It probably comes as no surprise that we love to see our patients being active, and spending time heading down some great hiking or walking trails is no exception.
Whether it’s a short stroll or a day-long trek, trails can provide great benefits for both body and mind. The key is taking reasonable measures to reduce your risks of foot and ankle problems impeding your time outdoors.
Then, after we review a few key tips for better trekking, let’s take a look at a few of the nice trails that exist around our own Massapequa and Long Island area. Perhaps there’s one nearby you haven’t tried yet, or didn’t even know existed!
Protecting Your Feet and Ankles While Hiking
Whether your trails are short and paved or long and wild, proper planning and preparation can greatly reduce your chances of suffering a foot or ankle injury that will keep you stuck in recovery mode.
While we’ll go into some specifics, perhaps the best piece of overall advice for hiking and walking is to not underestimate what you put your feet and ankles through. Even a relatively small outing can cause problems if you’re not fully ready for it, and it’s easy for your hiking spirit to be larger than your endurance.
Choose Your Shoes Wisely
The right pair of hiking or walking shoes will fit you well, provide sound support for your feet, and accommodate the terrain and length demands you are striving for.
It can be tempting to just throw on any old pair of sneakers to go out for a decent walk, especially if you are just starting and aren’t certain you’re “into” the hobby yet, but we highly recommend not doing so. You will not be supporting your feet that hiking and walking shoes are designed to give you, and your likelihood of overuse injuries such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis can rise.
A trained sporting goods associate can help you determine the best pair of shoes for your needs, but always spend some time before going out to make sure your shoes fit well and don’t give you any surprise troubles. You don’t want to realize your shoes are hurting you while you’re halfway down a trail, so sporting them around the house beforehand is a good idea!
For some cases, abnormalities in foot structure might contribute to excessive force and strain in certain areas of the feet. When choices in footwear aren’t enough to address this, custom orthotic inserts can provide very helpful accommodation.
If you are not a seasoned hiker, there is no shame in setting shorter, easier hikes at the beginning and gradually building up your intensity over time. It’s a wise decision!
Our bodies are designed only to endure certain levels of intensity at any given time. By gradually challenging ourselves, our bodies can build up stronger during rest and be ready to take on greater loads and distances – but if we push too hard too fast, our capabilities can be overwhelmed and may result in injuries.
Gear Up and Stretch Out
Shoes are arguably the most vital component for a good walk or hike but don’t neglect the importance of:
- Good socks made of wool or other materials that wick moisture away from the feet, keeping your skin healthier and helping to avoid blisters.
- Hiking poles that can offload further weight from your feet and ankles.
- A small kit of pads and bandages, just in case you do get blisters or other injuries on the trail.
Keeping your feet, ankles, and calves moving with regular, day-to-day stretching exercises can also help them remain prepared for treks – as can stretching before you start moving. We’ll be happy to discuss routines that would best suit your specific needs and conditions.
Where Do You Want to Go?
You typically don’t have to travel too far to find some good hiking and walking spots in our area. Here are three that can be suitable for beginning and intermediate trekkers.
Massapequa Lake Trail
Following the length of Massapequa Preserve, this paved out & back trail provides some wonderful views of the preserve’s creek and reservoir.
This is a good trail for those wanting a simpler walk or beginners looking to build endurance. It is a little over 6 miles long (although you can of course choose how far you ultimately travel), and is friendly for kids and families. The trail also tends to have a good deal of foot traffic, which is great if you are concerned about going alone, but not-so-great if you are looking to get away from it all.
Bethpage State Park
Bethpage State Park is known for its expansive golf courses, but also boasts many well-kept hiking trails. Travel through trails at your leisure, most of them accessible straight from a central parking lot. A few of the trails even venture through conservation easements to get more immersed in natural views (just don’t leave the trails!).
One word of caution for Bethpage is that many of the trails are also made for biking. Be mindful of surrounding travelers as you go, especially if you have younger children.
Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt Trail
If you are looking for a longer trip that has some elevation changes, the Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt Trail is a good contender.
This trail crosses Long Island in a north-south direction, from Massapequa to Woodbury and Cold Spring Harbor. You will head along both the Massapequa Preserve and Bethpage State Park, following alongside some biking trails (but you should be able to remain separate from them much of the way – follow the white blazes!).
The Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt trail can be a good challenge for those seeking something more than a beginning trek, but you of course can determine just how far you want to travel along with it. There are some beautiful sights to see, even if you might still hear traffic in the distance when the trail comes closer to some highways.
There are of course more trails to explore in our area, from short to long. Part of the fun is researching and seeking out paths on your own!
Let’s Keep Moving!
Our goals as a podiatry practice are to help our patients continue to do all the things they love without pain and hindrances holding them back whenever possible. Whether you enjoy hiking, running, skiing, gardening, or any other activity, we want you to be able to do so at your best.
Never let any persistent pain or discomfort go unchecked. The sooner we can diagnose and address the problem, the sooner we can get you back out there without risking more severe problems. Schedule an appointment by calling (516) 804-9038 or filling out our online contact form.