I think we can all agree – proper foot care is essential to being a productive member of your team, but for whatever reason (possibly because it’s not a glamorous topic?), foot care rarely gets the press it deserves. Anyone who carries a heavy load for long distances has learned the hard way to pay attention to what matters most: their feet. What can we learn from ruckers to keep us moving longer, and more importantly, pain-free?
Those That Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail
The saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is never truer when it comes to jobs that have no margin for error – training, gear prep, managing logistics, or creating “Plan B.”
How does preparation apply to foot care? There are many things you can do to make sure your feet are ready for whatever your day has in store.
If you don’t prepare, you’ll pay the price down the road (pun intended).
Condition Your Feet
First, rucking or exercising regularly gets your feet accustomed to the grind of high impact activity and exposure to friction. It also reduces the likelihood of foot and ankle injury if your body is conditioned and accustomed to moving with or without weight. So, if you get called out to a scene where you are climbing stairs or trails, your feet will thank you for the time you’ve put in getting them conditioned to hard work.
Break In Your Boots
Next, break in your gear. Nothing is more painful than the first time out in new bunker gear or boots. A broken-in pair of footwear prevents hotspots by flexing more easily with motion and forming to the shape of your foot.
The best way to break in new boots is to start out by wearing them for short periods of time indoors. Gradually increase the wear time and begin to add short periods of time on varying terrains. Once the boots are flexible at the toe and the ankles have relaxed, you should be good to wear them for a full day. But don’t wear them for Bataan unless you’ve already completed a ruck or two in them! You don’t want any unpleasant surprises.
Dehydration, heat exhaustion, and physical injury will get you sidelined immediately, and blisters can do the same. Blisters are fluid-filled bubbles that develop on your skin when both moisture and friction are present. If not treated, they break, effectively removing your body’s protective barrier – the skin.
Don’t forget – if you’re in a wet or humid environment, or a generally unsanitary location, you’re creating the perfect conditions for an infection. Even if this is not the case, the inside of a shoe, being dark and damp, is the perfect environment to grow bacteria. Once your feet get wet or you start sweating, you’ll be suffering from hotspots and eventually blisters.
You can reduce the formation of blisters in a few ways:
- Wear socks that wick moisture away from your skin. Nylon or wool fibers are best for this. Cotton absorbs moisture – it doesn’t pull it away.
- If you are comfortable on your feet, a thinner sock will create less moisture, decreasing the likelihood of blisters.
- Wear boots that are well ventilated to promote airflow.
- If you’re in a very wet environment like a jungle, invest boots with drain ports. Ports with mesh covers are best because you don’t want dirt and debris entering through the ports.
- Your feet swell from the excessive physical activity. Wearing boots that will accommodate swelling will prevent friction.
Bottom line, if blisters aren’t prevented or contained, you’re generally setting yourself up for a world a hurt.
Choose the Correct Boot
It seems simple enough, but selecting the right size, width, and type of footwear comes with experience. If you wear a uniform, they will issue you the required gear or give you regulations on what is permissible for wear. However, if you’re an endurance athlete or hiker, you have innumerable options (and there are no right answers).
Tactical boots are often designed for rocky or rough terrain and offer more protection and support. Running shoe feature mesh panels that promote extreme airflow and keep your feet cool. Chukkas have a lower height which can eliminate ankle rubbing. Try as many pairs of footwear as you need to find what fits you properly, offers the right support, and can handle the activity you’ll be performing.
If you start to develop hotspots, which are painful indicators that a blister is forming, moleskin is your best friend. If you have to keep moving, place a patch on your hotspot to reduce the friction.
If you already have a blister, review the directions – they walk you through properly adhering moleskin to your foot. You never place the moleskin over the whole blister.
Some other preventative products include body glides and anti-blister balms. An antiperspirant spray will also help reduce sweating, in turn, reducing moisture.
As I stated at the beginning, the main thing that will keep your feet in rucking shape is preparation. Once you find the right combination of footwear and socks for your workload and the environment you’re in, stick with it.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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