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Intense training or long marches can take their toll on even the toughest feet. To keep blisters at bay, fend off fungus, and keep your feet in top shape, give them a little extra care and attention. Read up on these common foot problems and find out what you can do to avoid them.
A "hot spot" is the precursor to a painful blister, so it's important to treat hot spots before they become blisters. Even if you can't prevent blisters 100 percent of the time, you can take a few simple steps to keep them to an absolute minimum:
- Reduce movement of your feet inside your boots. This is the first line of defense against blisters. Choose a boot that fits well — one that has been "sized" with your socks. Gel insoles or liners can also help you get a perfect fit.
- Keep your feet as clean and dry as possible. Change your socks often, air-dry your feet during halts, and wear synthetic socks that "wick" away moisture. Foot powders, cornstarch, and spray-on antiperspirants can also help you control moisture.
- Create a thin, sheer layer in your footwear system. Try wearing a "slippery" pair of liner socks under a heavier pair of shock-absorbing ones. Wrapping your toes with moleskin or taping your feet with athletic tape can help keep hot spots from forming. You can also try pressure pads, blister blockers, and blister kits available over the counter for blister prevention. Adhesive sprays and wipes can help these products adhere better to your skin.
A common fungal infection, athlete's foot usually affects the spaces between your toes but can also spread to the toenails, soles and sides of the feet. To avoid athlete's foot, be sure to
- Practice good hygiene. Daily washing with soap and water and careful drying between the toes can help prevent the fungus from forming. Keep feet dry by changing your boots and socks regularly and use a quality foot powder daily, both on your feet and in your boots. Keeping toenails cut short and straight across can help prevent the fungus from spreading to the nails. Using shower shoes or flip-flops in the shower can help you avoid contracting the fungus in the first place.
- Apply medication. Use an anti-fungal cream on the soles of your feet and on your toenails twice a week to help prevent the fungus from recurring.
Hygiene and post-march foot care
In addition to daily washing and thorough drying, good hygiene during training periods also includes
- A ten-minute foot soak in soap and water. Afterward, try removing any calluses with a pumice stone to keep your feet smooth. Foot treatments are also available with special ingredients to clean and comfort the feet.
- Inspect your feet regularly. Look for abrasions, blisters, or abnormalities. Seek medical help if needed.
- Give your feet proper rest after marches. Expose them to the air while keeping them elevated at times. It's a good idea to wear wider footwear when off duty to give sore spots some "breathing" room.
Socks and boots
Wearing the right socks and boots that fit properly can go far to prevent many foot injuries, including calluses, corns, abrasions, and blisters.
- Make sure your boots fit correctly. Boots that are too small will put pressure on your feet; too-large boots can create friction against your foot. Too-short, -long, or -narrow boots can also cause foot irritation and discomfort.
- Lace your boots properly. This can prevent blisters and improper blood flow.
- Wear non-cotton socks that fit well. They shouldn't be tight or baggy. When "breaking in" new socks, allow 3/8 of an inch for shrinkage. Socks that are too large will wrinkle inside your boot, causing abrasions and blisters. Socks that are too small will wear quickly and reduce blood flow in your foot. Change your socks at least daily, and more often when you can.