Tag Archives: new skills in the bush

How to Treat Blisters

By Caro Ryan from LotsaFreshAir.com

Blisters can be a serious pain, literally! So we delve into a some tips and tricks to help you treat blisters more effectively.

Do you remember the old fairytale of the Princess and the Pea? Even when the Princess was lying on top of 99 mattresses, she could still feel the tiny little pea hidden underneath at the very bottom.

In this post, Caro Ryan from Lotsafreshair shares her wealth of hiking experiences with us to help us avoid and treat those nasty blisters. In the same way, it’s incredible how something that can be so tiny (yes, pea sized) can cause so much grief and trouble when out hiking in the bush.

How is it that something so small can reduce grown adults to jittery messes, ruining an otherwise wonderful outdoors adventure? Is it any wonder that it’s vital for every hiker, trail-runner, bushwalker and trekker to learn how to treat blisters?

Ouch! Blisters can be a serious problem.

Preventing blisters is the key

Like so many things to do with spending time outdoors, a little bit of planning and preparation certainly makes all the difference. This includes:

Breaking in your shoes

  • This may sound like the most obvious preventative, but so many people seem to ignore this step, even when undertaking multi-day trekking adventures or ultra marathon events, even when they’ve known about them for months.
  • Simply wearing your new shoes around the house or to the office for a couple of days beforehand isn’t going to cut the mustard. You need to put your feet and shoes through their paces by doing the planned activity in them, in similar terrain, for an extended period of time. In our busy lives this isn’t always possible, but do the best you can.
  • If you’re going trekking, wear your new shoes/boots whilst doing training walks, with a pack of the same weight that you’ll be carrying, on rough terrain. Build up your ‘foot fitness’ the same as your body. Start with a couple of hours at first, then half a day and eventually a full day.

Toughening up your skin

  • There’s a few different ways of doing this, but the best one I’ve found is to spend as much time as possible walking around the house in bare feet. You could also try wearing your shoes without socks for shorter walks (watch out for hot spots!) and I’ve had some success with the methylated spirits technique.

Good quality socks

  • Sometimes it feels as though the humble sock goes through some sort of scientific breakthrough every week with new materials and designs. As much as some of this is marketing hype, the outcomes from wearing good quality socks, designed for your sport, can’t be denied. I’m a fan of merino wool for their wicking qualities and ability to breathe… not to mention the non-stinky factor.

Learning to tie your laces

  • This isn’t just something you do in kindergarten. By being smart with the way you lace your shoes and tie them, you can shift the pressure points in your shoe for maximum comfort and stability. I’ll be doing a future post on this soon!

Pre-emptive strike

  • If you are susceptible to blisters or hotspots and know where they occur, I recommend arming your feet in advance. You can use tape eg. Fixomul or Wonderwool.
Stop and treat them early or it will only get worse.

During an activity – What to do with blisters?

If you’re out on a hike and start to feel a little niggle in your shoes (no matter how tiny), I have one thing to say to you. Stop. Stop now. Stop quickly. Don’t hesitate. Don’t think it will get better – it won’t. And whatever you do, don’t think you’ll just keep powering on because you don’t want to hold up the rest of your party.

Trust me, your whole group will be much happier if you address the hot spot now, whilst it is manageable and treatable, rather than waiting until the skin flap has torn and you’ve got a bleeding, weeping, oozy mess in your shoes that you can’t walk on.

There’s 3 (or 4!) different levels of blisters:

  1. Hot Spot
  2. Closed Blister
  3. Open/Torn Blister
  4. Disgusting, debilitating mess
Taping. It may not look pretty but it’ll keep you moving.

How to Treat a Hot Spot

A hot spot is the first stage of a blister, before the liquid has formed and a blister is apparent. As the name suggests, it will just be a point of rubbing, pain or discomfort in your shoes. That is the moment you need to stop and treat it before it develops into a blister. Here’s some tips on how to treat a blister hotspot.

They can happen anywhere inside your shoes. Heels, arches, between your toes, you name it… hotspots don’t discriminate.

Start by removing or repairing the cause of the hotspot

Take a look at your shoe, socks, lacing, toes and toe nails. Is there something there causing rubbing that you can fix? Shake out the shoes for any hidden grit, sand, dirt and debris, inspect the inside of your shoe and sock for any offending items.

Protect the hotspot

Applying padding and protection to prevent it from developing into a blister. My weapon of choice is humble Fixomul, which is a slightly stretchy, mesh, breathable tape. If it’s a very minor niggle, I’ll just apply one layer, however the great thing about Fixomul is that you can add layer upon layer. Make sure that there’s no folds in the tape and keep it smooth in application, otherwise you could develop another hotspot.

