I’m one of the co-mods for the Pennsic War Facebook group and make an annual post about foot care at Pennsic. Here is the current version of that post:
All right, folks. Let’s talk about feet.
More specifically, foot care at Pennsic.
For those who are perambulatory, you’ve already started walking longer distances every day in anticipation of all the walking you’ll do at War, right? Good. (If not, today is a GREAT day to start! Even if it’s too hot to go walking outside, you can do laps in your home or office; get up every hour to walk for 3-5 minutes.)
So, here’s the thing. 1-2 weeks of walking everywhere *will* take a toll on your feet, especially if you are unused to it.
Good shoes are critical. You’ve been breaking any new shoes in already, right? Good. You don’t want blisters on your second day at Pennsic. Trust me on this one; I got a blister *between my toes* last year on day one and it sure made the rest of my week SUPER-fun.
Socks are as critical as shoes and are often overlooked.
Personally, if you can afford it, I’d skip the cotton socks altogether (unless you’re ready to change socks 2x/day) and go for wool socks, such as SmartWool, Darn Tough, or REI’s “generic” version. They make them in different thicknesses and sock lengths now, so you can get some nice ultra-light socks for summer! I’d rather come to Pennsic with three pairs of nice wool socks with appropriate arch support than two dozen basic cotton tube socks from a big box store. Three pairs means one on, one drying, and one washing — so you should always have dry socks to wear.
If your budget is tight, bring the socks you have and can afford. Simple as that. Consider budgeting for new socks for next year, if you can.
If you are prone to blisters between your toes, there are some companies like Injiji that make hiking toe socks, which should greatly reduce the number of blisters you develop. Some companies (like Wrightsock) also make lined socks, which are amazing at reducing blisters across your whole foot.
If you are wearing sandals, remember: the Romans often wore sandals with their socks! While it’s a fashion faux pas today, it’s certainly period. Try to save your feet; wear socks.
Do yourself a favor: buy some “construction worker” (high impact) gel insoles for your shoes. I waited tables for years and these were the only way I was still standing at the end of my shift. They won’t magically make your feet and legs not hurt, but I can tell you that you’ll notice a difference between days with the insoles and days without. The fatigue takes a lot longer to set in.
While insoles are designed for more modern shoes, I see no reason you couldn’t wear them in traditional or turned shoes. Cut them to the correct shape and off you go!
Okay, here’s the fun part. BRING A PUMICE STONE AND LOTION WITH YOU TO PENNSIC. The lotion is great for dry skin anyway. But a pumice stone (generally looks like a porous rock, if you’re not familiar with what they are) is basically a low-grit sandpaper rock for your feet.
Every time you take a shower, scrub your feet with the pumice stone — especially around your heels. Look to see if you’re developing any cracks or splits. After the shower, put lotion on your feet and put socks on immediately. If you shower at night, wear your lotioned-up socks to bed; this will help keep the moisture in your skin (this is also one of the few places where those cheap cotton tube socks would be a good choice). You don’t want your heels cracking and bleeding at Pennsic; it’ll make it difficult to walk.
I’ve also experienced this, although not at Pennsic. Still don’t recommend.
I personally bring Healthy Feet foot cream with me as well, but that’s because I’ve no interest in ever having cracked heels again.
I use Trail Toes to help prevent blisters (and I say that as a backpacker).
Closed shoes (boots, etc.) create cracked feet at a slower rate than sandals. If you wear sandals, it is really important that you look after your feet every night.
The general rule is if you wear socks all day, you don’t want to wear socks at night. If you do not wear socks during the day, you definitely do want to wear socks at night.
Stinky feet? Gold Bond medicated powder in your socks, your shoes, etc. will help immensely. Also great for under-boob sweat or any place skin touches skin.
Stinky teenager? Remind them that we’re not re-creating the smell of the Middle Ages. Deodorant and Gold Bond.
Barefoot? Please reconsider, but I can’t stop you. Do try to look after your feet, though!
I am not a doctor. If your doctor has given you medical advice about your feet (arch supports, shoes to wear, etc.), FOLLOW YOUR DOCTOR’S ADVICE. I’m simply an enthusiastic distance hiker who has already done most of these terrible things to my feet and learned my lessons. Learn from my mistakes!