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Long, Virorous Hikes Take Toll on Feet and, Ankles.

As brightly colored leaves dazzle the fall landscape, hikers and hunters na-tionwide will migrate to mountains, woods and fields. Many, unfortunately, are ill prepared for the beating their feet will take. Hikers, hunters and others who love the outdoors often don’t realize how strenuous it can be to withstand constant, vigorous walk-ing on uneven terrain. Lax physical conditioning and inappropriate foot-wear bring scores of outdoor enthusi-asts into our office each fall for treat-ment of foot and ankle problems such as chronic heel pain, ankle sprains, Achilles tendonitis, fungal infections and severe blisters. Walking up and down steep hillsides and tramping through wet, slippery fields and wooded areas puts stress on the muscles and tendons in the feet and ankles, especially if you haven’t conditioned properly before hitting the trail. Also, many don’t realize that cross-training athletic shoes aren’t the best choice for extended hiking and hunting. Had some of my patients worn sturdy, well constructed hiking boots, they wouldn’t have suffered sprained ankles or strained Achilles tendons. Good advice to hikers and hunters is to make the investment in top-quality hiking boots. Strong, well insulated and moisture-proof boots with steel or graphite shanks offer excellent ankle and foot support that helps lessen stress and muscle fatigue to reduce injury risk. The supportive shank decreases strain on the arch by allowing the boot to distribute impact as the foot moves forward. If a boot bends in the middle, don’t buy it. In wet and cold weather, wearing the right socks can help prevent blisters, fungal infections and frostbite. We recommend synthetic socks as the first layer to keep the feet dry and reduce blister-causing friction. For the second layer, wool socks add warmth, absorb moisture away from the skin, and help make the hiking boot more comfort-able. Wool lets moisture evaporate more readily than cotton, so fewer blisters develop. What happens if your feet or ankles hurt during a hike or hunt? Pain usu-ally occurs from overuse, even from just walking. If you’re not accustomed to walking on sloped or uneven ground, your legs and feet will get tired and cause muscles and tendons to ache. To avoid serious injury, such as a severe ankle sprain or an Achilles ten-don rupture, rest awhile if you start hurting. According to the ACFAS consumer website, www.FootPhysicians.com, pain is a warning sign that something is wrong. Serious injury risk escalates significantly if you continue hiking in pain. Hiking can be likened to skiing, in that beginners should take on less difficult trails until they become better conditioned and more confident. Evaluation by a foot and ankle surgeon is recommended if there is persistent pain following a hiking or hunting out-ing. I’m most concerned about ankle instability and strained Achilles ten-dons. Inattention to these problems at their early stages may lead to a serious in-jury that will keep you off the trails for a long time. Hikers and hunters seeking further information about ankle sprains, Achil-les tendon injuries and other foot and ankle problems may contact Dr. Brown at Scott Orthopedic Center. Call at 304-525-6905 or Toll-free at 1-800-631-9014.