Running, hiking, or biking? In Phoenix? In summer? ARE YOU CRAZY?
Stop us if you’ve heard this one: it’s hot outside. Yeah, we know. But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid the outdoors and cling to the shadows until December.
With tons of natural beauty, nearby mountains and streams, well established trails of all difficulty levels, and picturesque neighborhoods and parks, there are few places in the country—nay, the world—that can match the Valley of the Sun for outdoor fun.
And contrary to popular belief, summer excursions aren’t impossible, even in the Sonoran Desert.
If you want to keep moving and enjoying the trails all summer long, you’re going to want to be smart about how you prepare yourself. Every year, more than 200 Phoenicians are rescued from heat stroke or other heat-related medical emergencies in city parks alone.
Don’t be one of them! Stay safe and smart. Here are some key guidelines:
Avoid the hottest time of day.
Or in other words, “I’ll take ‘the first 10 things you learn about living in Phoenix’ for $200, Alex.”
Granted, in the middle of summer, it might still be 99 degrees out in the dead of night. But that’s still way better than, say, 118. If you have time in your schedule to out early morning before dawn, or after 8 p.m., those really are the best times to go.
Get some proper shoe gear.
You know, we’ve actually seen people wear flip flops on the trails. Don’t be that person! A sturdy pair of hiking sneakers or hiking sandals is an absolute must if you’re going to be out on the trail for any length of time. Make sure they fit properly.
Trust us, the last thing you want is to be baking in the Arizona sun, 3 miles from the nearest AC, with blisters on both feet. And read up on tips for dealing with sweaty feet! Just because you opt for supportive shoes over sandals, doesn’t mean you can’t keep your feet cool and clean.
Wear comfy, athletic clothes in general.
Go for light, breathable, and easy to move in. You want to keep chafing and sweat spots to a minimum! Running and hiking outfits with built-in vents or mesh are ideal.
Remember that lighter colors reflect more of the sun’s rays, while darker clothes will get hotter. However, a plain white T-shirt might not be the best choice either, since lighter colors also tend to let in more UV rays—which means you can actually get sunburned under your clothes! Look for athletic gear that comes with a specific SPF rating.
Protect your skin and eyes from the sun.
It doesn’t take much exposure to create a nasty, painful sunburn—and increase your risk of developing wrinkles, sun spots, or even skin cancer.
Make sure you cover all skin exposed to the sun with sunscreen—including places you might forget about, like the tops of feet and underneath clothes with low or unknown SPF. Apply at least 30 minutes before you venture out, and reapply as directed. (On longer hikes or rides, this probably means you’ll need to take it with you.)
Get a good pair of sport sunglasses with both UV-A and UV-B protection. You might also want to look into hats, a neck cover, or even long-sleeve shirts (as long as they’re light, breathable, and easy to move in. Balancing sun protection and heat control isn’t always easy, so you’ll need to find a setup that works for you.
Bring WAY more water than you think you need.
Under the hot Arizona sun, a long wilderness hike without an adequate supply of water can be an incredibly serious and dangerous mistake.
Even if you know your chosen route typically offers water stops at regular intervals, don’t be unprepared if they aren’t working that day! Keeping yourself properly hydrated isn’t just about personal comfort in this climate. You could wind up in serious medical trouble.
If you’re out running or hiking with a furry friend, remember that they need plenty of water, too!
Know the signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion.
If you don’t have enough water in your system, your body usually makes that apparent in pretty obvious ways: excessive thirst, headaches, dizziness, cramping, heavy sweating, nausea, extreme fatigue. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s a clear sign that you need to:
- Get out of the heat as much as possible. At the very least, find some shade. Strip out of as much excess clothing as you can. Fan yourself.
- Drink as much water as you can. If you have salt tablets (it’s a very good idea to bring some along), take a few of those as well.
Heat stroke can cause serious damage to internal organs in a relatively short period of time, so if you or a buddy are beginning to show very worrying signs, get emergency help as quickly as possible.
Team up, keep your phone charged and tell a friend where you’re going.
Going with a buddy is a great idea for virtually any run, hike, or bike ride. Not just because there’s someone to keep you company and encourage you, but also because you can look out for each other.
Whether you’re going alone or with friends, you should also always let someone else back at home know where you’re going and how long you expect to be gone. This is especially important if you’re craving a more “rugged wilderness” sort of hike or ride—a place where, if you get hurt or lost, you might not be found again for a while.
Always make sure you carry a mobile phone that’s fully charged before you set out.
Know your limits.
Everybody wants to be able to say they conquered the longest hike, or climbed the highest mountain, or took on the elements and won.
But be honest with yourself. If you’re starting from scratch, or you have any health concerns (asthma, neuropathy, heart problems, etc.) you’re going to have to start slow, and maybe work your way to a higher level gradually.
Understand where your limits are, and follow them. Choose the shorter, easier hike or ride at first. Take breaks when you have to. Don’t try to be a hero—you’re here to have fun! Gradually, you’ll get better and more able to tackle those challenging hikes—but only when you’re ready.
We hope you stay safe and enjoy your time out on the trail this summer! We love helping our patients avoid common foot problems in the summer. As always, if you find your feet and ankles are becoming a limiting factor, stop in at Advanced Foot & Ankle Specialists for a quick tune up.
From black toenails to heel pain to bunions and more, we are your No. 1 choice when it comes to treating any painful condition in those lower limbs that’s keeping you from the lifestyle you want to live. To schedule an appointment with us in Gilbert or Chandler, call us today at (480) 963-9000.