Monday, March 20, 2017

Walk Thoughts #14: I have to walk on that

Weirdly, my left foot hurts just as much but is showing no blistering or purpling. I'm able to walk without limping too overtly, but I don't think I'll be doing my creek walk tonight. Will more likely switch to building-staircase work.

I've had blisters like this before, and I've found the best thing to do is simply to walk on through them. There's a lot of nonsense literature out there about moleskin and so on, but I find that Mother Nature is enough of a self-correcting system that you can just keep on walking whether the blisters pop or not. If they pop, just don't mess with them.

Had you asked me yesterday afternoon whether I'd be able to stand 20-some days in a row of hiking that might produce such blisters, I'd have been tempted to say, "Hell, no." Today, after a day's rest, I can answer in the tentatively affirmative. I might be limping slowly by the end of each day, and a projected six-hour walk might stretch into ten hours (of walking plus taking breaks), but as long as I can rest for most of a day between walks, I think I'll do just fine, and my feet might even toughen up as we go along.

Brian had floated the idea of wearing walking sandals yesterday; it's a thought, especially for my pinky toes, but I'd be concerned about all the grit getting under my feet while on a dirt path (a few stretches, yesterday, were dirt paths); pebbles and grit can produce a much more distracting pain than blisters can.

One project for this week: get my shoes stretched—both my New Balances and my Rockports.

UPDATE, 9PM: I'm walking more or less normally, despite the nasty fellow in the above picture. You can indeed get used to the pain, which dovetails with what I remember from my 900-kilometer walk in 2008.


Charles said...

Your feet will not toughen up as you go along. Or, they will, but not enough to make that much of a difference. You just get used to being in pain.

My absolute least favorite parts of the Speyside Way were the paved parts, as they were just killer on the feet. Whenever I could I walked on the side of the road, just to have that extra cushioning of the grass/earth, and my feet usually still hurt at the end of the day. The worst section of the trail in terms of how much my feet hurt at the end of the day was the walk to Fochabers, which was long and entirely on paved roads for the last half. By the end my feet were begging me to put them out of their misery.

I get the impression that you're going to have it much worse; if I'm not mistaken, you are going to be walking on paved surfaces for the entire time, no? (Hopefully I am mistaken here, because that sounds like a nightmare.) Your pack is also going to be heavier than mine--my pack weighed somewhere around 11-12 kg, probably because I didn't have to carry food.

I don't want to be unduly harsh or scary, but I think you should disabuse yourself of the idea that you might be able to avoid being in pain all the time. (Then again, I am of the "expect the worst, so anything less than that is a pleasant surprise" school of thought.) I think the best you can do is just walk through it, and when you get time to rest at the end of the day, make sure to lie down and elevate your feet.

Kevin Kim said...

"Your feet will not toughen up as you go along. Or, they will, but not enough to make that much of a difference. You just get used to being in pain."

My 2008 experience makes me disagree with your first sentence. The feet do toughen up over weeks and months. You get blisters; they stay with you; they pop; you keep walking. It rains; you walk in socks; your skin wrinkles; it sucks; you keep on going. At the end of 600 miles, the feet are definitely tougher. Maybe not as callused as they might be were you wearing sandals (my brother Sean went through a sandal phase and ended up with enormous, disgusting, cracked, smelly calluses), but tougher. I do, however, fully agree with your third sentence.

Which leads me to...

"I don't want to be unduly harsh or scary, but I think you should disabuse yourself of the idea that you might be able to avoid being in pain all the time."

Where did I write that? I talked, at least indirectly, about walking through the pain in this entry, but never about avoiding being in pain. I did make one comparison, in this post, between grit/pebbles and blisters, but again, there was never any implication that I was making any effort to avoid pain, or that I had somehow forgotten what it was like to walk 600 miles.* You may recall that, toward the end of that walk and burdened only with an Alice pack, I was able to manage 20-mile days. That's a testament both to coping with pain and to toughened feet. (I also did 20-mile walks in the weeks leading up to the walk itself.)

As for my backpack: 35 pounds is my aimed-for maximum, which comes out to 15.9 kg, so I won't be much more encumbered than you had been in bonnie Scotland. True: every gram makes a difference, but on my larger frame, 2-3 kg won't be tragic, and it will be a lot nicer than 27 kg in 2008.

So to be clear, I have no pain-avoidance illusions, thanks to long, long experience on the road. And I do contend my feet will toughen up, although you may be right, given the short amount of time this walk will take (roughly three weeks plus a few days), that there won't be much toughening to speak of. If I do get Sean-style calluses, though, I'll be sure to blog them.


*In my other post, I explicitly mentioned avoiding the chafing in the inner-thigh/groin region, but because I know that that pain is avoidable through the simple use of Spandex, I saw no reason not to mention it. Why not minimize pain wherever you can, ja? No need for unnecessary suffering.