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Long hikes take toll on feet, ankles

(Cedar Grove, NJ) –As brightly colored leaves dazzle the fall landscape, hikers and hunters nationwide will migrate to mountains, woods and fields, but many, unfortunately, are ill prepared for the beating their feet will take.

Hikers, hunters and others who love the outdoors often don’t realize how strenuous it can be to withstand constant, vigorous walking on uneven terrain, explains Dr. Matthew F. Wachtler, a board certified foot and ankle surgeon located in Cedar Grove, NJ.   Lax physical conditioning and inappropriate footwear bring scores of outdoor enthusiasts into our office each fall for treatment of foot and ankle problems such as chronic heel pain, ankle sprains, Achilles tendonitis, fungal infections and severe blisters.

Walking up and down steep hillsides and tramping through wet, slippery fields and wooded areas puts stress on the muscles and tendons in the feet and ankles, especially if you haven’t conditioned properly before hitting the trail. Also, many don’t realize that cross-training athletic shoes aren’t the best choice for extended hiking and hunting. Not wearing well-constructed hiking boots, adds additional risk of sprained ankles or strained Achilles tendons.

Dr. Wachtler advises hikers and hunters to make the investment in top-quality hiking boots. Strong, well-insulated and moisture-proof boots with steel or graphite shanks offer excellent ankle and foot support that helps lessen stress and muscle fatigue to reduce injury risk.

In wet and cold weather, wearing the right socks can help prevent blisters, fungal infections and frostbite. Dr. Wachtler recommends synthetic socks as the first layer to keep the feet dry and reduce blister-causing friction.

Pain is a warning sign that something is wrong. Serious injury risk escalates significantly if you continue hiking in pain. Beginner level hikers should take on less difficult trails until they become better conditioned and more confident.

Evaluation by a foot and ankle surgeon is recommended if there is persistent pain following a hiking or hunting outing. The biggest concern is usually ankle instability and strained Achilles tendons. Inattention to these problems at their early stages may lead to a serious injury that will keep you off the trails for a long time.

Hikers and hunters seeking further information about ankle sprains, Achilles tendon injuries and other foot and ankle problems may contact Dr. Wachtler at 973-857-1184 or visit www.CedarGroveFoot.com

Dr. Wachtler is board certified in foot surgery by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, Fellow of the American College of Foot & Ankle Surgeons and serves as Secretary of the Eastern Division of the New Jersey Podiatric Medical Society

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