COMMON HIKING AND WALKING INJURIES
Some of the most common walking and hiking injuries are easily preventable: blisters on feet, sore hips and knees, cuts and scrapes, and dehydration.
What causes blisters? Friction or rubbing of the skin is one of the most common causes of blisters. Blisters caused by rubbing and friction can occur after walking, running or hiking long distances, especially while wearing ill-fitting shoes, or after performing other repetitive motions over an extended period of time.
There are several steps you can take to prevent blisters. The main goal is eliminating or, at least, minimizing friction to blister-prone areas. The first step to preventing blisters on your feet is selecting the correct shoes. But there are other ways to help prevent blisters, including socks, lubricants and even drinking more water! See our blister prevention page for extensive tips on how to prevent blisters.
Preventing blisters on feet has a lot to do with having the correct equipment. Protect your feet by purchasing shoes specific to your sport: hiking shoes or walking shoes. Socks matter, too. Like shoes, look for socks specific to your sport. And socks made of moisture-wicking synthetic blends, such as Coolmax®, are great at keeping feet dry and comfortable. See our blister prevention page for tips on tips on gear and more that will help protect against and prevent blisters.
HIP AND KNEE INJURIES:
Hiking or walking for long distances or uphill, can get experience extreme soreness in the hip and knee areas. But hikers, especially, can slip sideways on uneven terrain and dislocate their patella, warns an article on Trails.com. Hikers, or walkers, who do too much distance, too soon can develop knee injuries, including illiotibial band syndrome (IT band syndrome), patellar tendonitis or and/or bursitis.
Hiking and walking injury prevention is all about preparation. Work up to distances with a training plan. If you don’t have any nearby trails to practice on, you can train on a treadmill with this plan from Shape magazine. Remember to warm up slowly and stretch before your hike or walk begins in earnest. See our page on Hiking and Walking Safety during different seasons.
Trekking poles or hiking sticks can help balance you and support your joints, says the article on Trails.com. The article also says to avoid hiking when you’re too tired because fatigue hinders proprioception, or awareness of your body’s movement, which you need to protect joints as you walk over uneven terrain.
If your knees or hips are sore after a hike or walk, you need to rest. Let the muscles have a chance to recover. You can also take anti-inflammatory medication (such as ibuprofen) to help with any pain. Sore hips or knees may be a sign that you need to add strength exercises into your training routine. If pain persists for more than a few days, see a doctor.
CUTS AND SCRAPES:
When walking or hiking, pay attention to the ground around you. Hikers can encounter snowy or icy patches, depending on the season, or sloping or rocky trails. Wear appropriate shoes for your activity and for the time of year. See seasonal tips on our Hiking and Walking Safety pages.
Some hikers wear lightweight gloves during hikes to prevent cuts and scrapes from low-hanging branches or thorny brush. Hikers should always carry a first aid kit. For a list of what should be in your hiking first aid kit, see our page on Hiking Safety during different seasons.
To treat a cut or scrape, follow these instructions from the Mayo Clinic. Visit the link for more details.
- Stop the bleeding by applying gentle pressure with a clean cloth or sterile bandage. If possible, elevate the wound. Don’t lift the bandage to check on the wound or you may break the blood clot that is forming, and bleeding may start again.
- Clean the wound with clean, clear water. Use soap and water to clean the area around the scrape, but try to use only clean water on the actual wound.
- Apply an antibiotic cream or ointment – such as Neosporin or Polysporin – in a thin layer to the wound.
- Cover the scrape with a bandage.
- Deep wounds will require stitches. It’s best to get stitches in the first few hours after the injury occurs.
- Watch for infection. See a doctor if the scrape isn’t healing, or if you see redness, drainage or swelling or it feels warm or the pain increases.
- Get a tetanus shot if the scrape is deep or dirty and your last one was more than five years ago. Doctors recommend people get tetanus shots every 10 years.
Walking, hiking, running or cycling, you want to avoid dehydration. Follow the tips below and see our page on hiking, walking, cycling and running safety during different seasons.
Sip water throughout your hike. Carry two to four quarts of water with you, according to an article Appalachian Mountain Club.
The color of your urine is a good indicator as to whether or not you have been drinking enough water. An article by Runner’s World advises totally clear urine may mean you are drinking too much. If it’s dark – like iced tea, the article points out – you’re not drinking enough.
Sip sports drinks in addition to water or eat salty snacks, such as pretzels, to replenish lost electrolytes.
Try to avoid direct sunlight, take breaks in shady areas and don’t hike during the hottest part of the day – generally 10 a.m. to 3 or 4 p.m.
The article by the Appalachian Mountain Club reminds hikers to pay close attention to babies, small children and older adults. Check for signs of a dry mouth and reduced urine output.
If you need to drink water from a river or stream, make sure you purify it first. An article on the Boys’ Life magazine website says you can use a handheld portable filtering system, such as one from SteriPEN®, or a chemical treatment tablet, such as Potable Aqua® or Katadyn® MicroPur.
Make sure you are drinking plenty of water in the days leading up to your hike or walk. Take water with you in a water bottle. Handheld devices, such as one from Nathan or GoLite®, make carrying them easy.
The signs of dehydration in adults, according to WebMD, are: increased thirst, dry mouth and swollen tongue, weakness, dizziness, palpitations, confusion, sluggishness (even fainting), inability to sweat, and decreased urine output. Treat dehydration by drinking more water, advises the experts at the Mayo Clinic. Cool water is best for exercise-related dehydration, but sports drinks with electrolytes may also help. If the dehydration is severe, the person will need emergency treatment by an ambulance or hospital.