stiff but flexible enough at the ball of the foot to allow natural walking to arise. Waterproof footwear is ideal for cold, wet conditions but in hot weather, mesh uppers are lighter, faster drying and more breathable. On many treks you are likely to run into changeable weather so you may consider taking take two pairs. A laced boot should hold firmly around your entire foot without feeling too cramped. The big toe should not be pressed against the uppers and when you stand on your tip toes the heel should not slip out of the shoe. Ask for an incline board so you can test boots for downhill foot position, or stand with the heel on a small step and the toe on the floor. If the boot feels comfortable but there is a definite foot movement within then there are insoles which can help fit but care is required since not all are ideal for the kind of conditions you will face. An informed retailer should be able to advise. Boots designed for mixed terrain and pack carrying are probably the best for most serious travellers. They have a stiffer sole which gives additional stability and increased under-foot protection to handle some off-track walking. During the trek keeping the feet dry is critical. Footwear must have a tough moulded soles which ensure no water can seep through from the surround. Traditional leather uppers remain popular but there are now lighter, "breathable" and harder wearing waterproof fabrics available. Unless the leather is treated it will absorb water and take longer to dry out, when saturated. Good warm socks are recommended. Ideal socks are made from synthetic looped material to give extra padding around toes and heels and are seamless. Some material can "wick" sweat away from the skin surface. Many people advocate wearing two pairs of socks, a thin pair made from cotton or synthetic fabric next to the skin, and a thicker outer pair on top, this helps cushion the feet, keep the feet warm and prevents blisters Carry a small container of baby talc and puff the skin to reduce friction over vulnerable areas like in between the toes. On long treks, bumps, holes and darning stitches cause severe irritation and blistering, so keep plenty pairs of extra socks. Keep the feet warm and dry and covered at night. Feet swell during walking, so lacing (or Velcro fastening) is best for fit adjustment. You can also take out the shoe insole to give you more room. There is approximately 6mm of dead space in any shoe and most shoes will have replaceable inlays which improve comfort. Inlay materials vary with some better suited to harder conditions than others. Plastazote is a very good lightweight material which you can fit yourself. The material is thermoplastic and insulates the skin, keeping the feet feeling warm. It is important to keep your boots as supple and as waterproof as possible, always treat them according to the manufacturers’ instructions. Make sure your boots are kept clean and, if they become wet, fill them with scrunched-up newspaper and place them away from direct heat to dry over night. To improve traction especially on rough terrain keep the sole free from muck. Always cover any abrasion like a blister with band aids (several on the market) as soon as they arise. Do not be tempted to pop blisters as these can become infected easily. At the end of the day bathe the feet in warm (hand hot) water with a handful of table salt. The saline solution is antiseptic and has a mild stimulating effect and make aching feet feel better. Pat the feet dry with a towel and apply face cream to the feet (very soothing), before a light talc all over. Cover with dry warm socks. Avoid steeping your feet for long periods in hot water as this can have adverse effects on the function of the foot.

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