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Taking Care of Yourself Out There

The author's foot in a wool sock. I used to have issues with my feet which would cause problems for longer and harder hikes so I decided to address them this year for the season.

Way back in the early oughts when I was graduating high school I was chosen amongst a group of my peers to participate in a mock government and military experiment put on by the American Legion. American Legion Boys State was held at a state university campus during the summer and we marched around and did pseudo-military team building exercises and worked through an understanding of civics. Most of the kids were athletes of some variety and others like myself were more academically minded (nerdy). It was there, marching my butt off that I first broke myself with an ingrown toenail.

Embarrassing as it may be to not be marching around in a mock government, it showed me that I needed to be taking better care of myself. I went to bed exhausted every night, showing me the type of shape I was really in, and when my big toe throbbed red and purple I knew something had gone wrong.

Fast Forward to Outdoor Pursuits

I fixed my ingrown toenail at the time as best as I could manage, but it’s been something I’ve had to stay on top of. Into my adult life I began ramping up the difficulty of my hunting and fishing pursuits as I suppose most people do. The last few seasons, particularly out West for elk and mule deer I’ve been putting in a ton of miles on my feet.

It wasn’t until seeing a post from Gina a couple of years ago that it got my gears turning a little bit. She’d briefly mentioned toe socks while hiking, and we got into a side conversation about it. I suppose it didn’t hurt that Remi Warren opened one of his original Cutting the Distance podcasts with a story about taking better care of yourself and your feet. The story was about getting gangrene, or trench foot in camp. I was terrified, I already had bad feet, and if the people I looked up to in the outdoor world to some extent had already raised the alarm, perhaps I should pay attention.

Fixing a Real Issue

So without going into too many details, I’ve always had “gross man feet”. I’d had a case of athletes foot and a toenail fungus that caused thick nails. With thick nails, it makes it hard to gain purchase with a toenail clipper. Slippery slope, and if you’re already prone to ingrown toenails, it makes it way way worse. You know when that type of thing gets really bad? When you’re trying to put miles on ridgelines, hunting off camber hillsides, descending a slope with a heavy pack and your feet are slopping around your boots. It had to be fixed. Taking care of yourself should be the norm, not something you let fall by the wayside.

But I was super paranoid about the whole process. I’d been scared off of toenail fungus medication before since it might have negative effects on your liver. Perhaps it was the fact that my father seemed terrified by the whole idea. Why take medication where the side effects are potential death, or liver failure if it means fixing your feet? But in addition to the other maladies I already had flat feet with limited arch, which I’d helped along previously with my boot selection.

Seeing the Doc

This past year I reached out to Dr. Kevin Blue at Colorado Foot and Ankle Sports Medicine. He helped set the record straight for me. It seems that fear related to liver damage I had was super overblown, and you’d need to be a fairly heavy drinker for that to matter even in the slightest. Any of the other side effects were minor, and they’d ordered a blood test to check liver function 30 days into my treatment.

Lo and behold, I started to see some results pretty much immediately. Taking care of myself had paid off yet again. It just took some time as the Terbinafine (Lamisil) worked its way through my system. It was a few months yet before my toenails were back to normal, but it was absolutely worth it. No more hotspots that were out of my control, and the long miles felt easier again — as long as I was in shape.

Making Some More Changes

On top of that last season I made some other changes, small ones. I did in fact start using wool toe socks as a base sock during my hikes. Separation of the toes helps with rubbing that might otherwise occur during longer hikes or in shoes where the toebox is otherwise crowded. Gina had been right all along — they’re the bee’s knees. I went with injinis but there are so many options to choose from.

Taking care of yourself, and especially your feet should be on the top of your to do list for making sure you’re prepared for the woods this season. I’ve still got plenty of room for improvement myself. Cardio, cutting weight, weight training, distance hiking improvements are all on the list for me to work on.

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Tags: , Last modified: March 8, 2024