WonderWool

Another approach is to use a product such as WonderWool. This all natural, straight off a sheep’s back fluffy goodness, is like taking the best bits of your ugg boots and inserting pieces of it inside your socks. It is designed to not only absorb moisture, but to also provide padding and separation between rubbing points. It’s particularly good between toes.

Natural protection such as SmartWool works incredibly well.

So, if you’ve (sadly), moved past the limits of a hotspot and developed a blister, you’ll find yourself faced with a decision. To pop or not to pop? In the end it has to be your choice and depends on many factors. Do you need to keep moving in these shoes? How far/long? Are you in a climate or conditions where infection is more prevalent? For myself, I generally choose to pop and here’s my process:

How to treat blisters

I feel that popping or lancing a blister to drain it is the best approach. The reason is that you’re able to control the manner in which it pops, release the liquid, clean and then apply an appropriate dressing to aid healing and hopefully avoid infection and assist in pain management. If you leave the blister closed, just cover it and keep walking in the same shoes, you’re at risk of the skin flap tearing in an uncontrolled way and then having more issues to deal with.

  1. Clean the blister and surrounding area with antiseptic (eg. Betadine) solution.
  2. Using a sterilised needle or lance, pierce the blister skin and gently drain the fluid away. Depending on the size, I will pierce it in 2 or 3 places to evenly drain the fluid.
  3. Apply gentle pressure to release as much fluid as possible.
  4. Apply a non-stick dressing (in it’s simplest form… a bandaid) of appropriate size.
  5. I usually will hold this in place with some Fixomul over the top.
  6. If the blister is particularly bad or painful it’s important to apply padding: cut a ring shaped donut from something like a foam mat, to protect the blister from having something applied directly over the top.
Protect the hot spot to stop it developing into a blister.

At the end of each day

  • Give your feet a chance to dry out and escape from their sweaty homes, especially if you’ve done any creek crossings and have wet shoes and socks. Taking a pair of Crocs and clean, dry socks for camp is a simple, lightweight way of doing this, whilst protecting your feet from any injury around camp.
  • Use fresh socks with no grit or sand in them and watch out for older socks becoming ‘crusty’.
  • After your activity and the blister has healed, start the cycle again of trying to toughen up your feet and continuing to break your shoes in.

Editors Note…

Thank’s Caro for providing us with great tips on how to treat blisters! We know how debilitating they can be so any tips to help treat as well as reduce the likelihood of them starting, is a huge plus.

A Love In Equal Measure

Lying beside a campfire under a blanket of stars and being the first to see the sun rise in a remote and spectacular landscape far away from civilisation.

The thrill of speed and wind in your face as you hurtle through a sun-dappled forest, skipping and gliding over rocks and drops, butterflies in your tummy, heart racing with joy.

These are just some of the simple pleasures I have experienced in my life due to a love for mountain biking and hiking, which have allowed me to explore new places and discover incredible natural wonders.

I don’t claim to be the worlds most well-travelled and I’m fully aware that I have only scraped the tip of the iceberg in what’s out there, but you know what? I feel privileged and fortunate to of experienced these few things. Yet on the same hand I feel saddened to know that many others out there, may have not.

Australia…what a place! Brinkley Bluff, Larapinta Trail, NT, Australia. Pic:©Jason Lorch

I thought it was time to write something about why I started Tyres and Soles. I often feel that there is this divide between bikers and hikers and it infuriates me! Why? Because there really is no need. We all want the same things but for some reason we have forgotten the art of communication. But first, let’s go back a little bit in time…

Where Did It All Start For Me?

I was raised on a farm in West Wales, Pembrokeshire, where I was left to run wild on the farm, and further afield across the Preseli Mountains. Life was simple and always an adventure, be it by bike or by foot. I loved being outside running around, climbing trees, riding my bike and eating worms. Back then it was all fun to me, and still is today. I don’t eat worms anymore.

Where I grew up and played as a child (Can you spot me?).  The Preseli Mountains. Pembrokeshire, West Wales, UK. Pic:©Jason Lorch

Down Under

Fast forward quite a few years and shortly after getting married, my wife and I decided to emigrate to Australia, as you do. When we arrived down under we quickly wanted to explore and be out in nature as much as possible, and the great weather in Australia allowed us to do just that.

Exploring new trails with friends. Australia’s great weather allows you to get out pretty much every weekend. Pic:©Jason Lorch
The Australian beach. Pretty much every weekend here is akin to being on holiday, for a Brit. Pic:©Jason Lorch

In general, in Sydney anyway, it doesn’t rain for the majority of the year as it does in the UK. Yes, that may be a little unfair but the difference is really that dramatic. I urge you to go and live there for thirty years and you’ll see what I mean.

