Care Of The Feet

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." I have already said a good deal about the choice of shoes and stockings (Vol. I., Chapter IX). Let me add another reason for wearing heavy but soft woolen socks when you are in the wilderness, regardless of season; they ventilate the shoes. You probably will be wearing rather heavy shoes coated with some waterproofing preparation. The pores of the leather are filled so that no air can get through. But one's feet cannot be kept in good condition if the shoes are not ventilated somehow. Thick socks do it in this way: when your weight is thrown on one foot as in stepping forward, the air that was confined in the meshes of the fabric is forced out through the shoe tops (but not through a high laced boot) ; then, when the pressure is relieved, fresh air is sucked back to fill the partial vacuum. Thin socks, especially cotton ones, become saturated with perspiration, and little or no air can get into them at all: then the feet have their pores clogged and they become tender. Thin hose also admit sand and dirt more readily than thick ones.

One's feet can be toughened and hardened before starting on a hike by soaking them for some time, the night before, in a solution of alcohol and salt, or in one made by dissolving a tablespoonful of tannic acid in a wash-bowl of cold water. {American Red Cross Text-Book on First Aid.) A little alum in water may be substituted.

Every morning before starting on a hike, rub some talcum powder over the feet and dust some inside your shoes. One's underwear should also be dusted with it at all places where the garments are likely to chafe. If you have no talcum, then rub the feet with vaseline, melted tallow from a candle, or oil. Soap often is used for the purpose, but some soaps contain too much free alkali, which is bad for the skin; Castile or Ivory soap is not objectionable.

But the main thing is to keep the feet clean. Wash them well every evening, preferably in hot salted water. If they are strained, swollen, or hot, the best treatment is to rub them with alcohol or whiskey, but hot salted water and massage will do very well. Keep the nails cut close and square.

If the feet are washed in the morning, or when resting on the march, it should be done briskly, not by soaking, and they should be thoroughly dried, otherwise they will be tender. In winter, if water is hard to get, the feet may be cleansed by rubbing them with snow.

Should you step in water over your shoe-tops, or in any other way get the feet sopping wet, stop as soon as you can and wring out the hose; do not "walk them dry," for that makes the skin tender.

As soon as a blister is discovered, it should be opened in the right way, so that the skin may not be rubbed off and infection ensue. Sterilize a needle by holding it in the flame of a match. When it has cooled, prick the blister, not directly, but through the skin at the side, and gently press out the fluid till the blister is flat. Then put a light pledget of absorbent cotton on it, or a little square of sterilized gauze, and over this strap a bit of adhesive plaster, A second similar strap may be stuck on top of this in the opposite direction. Such a dressing keeps the skin from rubbing off, prevents infection, and enables you to travel on without inconvenience. A raw blister is treated in the same way, but a little Resinol or carbolized vaseline smeared on it with a clean splinter, before the pad is applied, will help it to heal.

When walking long distances, it is a wise plan to change feet with one's socks at noon.

Cramps in the leg muscles are best treated by massage.


In warm weather, one's first few days on the march will bring an inordinate thirst, which is not caused by the stomach's demand for water, but by a fever of the palate. This may be relieved somewhat by chewing a green leaf, or by carrying a smooth, non-absorbent pebble in the mouth; but a much Detter thirst-quencher is to suck a prune or carry a bit of raw onion in the mouth. One can go a long time without drinking if he has an onion with him; this also helps to prevent his lips from cracking in alkali dust.

Drink as often as you please, but only a sup or two at a time. Sip slowly, so as not to chill the stomach. If one drinks till he no longer feels thirst, he is likely to suffer first from "cotton mouth," and then from the cramp of acute indigestion.

Never try to satisfy thirst by swallowing snow or ice; melt the snow first by holding it in the mouth, if no fire can be had. It is best to eat a cracker or something with it, as snow water is bad on an empty stomach.

To Avoid Chill

Wear a woolen undershirt (woolen gauze for summer). Do not sit around when overheated and damp from perspiration, unless you have a sweater or extra wrap of some sort to put on. Do the same when reaching the top of a mountain, or other place exposed freely to the wind. But do not muffle up on the march.

Mountain Climbing

The city man's gait, to which I have already referred, is peculiarly exhausting in mountain-climbing. He is accustomed to spring from the toe of the lower foot, in going uphill. That throws nearly the whole weight of the body upon the muscles of the calf of the lcrA a misadjustment of strain that would soon wear out even a native mountaineer. The latter walks uphill with a woodsman's gait, planting the whole foot on the ground, and swinging or rolling the hip at each stride, thus not onlv gaining an inch or two in his pace, but distributing the strain between several groups of muscles. When going downhill, bend the knees considerably so that the leg forms a spring to land on at each stride.

In Dent's Mountaineering are given some useful hints to climbers that I take the liberty of condensing here:

In walking up a steep hilt, go slowly and steadily. If you cannot talk without catching your breath, it is a sure sign that you are going too fast.