Nicholas Roberts is a long distance hiker, whose logged over 2,500 trail miles in Bedrock Sandals. Nicholas writes this guest post about his trail experience and shares quick tips for foot care while hiking in sandals. Follow Nicholas for more photos of his adventures.
Thru-hiking season is underway in the US. For those of you that are hiking in Bedrock Sandals, I hope these tips will help your feet stay happy despite the abuse they will endure by taking thousands of daily steps. I've crossed paths with many thru-hiking Bedrockers in the last couple of years, some with fresh socks and clean sandals while others are sock free and proud of the layer of dirt they've accumulated over the weeks or months. After having walked over 2,500 miles in Bedrocks, I've been in both positions myself and there's certainly nothing wrong with either, though I've learned a few things along the way.
In late July of 2017, I was in Northern California approaching the Oregon border while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and I was feeling absolutely beat. It must have been a combo of 100 degree heat most days, the raging wildfires that my trail family and I couldn't escape or breathe in, and the fine dusty dirt that the area had to offer which seemed to stick to your skin better than any dirt before it.
There was a lack of good water sources with no chances to soak your feet. The 30 or more miles per day created an edge of dry skin around my heals that began to crack and feel as if I was stepping on an occasional razor blade. Some people had the same dryness on the balls of their feet or around the edges of their toes. Keep in mind, shoe wearers had equally dry and cracking feet. At the time I just pushed forward not really concerned with a solution and thankfully the cracks (sort of) healed after a couple of days.
When the summer ended and I was back home planning my next hike I also started thinking about foot care. Here's how I've learned to manage.
First of all, it's important to take care of issues before things develop.
Use a heavy layer of lotion before you put on sleep socks at the end of the day. When I went back to hike burn sections in 2018 a friend gave me Gold Bond lotion while I was on the trail and it did wonders. It worked great because it wasn't too greasy and it absorbed well enough that it didn't act like a magnet for dirt. I'm definitely a take less kind of person which is one of the reasons I wear Bedrock Sandals, but in my opinion this is worth the weight to carry. Climbing salves have worked well for me too. I'd say if you have a go-to, then stick with that.
Scrub the dead skin off away from water sources with a rock after soaking your feet or in your hotel room tub when you're taking a zero if you can stop gorging yourself on food for a few minutes. I found that taking care of dead skin every week or two works best. When I got to Ashland I bought one of those common grey pumice stones and tried to get as much dead skin off as I could, but it did more damage then it helped. The pumice stone was too porous and didn't take off even layers. In Bend, Oregon I tried a metal callus file (also called a rasp) that worked way better by taking off gradual layers of skin. If you're thru hiking and bouncing gear forward maybe throw one of these in the box too. You can find them for less than $10.
Keep your socks clean if you wear any and rinse and rotate frequently.
Staying hydrated is very important for your skin especially when you're in the sun all day. Drink a bunch at water sources and don't forget about hydration while you're moving. It's sometimes easy to forget when you're cruising along listening to your favorite tunes or podcast and zoning out to the breathtaking views.