Healthy Hiking Guide

From Footwear To Fitness: Tips For A Healthy And Satisfying Hiking Season

Hiking is famously beneficial for practically everything: Heart, muscles, bones, blood pressure, mental health… the list goes on. But pain and injury can detract from your enjoyment and well-being. So in order to get the most out of your adventure, it’s important to consider your equipment and prepare your body for the experience. Get started with this guide including frequently asked questions and tips for your next hike.

What Shoes Should I Wear?

A healthy walk starts from a solid foundation: Your Feet! 

Proper footwear protects your feet and provides appropriate stability, support, and comfort for your desired terrain and activity level. One shoe isn’t necessarily optimal for all levels of activity though. Here’s a quick reference guide to help find the perfect fit:

Pavement Walking

A classic running shoe or walking shoes is fine for even terrain; They just need to fit your foot and consider your body weight.

Light Hiking

As the terrain becomes less even, you will want to look for more rigid support like a low-cut hiking shoe or trail running shoe. The soles are built more firmly and with more traction than a standard running shoe, yet remain light and have a low profile.

Rugged Hiking

If you are going to be hiking for a few hours on some rugged terrain, a true hiking boot that at least covers your ankles will be a worthwhile investment. These have appropriately rigid soles and stiffer material that support the foot and ankle joint.

It pays to have a professional help fit you! We highly suggest consulting your community of local experts.

Do I Need Orthotics?

Orthotics provide additional support for your foot in your shoe.

Try this test:

Most all athletic footwear have an inner footbed that is removable. Take the foot bed out and try to flatten it to the floor. If it flattens like a pancake, you can enhance the quality of the shoe by purchasing an off the shelf orthotic. While most do quite well these generic insert, custom-made orthotics are more durable and can be tailored specifically to your foot.

Learn more about Custom Orthotics here.

“Immediately after putting on my custom orthotic insoles from Cioffredi and Associates I noticed a difference in my posture. The improvement was amazing… My feet and legs feel so much better just after the first few days of using them. I love them and would recommend them for anyone having trouble with foot pain from standing on hard concrete floors! I know I will enjoy this summer hiking and walking with my family so much more with my new orthotics.” -Susan Donovan
Cioffredi & Associates is the leading, local provider of Custom Orthotics, with over three decades of expertise and satisfaction in the Upper Valley.

Should I Use Trekking Poles?

It depends on the person and terrain…

The basic pros and cons: You burn some extra energy in exchange for improved balance.

The amount may not be large but advantages in unweighting our joints and supporting our muscles may be greater or lesser for each individual situation and needs. The drawback is that there is increased strain on the upper extremity joints and muscles. Think about what your strengths and needs are when making this decision.

“[Cioffredi & Associates PTs] somehow made the pain go away…I have now reached my goal of having no pain and being able to go for walks again.” -Judy Ribeiro

How Much Water Do I Need?

Hydration helps regulate temperature, increases energy, promotes recovery, and boosts physical and mental performance.

  1. The rule of thumb with hydration is drinking one liter of water for every two hours of hiking. Err on the safe side and consider the weather as hydration needs will vary depending on the temperature.
  2. Start even before you start your hike to prime your body to perform and sip the fluid as you go, as opposed to long periods between stopping to take long large drinks. Your body can only store so much water and, if you drink too much at once, the excess is expelled.
  3. Dress (In Layers) For Success. Most hikers know to dress in layers to account for any changes in weather, but it also has the added benefit of helping to control the amount of fluid you lose through perspiration. 

Do I Need To Train?

Conditioning is key!

To get the most enjoyment out of walking and hiking and reduce the chance of injury, prepare your body for the season or planned trip. Our tissues adapt to stressing them and get stronger if we approach it gradually. Many times, we end up treating people who have just returned from a walking or trekking vacation for new pains and injuries. Situations like this, with days of long walks or hikes without sufficient recovery creates too steep a gradient and our tissues begin to break down. So think ahead! Arthritic joints and limited balance can improve substantially with appropriate exercise. Create an exercise plan to build you up and plan in recovery time as needed. 

You can start with a sample of fundamental exercises here, and we can also provide our clients with customized programs for their specific needs.

“I initially saw two specialists and had imaging done and a clear reason for my knee/leg pain was not identified. I decided try PT and Marsha’s assessment not only identified the issue; she was also able to suggest exercises to help with some ongoing lower back pain I’d been living with for a while too. Marsha was wonderful to work with. She explained everything in a way that was easy to understand, used multiple modalities to reduce symptoms, and built an exercise plan that I was able to reference and follow along with in an app at home to make sure I didn’t miss any of my daily exercises or stretches. After 2 months, I’m pain free most of the time, continuing to strengthen my trouble areas, and ramping up my training for a summer out on the trails. By far, this was the best practice I’ve received physical therapy services from and I highly recommend this team.” -S.G.

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