If you have a tag in your pocket and a plan for hunting the West this fall, preparation is key to success. It is incredibly important to get in “mountain shape” so that you can have the best hunt and the highest chances of success possible. If you are like me, you probably already started running, lifting, shooting and eating right in preparation for the fall hunting seasons that are just around the corner. By the time September rolls around, you should be strong enough, have enough endurance and be an accurate enough shot to give yourself the best opportunity to harvest an animal; however, there is one thing that can slow you down and has slowed me down in the past. Feet are often overlooked during the offseason, leading to cramps, blisters and downright painful hikes into the mountains. Here are five tips to take care of your feet preseason and during the season so you can be your best on the mountain and avoid foot pain along the way.
A pair of high-quality boots is a must-have for a western hunter; however, not every boot is suitable for every hunter. Purchase your boots ahead of time and try them out with your hunting socks inside. Climb up and down the stairs and wear them inside for a day or two. Boots are one thing that you used to have to go to the store for. Today, things are different and you can confidently buy boots online, especially from goHUNT. The great thing about shopping at GOHUNT is that they have hunting highlights of each boot available.
One of the most critical highlights they mention is the stiffness rating of each boot. Boot stiffness can dictate what activity you should be doing in the boot if you want healthy, painless feet. Most boots that are not overly stiff are ideal for trekking, flat hiking and moving quickly; however, more rigid boots are for side-hilling and climbing steep terrain all day long. GOHUNT also describes each boots’ insulation, which is important. What you are trying to determine is if the boot has the right amount of insulation for the activity you will be doing. If you plan to do a lot of early-season hiking, insulation is not as important, but if you plan on sitting in a treestand all day, you might want to up your insulation requirements unless you are okay with frozen toes. One of the biggest concerns I had was finding a boot that fit me right. GOHUNT has sizing videos, size descriptions and sneaker size comparisons that allow you to feel confident in your purchase. If that weren’t enough information, GOHUNT also allows you to return undefiled boots hassle-free within 30 days.
Breaking in boots is a process of wearing boots to stretch out the leather or material and get them to fit your feet. To break in a pair of boots, you should wear the socks you plan on wearing hunting, then do a lot of walking and hiking. If you will be doing a lot of steep terrain climbing on your hunts, break in your boots doing hill climbs or at least stair climbs. Just as important as breaking in your boots is breaking in your feet. Even if you have the best boots in the world, they can still hurt your feet, especially if your feet are “soft” and only used to sneakers. Wearing your boots before the season can help build calluses in places where you might need them, which will prevent pain later on. In my opinion, it’s crucial to put 50 to 100 miles on your boots before the season to get your feet used to your boots and your boots used to your feet.
Hiking in a good pair of wool socks is almost as important to me as having a good pair of hunting boots. Wool socks can come in multiple different insulation levels that will keep your feet warm without feeling bulky. A quality pair of wool socks can wick away moisture and allow your feet to stay dry. Dry feet will help keep blisters from forming when you are hiking and keep your feet warm when you stop to glass or wait for an opportunity. Always pack a backup pair of socks in your pack to change into if your feet do get wet or too sweaty. Take care of your feet and they will take care of you.
Even with the best boots and socks, hot spots and blisters are still possible. If you have been breaking in your boots during the offseason, you may already know where these will form. Using preventative tape on your feet in your common blister areas such as your heel or big toe will allow your feet to stay in good shape — even on days with long steep hikes. If you are hiking and you feel a hot spot or blister forming, it is imperative that you immediately stop and get it taken care of before continuing. Blisters on your feet can really ruin a hunting experience and make every step a painful one.
Another important tip if you want to take care of your feet is to consider a backup pair of boots. Whenever I go on a hunting trip, I always pack at least one extra pair of hiking boots. Whenever my feet hurt — and they usually do — I will do a morning or day hunt with an alternate pair of boots. This usually is enough to reset my feet and give those sore spots a break while my new boots aggravate slightly different places on my feet. A backup pair of boots may just be the ticket to healthy feet and happy hikes.
Though it might sound silly to think so much about your feet, they are super essential to your success and can easily make your trip miserable. No matter what you are hunting, it is vital to select the proper boots for the job and your feet, break them in, wear good socks, prevent blisters, take care of your feet and always have a backup. Taking care of your body and feet on a hunting trip is just as important as some of the preseason training you do. If you have ever had foot problems on a hunting trip, you will 100% agree with me. This fall, be sure to take care of your feet and they will take care of you!