Healthy Hiking With Heel Pain
Hiking can be both an adventure and a form of therapy. There are trails out there for everyone from beginners to seasoned experts. You can go just to take in some wonderful natural scenery or surmount some natural challenges.
And living around Roseburg, we are blessed with plenty of great hiking opportunities!
No matter what trails you wish to take on, however, hiking and heel pain will never be a fun mix. After we take a look at some of the great places we can go, we’ll dive deeper into how we can reduce heel pain along the way.
Where Do You Want to Hike?
Our region has some extraordinary places to hike. It’s all out there to travel, and what you want to take on will depend highly on the amount of challenge you want to face and what you want to see.
The North Umpqua Trail
The Big One in our area, the North Umpqua Trail System starts northeast of Roseburg and provides 79 miles of beautiful pathways to a huge number of scenic views. Like waterfalls? This trail has 16. Like hot springs? You’ll find one along the trail, too!
North Umpqua is not a cakewalk, however. Most parts of the trail are rated moderate or difficult. You may want to be choosy about where on the trail you enter and how much you want to take on in a day.
North Bank Habitat Management Area
If you prefer something closer to Roseburg, the North Bank Habitat Management Area offers plenty of roads and trails that run along the creeks of the area. Please keep in mind, however, that you need to bring your own water for the day.
A little over 7 miles of trails await if you want to explore them all, and the trails are friendly to dogs and horseback riding as well. This trail is rated moderate overall.
Handling Hiking without Heel Pain
Now that you want to hit the trails, what are the best ways to do so without heel pain hobbling your efforts?
Well, we must get this one out of the way first: see us about any lasting heel pain problems you have. Heel pain is not normal; especially if it is happening every day. That is a sign of an underlying problem that must be addressed, and we have the experience and treatments to do just that.
A treatment plan that includes night splints, custom orthotics, or physical therapy (among many of the other methods we offer based on our patients’ needs) will not only better prepare you for hiking trips, but make you more comfortable in general day-to-day life as well.
But when it comes to helping avoid general heel pain from a day hike, there are some firm tips to keep in mind.
Get the Right Shoes
Going out on the trails in the wrong kind of shoes or socks can be outright punishing for your feet—especially when your heels are concerned.
For day hiking and general walking with light loads, the best types of shoes are lightweight trail-runners, cross-trainers, and boots. They should provide a good amount of cushioning for your feet, but remain flexible enough to allow easy movement across changing terrain. Shoes that are heavy and inflexible can create excess strain when you don’t need it, increasing the risk for heel pain. More durable boots tend to be sought for longer hiking trips over several days.
Above all, the shoes you choose should fit you well. Shoes that are too constraining or let your foot slide around too much will not provide the right amount of support you need. An associate at a sporting good’s store is trained to help you find the right shoe for your needs, so don’t be afraid to take up their offers for help.
Don’t’ Forget Good Socks!
Socks provide additional protection for your feet against the hard impacts of hitting a trail. Thin, worn out socks are not going to be comfortable and may contribute to aching heels by the end of your trek.
You don’t want to go too thick on socks, however. Too much heat and a lack of breathability will create a swamp in your shoes.
A good pair of hiking socks are made of a lightweight material such as Merino wool or nylon. These materials are soft but breathable—an ideal combination for surrounding your feet.
Give Yourself Some Break Time
Human feet were not designed to spend hours and hours engaged in activity without rest. (The same can be said for hours and hours of sedentary sitting, but that’s a topic for another blog.)
As we work to hike—especially when the terrain is challenging or the weather is hot—our feet are put under stressful conditions. They can develop microscopic tears in soft tissues, which is normal, but excess stress can make these tears into more severe problems such as plantar fasciitis.
Giving your feet a break a few times during your trek will give them some time to rest and recover—if just a little bit. About 15 minutes every 2-3 miles can be a good general guideline, but don’t be afraid to take a break sooner if you see fit.
If you find a good spot for doing so, sit down, remove your shoes and socks, and rest your feet up on your backpack. Blood has been pooling in your feet throughout the day and elevating them can help relieve swelling.
And, if you find a safe spot to dip your feet in a creek, go for it! Just make sure you dry your feet completely before putting your shoes and socks back on.
Are You Ready to Go?
Hiking is a great hobby for your body, mind, and spirit. We want anyone who wishes to get out there and enjoy the great outdoors the chance to do so without any nagging or debilitating heel pain.
If you have questions about heel pain—or any other conditions your feet or ankles may be facing—give us a call at (541) 673-0742. You can also reach us electronically by filling out the contact form on our website.