Hikers who like to head into the backcountry are at increased risk of twisting an ankle since they often need to traverse rough, uneven terrain. Twisting an ankle can damage the bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles within your foot. This might simply result in an uncomfortable hike back to your car, but it can also do serious damage.
If you find yourself barely able to walk in the backcountry, you're in a bad spot, and the pressure you'll need to place on your foot to get anywhere could increase the amount of damage sustained, so make sure you follow these five rules to help prevent turning your ankle.
1. Remove Your Headphones
More and more hikers are heading into the backcountry with headphones in, and that can be great when you're simply walking along the straight and narrow. However, you want all your senses concentrating on the job at hand when you need to tackle rougher terrain. For starters, you won't be apt to lose concentration or let the music carry you into going faster. You'll also be able to hear the ground shifting beneath you and have more time to react if this happens.
2. Use Hiking Poles
Hiking poles can take some of the weight from your legs, so you won't be as tired after a long slog; that means you'll be less likely to drowsily misplace a foot and twist your ankle. More importantly, they provide support if your foot does start to slip. You'll be able to steady yourself quickly just by planting one down. If you do get injured, having a couple of hiking poles makes it easier to get somewhere safer without putting too much pressure on your injured foot.
3. Stretch Beforehand
Stretching the muscles in your legs is important since it will see you properly limbered up. However, many people forget about stretching their feet. The foot is full of bones, and each one is anchored to muscles by tendons. Ligaments are also important; they bind the bones together. Stiffer tendons and ligaments are more likely to tear or even cause a break in a bone if you come down wrong on your ankle, so do some toe curls and ankle rolls before you head out to make sure they're as flexible as possible.
4. Wear Boots Instead of Trail Runners
Trail runners or normal running shoes are fine for light trails since they keep your feet nice and cool and aren't very heavy. However, you should use boots instead if you'll be clambering over boulders or climbing across tree roots. This is because they provide ankle support. If your ankle starts to roll, the upper section of the boot will take some of the strain, making it far less likely that an injury will occur.
5. Keep Comfortable
Finally, make sure to keep your toenails short and to wear synthetic instead of cotton socks. Long nails will bump against the front of your boots, possibly leading to ingrown toenails and offering significant discomfort in the short-term. Cotton socks collect moisture instead of wicking it away, leading to the growth of blisters. Discomfort and blisters will make it harder for you to hold your foot properly as it comes down; instead, you'll probably start walking differently to avoid bringing pressure onto the sore areas. This reduces the stability of each footfall, so twisted ankles become more likely.
Overall, proper foot care can go a long way in making sure you're safe while hiking.