Content warning: graphic below.
Over the weekend, dozens of people who browsed (or were doomed) on Twitter came across an explicit reminder of the importance of quality hiking boots: a photo of Joyce Carol Oates’ excruciatingly painful-looking foot after a hike that she took in sandals. The picture quickly made the rounds. If you’d like to see the photo of the writer who is a National Book Award winner and a Pulitzer Prize finalist, you can scroll to the bottom of this article – but we warn you, it’s viscerally graphic.
The photo shows the side of Oates’ left foot covered in red, yellow and purple blisters that are about to burst. The environment is scaly and inflamed. In addition to sharing the photo, Oates added the caption, “It̵
Let’s repeat the first point she made there: it is incredible It is important to wear the correct walking shoes when hiking.
You need good walking shoes for stability and to avoid injuries like a rolled ankle, SELF previously reported. Using hiking boots that fit properly also reduces the risk of a classic hiking problem: blisters. Here is a guide from the Appalachian Mountain Club on how to make sure your hiking boots fit properly.
If you want to carry brand new hikers on a long hike, break them in around the house first or on a shorter trial hike to avoid blisters. You should also avoid wearing them with cotton socks, as cotton absorbs moisture and sweat, which can lead to friction and even more blisters, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Wool and synthetics are best. Also pack blister bandages in your hiking bag or even apply them proactively before you set off.
Proper hiking shoes also protect your feet from the elements, which brings us back to Oates’ predicament. Depending on where you’re hiking, you might be walking through poison ivy, which can cause redness, itching, swelling, and blisters, according to the Mayo Clinic. You could also come into contact with poison oak. Poison oak and poison ivy have similar symptoms because they both cause contact dermatitis when a substance irritates your skin and causes a reaction, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. The resulting rash usually heals within three to four weeks. This is a long time to deal with your skin, which essentially freaks out after coming into contact with something toxic. If you come into contact with poisonous plants, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend washing your skin thoroughly, using a damp compress and / or calamine lotion, and using antihistamines to treat the rash calm down.
Also very noteworthy: wearing hiking boots instead of shoes like sandals can also protect you from tick-borne diseases. The first that likely comes to mind is Lyme disease, which, according to the CDC, can cause a bullseye-like rash, as well as fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes. Other tick-borne diseases include babesiosis, which often occurs without any signs but sometimes causes flu-like symptoms and even anemia, the CDC says, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which can (obviously) cause fever, headache, muscle aches, and possibly a rash, among other symptoms. In some situations it can even be life threatening. What to Take: Covering your feet while hiking is important for all sorts of reasons.