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Prevent Hiking Injuries

Prevent Shin Splints
Avoid Knee Injuries
Stop Blisters

Oct 1, 2020

Walking is a pleasurable pastime to be enjoyed. Your body is designed for walking and it does it very well. However, if you injure yourself, walking will lose a lot of the shine. 

Three common injuries can incur and, like most things in life, prevention is better than cure. The best prevention is training, and the best training for walking is walking.

Prevent Shin Splints

Arguably the most painful and possibly debilitating hiking injury is the shin splint.

Shin splints are caused by a long repetitive activity (walking, running, etc.) for which your body has not been prepared. This can cause stress on the shinbone and the tissue which attaches the muscles to the bone.

The best way to prevent this stress is to keep your body upright when walking and adopt a relaxed strolling style.

Leaning forward when walking will over-flex the bone and muscles. To experience this, stand upright with your hands by your side and point your elbows outward. Now lean just your upper body forward. You will feel your shins, tendons and lower leg muscles straining.

Your body is designed for walking and it does it very well.

If you are carrying a pack ensure all the weight is on your hips via the hip belt. This will stop you leaning forward and the subsequent strains.

If you feel pain around your shins when walking, the two best things to do are to slow down and shorten your pace. Again, training will build your body better.

hiking up stairs

Be especially careful walking on uneven surfaces. 

Lookout at one tree hill
Comon Hiking Problem

Avoid Blisters On Feet

The most common form of walking injury is blisters. And the most common cause of blisters is incorrect footwear.

Blisters are formed by friction between your footwear and your skin. This is enhanced by moisture, heat and salt, (which is produced by your sweat as you walk!)

Walking footwear needs to be at least a full size bigger than your normal footwear. This is because your feet will swell when walking distances.

A size larger also allows you to wear two pairs of socks, a thin inner sock and a thick, cushioning outer sock. This is so your footwear and your outer sock will rub on your inner sock and not your skin. Prevention is again the best. 

Six Blister Preventative Measures 

  1. Ensure your footwear has been properly broken in and has shaped to your feet.
  2. Ensure your laces are loose around the toes and tight around the ankles. This will stop your feet sliding within your footwear. 
  3. When you stop for a break, air your feet to allow them to dry somewhat and swap socks for a fresh pair or swap socks between feet to prevent creasing.
  4. Coating your feet with Vaseline or antiperspirant will lessen sweating.
  5. Small gaiters or bowyangs will prevent debris and small rocks from getting in your footwear, causing more rubbing.  
  6. Toe separators are available from chemists or online, will prevent blisters forming between your toes if you are susceptible to this. 
avoid walking injuries
Common Walking Complaint

How To Avoid Knee Injuries

There are many ways to injure ankles and knees. Despite his cheerful demeanour, the person pictured above was going too fast down a descent and skinned a knee and broke an ankle in a fall.

But, apart from injuries caused by accidents, there are common walking injuries to your knees that can be avoided.

The knee joint is designed to work in only two dimensions, forward and back. The most common injury occurs when you introduce a third dimension to the joint by swivelling repetitively.

Swivelling can occur by walking on uneven ground or awkward ascents and descents. The best prevention is to always look at where you are going and plant your feet firmly.

Most of us live in an urban environment, so our gross motor skills are not trained to deal with uneven environments. Again, the best preparation is training to build these skills. 

Another common knee injury is bursitis. This is when the fluid-filled sack that cushions the joint bursts. This occurs when the sack is under stress during descents or overstretching.

To avoid this injury

When descending, bend your legs so the muscles take the strain. The two best aids for the above two injuries are knee braces to stop your knees from swivelling and Nordic style walking poles, which will transfer some of the force experienced during descents to your arms. 

Walking poles also act as a tactile extension which, with practice, will allow you to feel where you are in space and can save you from stumbles.

bloody knee

Finally; Take it easy and watch where you are going.

Pictured above are two injuries (broken ankle and skinned knee) both caused by going too fast and not paying enough attention to rough surfaces. Take care.

by Peter Thomas

by Peter Thomas

Scouting Leader Trainer

A passionate outdoorsman, Peter is a Leader Trainer and Bushwalking Instructor on the National Training Team of Scouts Australia.

An avid walker and writer, Peter scribes a travel blog that includes many of his favourite walks in the Australian wilderness and his various adventures upon the Camino trails.

Keep an eye out for Peter when you come to Canberra for the Rotary Aussie Peace Walk. He’ll be walking on the tracks with you.

You will find Peter’s blog at Lighten the Trip Fantastic.

‘Leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but photographs. Kill nothing but time.’

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