When the Bush is not the Bush

Once we settled, we started exploring the surrounding countryside with short day walks into what the Australians so lovingly call, “the bush”. I have to say right now, the Aussie outback is so much more than a bush. It’s frigging WILD out there!

It should be called the WILD. “Hey honey, lets go walking in the WILD this weekend” or “lets go WILD walking”. I think that would be a much more appropriate word for it.

As you can see, it’s pretty wild out there. Northern Territory, Australia. Pic:©Jason Lorch
So many places to explore and be a kid again. Royal National Park, New South Wales, Australia. Pic:©Jason Lorch

The more we explored, the more our sense of adventure grew. We wanted to experience the more remote areas and longer trips. We didn’t have the skills to do this and certainly didn’t want to risk getting into a sticky situation out there in the wild, as so many people do each year, sometimes with tragic outcomes. So, we started looking for clubs to join. This would introduce us to more experienced bushwalkers who could pass their knowledge on to us.

New Skills and Understanding

After some searching we found a great club called The Sydney Bushwalkers. Once joined, we started to learn a wealth of new skills and gained a better understanding of the bush and how to keep ourselves safe out there. This was an exciting time for us both. Our scope for adventure was opening up before us.

With new skills under our belt, our adventures grew and grew. It never get’s easier watching my beloved going over a big drop. Pic:©Jason Lorch

Amongst all the things we learned, being able to navigate by map and compass has been by far the most important for us.  These skills broadened our understanding of the landscape and allowed us to venture further into those remote areas we were seeking.

A Slower Pace

Walking through the Australian bush will reveal things that you wouldn’t necessarily spot when riding. You get to appreciate the details of every tree, every bush, every rock and every plant that you pass. You can reach out and touch it all.

At a slower pace you get to see things differently. Swamp Wallaby (I think), Sapphire Coast, New South Wales, Australia.  Pic:©Jason Lorch

Animals stay around a little longer before disappearing into the bush. Things are just that bit calmer and more serene.

Ssshhhhh be very still and you may spot one of these.  Eastern Water Dragon, Sapphire Coast, New South Wales, Australia. Pic:©Jason Lorch

Of course, I’m not saying this doesn’t happen when riding, but I cannot deny that walking through the bush will reward you with different sights and experiences. 

A Faster Pace

I’ve always been into riding bikes, it’s been in my blood since I can remember. The thrill of flying downhill, the challenge of a gruelling climb and the physical skills and mental aptitude needed to master a bike over varied and challenging terrain, are just some of the many things why I love it. And most of all, it’s that incredible feeling and state of mind called ‘flow‘ that you can achieve when you get to a higher level or riding ability.

Mountain Biking…you never stop learning. Pic:©Jason Lorch

Riding a mountain bike seems to be a never ending learning curve of which, I am still firmly on after nearly thirty years of riding, and you know what? I’m totally good with that. I think once you stop learning, you can quickly lose interest.

My wife Rebecca, racing for the first time. Look at that smile! Pic:©Outerimage

I don’t know about you but I need a good dose of adrenaline now and again, and mountain biking gives me an endless supply of that. But mainly, the reasons I love mountain biking are the same reasons I love to hike. It’s about being out there in nature.

Being out in nature…isn’t that what we all want? Pic:©Jason Lorch

The different experiences gained from both hiking and biking have opened up a new world of adventure and a smorgasbord of incredible experiences and memories for my wife and I.

Skills That Traverse Both Activities

There are many beneficial aspects of hiking and biking that cross over both activities. The emotions you go through when scrambling along an exposed section of trail or dealing with daunting obstacles on a trail you’ve never ridden before.

You have to quickly evaluate the level of danger, draw from your past experiences and make a decision. Pic:©Jason Lorch

Outside Your Comfort Zone

When riding, the decision to commit to a gap jump bigger than anything you’ve done before or when scrambling an exposed section of rock reaching for a handhold just out of grasp, will bring on emotions that push you outside your comfort zone. This is that magic place where we can surprise ourselves. This is where we grow, mentally and physically.

Pushing your limits and getting out of your comfort zone is where you will grow and feel the most rewards. Physically and mentally. Pic:©Jason Lorch

Being in Nature Helps Everyday Life Skills

The balance of risk versus reward is constantly on your mind and you will get better at judging this over time. There will be times when you will have to make a decision in a split second, drawing from all your past experinces and applying the skills you have learnt.

I can say that I have accumulated a wealth of skills from being out in the wild that have benefited my day-to-day life greatly such as; planning, leadership, communication and the ability to think rationally and clearly when under stress.

Long distance hiking requires a certain level of stoicism. Pic:©Jason Lorch

Let’s Get Physical

Now, that’s just the mental skills. What about the physical?

