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7 Tips For Healthy Feet at Havasupai By a Foot Doctor

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havasupai feet healthy
The Chaco LowDown 2 Sandal at the bottom of Havasu Falls

Pictures and videos of the most intense turquoise water and waterfalls against red cliffs have always taken the world by storm. Still, especially in the last few years, since Instagram has become popular, these images have become viral. Welcome to Havasupai/Havasu Falls. A beautiful oasis at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

I was fortunate to visit this insanely beautiful place, home to the Havasupai Tribe last week. As a Phoenix podiatrist, I wanted to put together this guide, to help other visitors to Havasuai Falls keep their feet healthy and happy during their time here.

7 Tips For Healthy Feet at Havasupai By a Foot Doctor

Table of Contents:

1. Train, Train, Train

Whether you're making the 20-mile round trip hike to Havasupai by hiking the bottom of the Grand Canyon, or you've opted to take a helicopter, or even mule for one part of the trip, having healthy strong feet is key.

There are also other hikes once you reach the Havasupai Campgrounds from Mooney Falls, Beaver Falls, Fifty Foot Falls, Navajo Falls, and The Confluence that range from 2 miles to upwards of 20 miles round trip.

Strong feet when embarking on this type of trip are critical. What is one of the best ways to build strong feet? By walking.

Usually, people know that they've been granted permits to Havasupai weeks to months in advance, this is when you want to begin your training, especially if you haven't been very active up until this point.

Get up and walk. Walk around the block, your neighborhood, or on the treadmill. As time goes on, increase your walks in distance and time, and even add weight by filling the backpack you will carry with you to Havasupai with weight. Go on hikes if there are good hiking trails near you. Doing this for several months prior to your visit to Havasupai will make sure that your feet are strong enough to make it through this trip with no major issues.

One of the best ways to prevent foot injury, especially muscle, tendon, or ligament sprains is to make sure your foot is strong as a whole.

2. No cotton socks, choose other fabrics instead

havasupai healthy feet

The right socks can be the difference between a comfortable, and happy 4 days in Havasupai, and dealing with the pain of a blister.

For socks when doing this level of hiking, polyester, wool, or nylon is the best. These materials, unlike cotton, can wick moisture or sweat away from your skin, lowering the risk of developing a blister. Wool is also very breathable as well, which can also lower your risk of developing a blister.

The socks I wore on this trip were Wright CoolMesh II Tab Back Socks, purchased at REI. The feature that I love about Wright socks, is that there is a tab, made of extra fabric that goes around your Achilles and keeps your shoe from rubbing against this area, which is usually bare in most ankle or no-show socks, lowering your risk of a blister here as well. A very smart design addition from them.

Side note: While at Navajo Falls during this trip, I met a woman whose son developed severe blisters to the entire arch of both of his feet. He could not make the 10-mile hike out because of this and had to be helicoptered out of the canyon. Because of the location of the helicopter pad, which is in Supai Village, he still had to walk 2 miles to be flown out. Preventing blisters can make or break your trip to Havasupai.

healthy feet havasupai

3. Pick the right shoes for hiking

The right shoes for hiking Havasupai will be different from person to person, based on your foot type, foot needs, and any current foot problems.

One thing that I do agree with across the board, is wearing a lighter trail running shoe vs a heavier hiking boot. This is because the trail in Havasupai is well-worn and mostly flat. The majority of the trail consists of sand or gravel. The 2 miles that make up the switchbacks at the entrance of the canyon are still well-worn and include large steps carved into the canyon wall.

Save the weight, and increase the flexibility of breathability of your feet by choosing trail running shoes instead. For example, let's break down the trail running shoes I chose, vs the shoes that my fiancé chose and why.

My Shoe Pick for Havasupai - Altra Women's Lone Peak 7

I've been wearing mostly minimalist, zero-drop shoes for the past year. I knew I wanted to do this hike in at least a zero-drop shoe, with a natural, foot-shaped, toebox. I was ok with opting for more cushion in a shoe for a hike of this magnitude, and I'm so glad I did. Altra was the obvious brand choice.

Altra is known for its zero-drop shoes and foot-shaped toe box, which allows your toes to splay and spread while walking or standing. The upper of the Lone Peak 7 has several mesh vents to allow for breathability and prevent sweat and fluid from collecting too much inside the shoe.

The sole of the Altra Lone Peak 7 provides enough traction to handle the small rocks, gravel, and sand while hiking Havasupai with ease.

