My feet are best described as particular. I have a high arch that requires support, a high instep that demands not-too-tight laces, and a narrow heel and hammer toes that must be safeguarded against friction. The latter is easier said than done, especially on sightseeing trips and big hikes. Consequently, I’ve tried just about every single product in the foot-care aisle of the drugstore, with little success. Hydrocolloid bandages, gel patches, and moleskin are never quite cushy enough to stop me from limping. Fabric sleeves, silicone tubes, and toe separators crunch my feet in my shoes and make me walk weird. Friction balm and baby powder mostly just make a mess of my socks. And speaking of socks: I’ve tried half a dozen high-quality pairs that promised to prevent blisters, including ones with individual toe pockets. They help, but they’re not a silver bullet.
After years of making emergency detours to the drugstore and doing unspeakable things at the trailhead with safety pins, tissues, and duct tape, I finally found something that guarantees miles of comfort: eNZees foot soother, which a hiking buddy—tired of slowing the pace so I could stoically shuffle through the home stretch of our hikes—picked up for me at REI on a hunch it would help.
The wool comes in a strip of roving, the washed and combed material that fiber artists spin to make yarn. It looks like cotton candy. Just pull off a generous puff and wrap it around your toes, or stick it inside your sock against the back of your heel — or anywhere else you’re getting a hot spot or have a blister erupting. (Just don’t put it on broken skin. The fibers will stick to the wound.) It provides pillowy softness that absorbs every bit of pressure and rubbing. The first time I tried it, on my stinging puffy toes during a mid-jaunt water break, I put my shoes back on and instantly felt like I was walking on clouds. And unlike bandages, which provide little cushion against tender spots and can trap moisture and breed bacteria, wool is naturally sweat-wicking and antimicrobial, which makes for happier, healthier feet. I like to wrap my toes and put a little of the wool against my heels at the start of my hike. After half a mile, the wool compresses down into form-fitting padding that grips against my socks to stay comfortably in place for the entire day. Ever since then I’ve always carried some in my backpack, just in case I get a surprise sore spot. Because it’s so light weight, I don’t even notice it’s there.
Since I started using eNZees four years ago, I’ve been able to achieve previously-unheard-of feats like hike six-plus miles a day for a week straight without shredding my heels or turning my toes into grapes. When I’m done for the day, it pulls off my socks and toes with ease — no adhesive residue to contend with. And because it’s biodegradable, I can put the used bits in the compost or leave it out for the birds, who can use things like this to build a nest.
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