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What the Boy Scouts Can Teach Us About Foot Health Prevention

Be Prepared!

I recently read an article about an unthought of association between preventative foot health and the Boy Scouts. A scout master who happened to be a physician wrote about the importance of footgear and training the feet for participation in scouting activities. Because Scouts are involved in all kinds of physical activities, hiking, camping, adventure games, community volunteer work, there’s plenty to keep them on their feet. Protecting the feet in physical activities that are required to advance through the ranks of scouting and preventing foot problems that limit participation is crucial to the success of scouting programs. Scouts work together as a team and know that “a foot in trouble puts the entire team in trouble”.

So how do Scouts gear up to avoid foot and ankle injuries and what can we learn from the original preppers.

Foot Gear

Choosing the right shoes or boots and the right kind of socks and insoles, inserts or orthotics if needed is a critical issue in making sure Scouts keep their best foot forward. It’s been said that “it’s too easy to try to get one more adventure out of an old pair of shoes meaning that worn out boots or shoes can aggravate pre-existing foot problems or initiate new problems putting more stress on connective tissue that overstretches and tears. 

Scouts know the importance of wearing synthetic fiber socks with moisture-wicking features because when cotton socks get wet, they stay wet and skin can become macerated and blisters form more easily as friction increases. Socks are worn that are high enough to protect the ankle bones and protect the foot from friction at the shoe collar.

Be Prepared

As a foot and ankle physician and surgeon and former Boy Scout in the 50's I remember the motto “Be Prepared”. A cornerstone of scouting, it refers to one of the basic tenets of the Scouting movement, being prepared in mind and body, planning and anticipating any problems before they arise.

Early evaluation of foot and ankle problems helps to reduce the probability of developing injuries or chronic and more serious problems. As warmer weather and longer days shift our attention to foot forward outdoor activities and sports, evaluate foot problems before the season starts to avoid injury and to play at your best.

First Aid

First aid is a basic skill set of Scout training. Scouts earn merit badges based in part on their knowledge of how to prevent minor medical problems and what to do when problems arise. A knowledge of first aid for minor foot problems, cuts, blisters, rashes or sunburn can prevent them from becoming more serious. Know some basic first aid and if hiking, camping or traveling have a well-supplied first aid kit with information on how to handle problems if they occur.

Getting Ready for the Trail 

Whether hiking your local park trail or getting ready for activities where you’ll be doing more walking than usual, if you are not particularly athletic or not accustomed to vigorous activity, being on your legs and feet in uncharted terrain can be demanding on your body especially the lower extremities. Physical fitness is important in scouting. Building endurance and strength in the feet and legs helps avoid fatigue or aggravate a pre-existing condition. Weight-bearing exercises with either free weights or resistance bands will improve the strength in those muscles, tendons and ligaments. Stretching and building endurance slowly over time can be helpful but be careful not to overdo it and risk an overuse injury before you even begin. Discuss your plans with your foot and ankle physician as well as taping, bracing or prescription orthotics to control any underlying problems. 

Scouts can teach us a lot about preventative foot care. Although all of the above points pertain to Scouts they are relevant to anyone who wants to participate in walking, hiking and other outdoor activities. With a little research and better planning, you can improve your chances of a safe, injury-free outdoor adventure.

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