This is a guest post by CMH Bugaboos Hiking Guide, Lyle Grisedale.
When I teach mountain walking to Heli-Hiking guests on a CMH Summer Adventure they are amazed at the lack of blisters, how much easier it is and how much terrain we can cover.
Although we can sometimes blame ill fitting boots for blisters, I have found proper walking technique goes a long way in preventing blisters. Don't get me wrong, good fitting boots are also important, but the way we walk is a much bigger contributing factor in the development of blisters.
Here are some walking suggestions that will prevent blisters from developing:
1st - What you are wearing:
Socks: Never wear cotton socks, wool is the very best and you can buy excellent specially designed hiking socks from companies such as Thorlo, Icebreaker and Wigwam. Allergic to wool? Try Merino wool - its fine fibres are non itching and should not cause allergic problems.
Boots: When buying boots it is very important to get a boot that has an excellent heel counter, the more supported the heel is the less likely that you will get blisters.
2nd - How you walk:
We spend most of our life walking on engineered surfaces: sidewalks, pavement, etc. All stair risers are the same height: 7 inches. This makes walking very easy and because of this I think people get out of touch with their feet. Then, when they get to the mountains on rough trails, or come heli-hiking on a CMH Summer Adventure, we mostly walk off-trail or on game trails. As a result, people often take big, inconsistent steps and blisters become a problem. So, most importantly people need to change their stride. In rougher terrain a long stride causes us to press onto our toes as we move to the next step, and as soon as you lean onto the toe the heel comes into contact with the back of the boot and causes friction - especially walking up hill.
Also, we can prevent blisters by changing our heel-to-toe, rocking walking style. Instead, try to place the foot down parallel to the slope and pick it up parallel to the slope for the next step without getting up on to the toes. This way the foot comes straight up rather than rocking onto the toe and moving in the shoe causing friction.
Then when going down hill:
• Take small steps - As the foot is placed ahead, point the toes down so that the foot lands parallel to the slope.
• Lean slightly forward at the waist to eliminate heel slips on loose rock.
• Keep your knees slightly flexed.
This walking style prevents blisters, results in less stress on the knees and is more stable.
Remember, you don't need long strides to cover big distances; small steps will take you just as far with out stressing the feet and causing blisters.
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