Hiking requires endurance, stamina, coordination and balance. The ability to get over obstacles, cross rivers, rock hop, scramble (which is one level down from actually needing a rope), route finding, and then of course carrying a pack for long periods of time.

All of these require a strong and flexible body and if you don’t have one before, you will after a few months of just getting out there and doing it.

Similar to cross country riding. A certain level of stoicism and endurance is needed for those long distance hikes. Pic:©Jason Lorch

Long distance hiking also requires a certain level of stoicism, not unlike cross country mountain biking.

Being comfortable with rock hopping and scrambling are all parts of hiking but look at what you can discover if you do. Pic:©Jason Lorch

Mountain biking requires balance, coordination, explosive power and endurance. The ability to translate fast approaching terrain and push your body into physical actions, recover and on to the next challenge, over and over again, is a physically demanding process.

If you’ve ever partaken in interval training at a gym, then this comes pretty close to it.

Good coordination, balance and explosive power are key aspects to the physicality of mountain biking. Pic:©Ben Sykes
Being in that state of mind called flow, is a very special place. You are absorbed totally with the enjoyment of the act and all the worries of the world disappear.   Pic:©Richard McGibbon

When you combine both activities, you begin to see similarities but also subtle differences to how these are applied in practice. The take away from both would be great core strength and balance combined with endurance and explosive power. I think that’s a bloody good combination of physical attributes to have.

So Why Doesn’t Everybody Do Both?

The hiking and biking communities are some of the friendliest we’ve ever been a part of. People look out for each other and are willing to help, no matter what. You really can trust your life with them. So, we get annoyed and saddened when we hear the whole hikers .vs bikers bullshit!

Unfortunately there are some bad apples out there on both sides, not making it any easier for this relationship to work. Luckily these are in the minority.

A love for hiking. ©Jason Lorch

We hear of MTB trails being built without any real understanding of the damage it may be causing to surrounding plant and animal life or precious and culturally important aboriginal sites. And on the other side of the coin, we hear of alarming stories of trail destruction that can cause serious accidents for riders, even stories of wire being attached at neck height along trails! Seriously! What is wrong with people!?

A love for biking. ©Jason Lorch

We hear stories from both sides of the coin, and it never seems to get any closer to being resolved. But the thing is, it really can work.

Hiking and Biking In Harmony

A place we went to find out about for ourselves recently, was the hidden gem of Tathra, situated on the New South Wales Sapphire Coast. The local riders and volunteers from the community have all worked together with BALC (Bega Aboriginal Lands Council) to create over 50kms of safe, environmentally sustainable multi-purpose tracks.

If this can be achieved here, then why can’t it be replicated elsewhere? 

The MTB and hiking trails at Tathra. It’s working. Pic:©Jason Lorch

Listening To Each Other

Listening to each others needs and wants is one part, but also understanding the importance of sustainable trail building is the the other, and that goes for both hikers and bikers. Perhaps MTB and hiking clubs need a helping hand? Perhaps advice and guidance from groups where this is actually working?

I understand that every area needs to be treated differently. Where it works in one location, it may not work in another and that’s fine, we can accept that, so long as we know the facts. We need to continue to work with experienced trail builders, conservationists, landowners and local councils, together on the same page.

Being out in the wild can help re-set and bring some much needed perspective to busy lives. ©Jason Lorch

I’m not going to go on about how I think we should tackle these things because to be honest, I don’t really know. What I do know is that there are much more experienced people than myself currently working hard on achieving these goals and making promising progress. I just hope we can speed things up a little. We seem to be drowning in red tape.

We All Want The Same Thing

Whether we find enjoyment by bike or by foot, we all want the same thing. We want to venture forth into the wild. We want to feel and experience its power and energy. See and hear the wonders it contains. To be in a place that calls out to our inner explorer.

A place where we go to find calm and peace. ©Jason Lorch

Sometimes a place to be pushed beyond our comfort zones where we learn new skills and discover things about ourselves we never thought possible.

Other times,  a place where we go to find calm and peace. To wash our brains of the madness that is life, to re-set and gain some perspective on things.

Stop procrastinating. Just get out there and do it! ©Hunt Bikes

So if you’ve ever wanted to try hiking or biking and come from different camps, then stop procrastinating! Just go and do it now, while you still can. Variety is the spice of life and I truly believe in that over-used and cheesy saying.

We all want the same things. Just to be out there. ©Jason Lorch

So when you’re next out there give a little thought for both hikers and bikers and don’t be so quick to judge each other. They are people just like you, who love being out there enjoying the same things as you do, albeit either by bike or by foot.

Hiking and biking may be from different chapters but it’s all from the same book. So lets raise our glasses and propose a toast to getting on the same page…clink, clink!