Striped socks hanging out to dry while making miles on the Oregon Desert Trail, photo by Whitney La Ruffa
A quick and easy trick to help keep your feet happy while out on a multi-day, week or month hike is to change your socks mid-day. Putting on a fresh pair of socks midday is a luxury for a long-distance hiker, but it also has some big benefits.
Grit, Dust, Grime, Mud, Sweat, and Dirt all lead to socks getting dirty and making a mess of your feet-photo by Katie Gerber
By changing your socks throughout the day, you will help reduce the risk of developing blisters from sweat and grit. As we walk we all know our socks get grit, sand and other little debris in them making the once soft sock more like sandpaper rubbing against your skin. This constant abrasion will cause hot spots that eventually become blisters.
I have found the best way to keep my feet happy is to rotate the two pairs of socks I bring to hike in throughout the day. I often try to make my switch by a water source so that I have some extra unfiltered water to clean the dirty pair with. Now being a Leave No Trace master, I realize that washing my socks in the water source is a no-no, so instead I always have 1 gallon sized ziplock designated as my laundry bag.
Trail Side Laundry, or maybe the worse shake ever know to humankind, photo by Katie Gerber
I have found that there is no need to use soap, but. that a few rounds in the ziplock bag are needed to really get the socks clean. Once I have a dirty pair of socks I simply throw them in the ziplock bag, add water and walk away from the source for the cleaning. I shake the bag vigorously for a few minutes then drain the water rng the socks and repeat the process until the water shows little to no dirt after a few rounds.
Once the dirty socks are washed I hang them on my pack under compression strap or front pocket so they can dry during the day while I walk. Typically by the time I get to camp this pair is dry so I can keep these for the morning and repeat the process again with my now dirty socks as my dinner is cooking.
Give this proven technique a try on your next hike and I'm sure your feet will thank you.