Note: If you choose to wear zero-drop shoes while hiking Havasupai, or just in your everyday life, it is CRITICAL that you spend enough time slowly transitioning to this style of shoe. Allowing your tendons and ligaments to adapt to a more natural shoe design after a lifetime of wearing mainstream shoes takes at least several months, and failure to do this can lead to sprains or strains of tendons, even stress fractures.

shoes for havasupai

My fiancé's hiking shoe pick - Hoka Men's Speedgoat 5

shoes for havasupai

For those of you who haven't made the transition to zero-drop shoes yet, Hoka is a brand that does trail running shoes well.

The Speedgoat 5 also comes with a good amount of traction on its sole, perfect for hiking Havasupai. This shoe also has a mesh upper, and slightly less patting at the midsole, which drops the weight of this Hoka design by a couple of ounces vs other Hoka shoes.

Regardless of the shoes that you choose to hike Havasupai, if you are buying something brand new, definitely make sure they are broken in before you hit the trailhead.

healthy feet havasupai

4. Good sandals over water shoes

healthy feet havasupai
The Chaco LowDown 2 Sandal

The big reason people want to score a permit to Havasupai is to swim in the multiple beautiful waterfalls there. Because of this, a good pair of shoes that can be worn in the falls is key.

This is because the bases of all of the falls from Mooney Falls to Navajo Falls are very rocky, this can be very uncomfortable to walk in, and can really be a buzzkill to your limited time in this breathtaking place.

Opt for rugged sandals, with straps that go around your ankle as opposed to water shoes. Why? Sandles are usually wider than your average water shoe and therefore allow your toes to move more freely, aren't as tight, and don't rub on the sides of your foot, increasing the risk of a blister.

The sandals that I wore inside of the falls were from Chaco, specifically the Chaco LowDown 2 Sandal.

I've loved these sandals for more active activities since the day I bought them last year.

I was even able to walk from some of the closer falls like Navajo and Havasu Falls back to the campsite in these Chaco sandals. They were extremely comfortable to wear in multiple settings, and I'm so glad I opted to bring them.

5. Clear small rocks or sand from your shoes quickly

Sandy, gravel, small rocks, and other debris can become trapped between your foot and shoe rather quickly while visiting Havasupai. This can lead to blisters by the added rubbing against the skin of your foot. One of the best things you can do to prevent blisters is to remove debris from your shoe as soon as you feel it.

6. If you get a blister, act fast

havasupai healthy feet

Even with all of these tips, you might still develop a blister while hiking Havasupai. If you do, it's important to act fast. A blister on your foot can get out of control quickly, and lead to pain. If the blister breaks open, this can lead to infection.

My first tip would be that if you notice you're developing a blister, try to figure out the cause of the blister and remove that immediately. Is it a part of your shoe rubbing against your skin? Walking with a pebble in your shoe for too long? So many things can cause blisters, so it is important to identify the cause of getting the blister in the first place.

Second, carry a bottle of liquid bandage with you.

While in Havasupai, my fiancé developed a blister, from some last-minute changes he asked me to make to his orthotics to prevent neuroma pain. He had no neroma pain during this trip but did develop a blister on the ball of his foot on day 2. Thankfully, I had a bottle of New Skin Liquid Bandage that he applied to the blister 2-3 times daily.

Liquid bandage brands, including new skin help by adding a protective layer to your skin which is waterproof, flexible, and will stay put, unlike traditional bandaids, or even moleskin.

One product that he added to his orthotics was Engo Blister patches. These are stickers that go inside your shoe, or even on top of an orthotic to prevent friction and therefore can help a blister, or prevent one from forming. Between these two products, he was able to continue the trip with very little to no discomfort.

havasupai healthy feet

7. If you have pre-existing foot problems, see your local foot doctor before this trip.

If you have been granted a permit to visit Havasupai, congratulations! But it is so important to address and foot problems you currently have before embarking on a hike of this magnitude.

Foot problems like plantar fasciitis, fibromas, seed corns, ingrown toenails, fat pad atrophy, and other sources of foot pain can really put a monkey wrench in your plans, and make a 20-mile hike round trip, with added mileage hiked daily extremely painful, if not impossible. Whatever foot problems are causing you pain, address them long before Havasupai to be sure that you have a pain-free experience hiking this portion of the Grand Canyon.

Schedule Your Appointment At Direct Podiatry Arizona Today

Are you dealing with foot problems, and are in need of a Phoenix podiatrist? My name is Dr. Tarr, and I am the owner of Direct Podiatry Arizona in Tempe. To view available appointment times for a free 15-minute consultation, click here.

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