Hiking has the ability to combine the benefits of an aerobic exercise with the natural splendor of the outdoors.
But, overuse of the hiking trail and pushing the body too hard can result in one of the common hiking injuries. Proper preparation and hiking within the limits are certain to help prepare the body for the stress and strain to come.
Types of Hiking
A hiker can fall into several different categories including day-hikers, base camping, section hikers, and thru-hikers (or long-distance).
Day or base camping is likely to put the least amount of stress and strain on the body because it is possible to completely rest the body after completing the 3 or 5 mile hiking trip.
However, for the thru-hikers, a trip in the wilderness might last for multiple days or even several weeks. Walking on the trails consecutively can cause injuries to the bones and muscles – these hiking related injuries are most related to impact stress after the day-on-day hiking.
While these injuries might not be of a serious nature, they will make the rest of the hiking less than comfortable.
Others to experience the overuse hiking injuries include the adventure racers who hike the longer distance and aim to complete this within a short time-frame. With the intention of moving fast and expecting to complete up to 100 miles in 3-4 days, the body will be left stressed and sleep-deprived using this type of hiking regimen.
Common Hiking Injuries
Here are four of the most common injuries related to hiking:
Hiking on difficult terrain or even a short hike with improper footwear and socks can lead to serious blisters developing, which comes from the repeat friction to the feet. This is a non-serious injury, but if not treated, there is the chance of an infection which can become a serious issue.
Early treatment of blisters is best. Drain the fluid using a sterilized needed and protect the area using a special blister pad or similar cover.
A blister that has been left to exacerbate is noticeable by its severe pain, pus, swelling, and redness. Other injuries include Subungual hematomas which is a result of blood building up beneath a toenail.
Hiking over the difficult terrain can result in balance issues which lead to falls or rolled ankles. Over longer distance hikes, the ankle can experience noticeable pain or soreness with the slightest twist.
A swollen ankle is treated with elevation and ice to help relieve the pain and swelling. An elastic bandage or compressive wrap can help to stabilize the joint.
Alternatively, rest up for a while to see if the injury clears up – although for the more serious issues (potential fractures or tears in the ligaments or tendons) the pain and discomfort are certain to persist.
Hiking in warmer climates leaves the hiker exposed to excessive sunlight for long periods of time, which can lead to mild to serious sunburn.
Sun exposure is mitigated with the proper hiking clothes such as a hat or similar to help protect the ears and neck and long-sleeved tops.
Hiking in the wilderness can increase the exposure to certain insects like ticks and mosquitoes, which can result in a disease like West Nile Virus.
Use insect-resistant clothing to minimize contact with these potential issues.
Hiking Injury Statistics
- The annual mortality risk for mountain hiking is 1 in 15,700
- There are approx 4.6 injuries per 100,000 people who participate in hiking
- Diarrhea is believed to be the #1 reason for long-distance hikers to cut short a hiking trip.
So while hiking is a pretty safe pursuit, no physical effort comes without some risk of injury.
So, listen to your body, don’t overdo it, especially if you are new to the trails and you should have many years of pleasurable hikes
Matt Green, is an avid hiker and lover of the great outdoors. He is always planning his next big trip or hitting the trails for a solo hike.
He’s traveled extensively to many remote regions and has plenty of experience exploring various terrains, and stories to tell.