Top 5 Hiking Risks – and How to Prevent Them


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Lace up your hiking boots and finally get out of your four walls: with the warm season of the year, you want to go hiking. But if you don’t pay attention now, you run the risk of protracted injuries. Find out where hiking risks lurk and how you can prevent them.

As the German Hiking Association reports, the demand for hiking trails has increased sharply in 2020 compared to 2019 due to the corona pandemic. This trend is likely to continue in 2021. Especially now, after the dreary winter months, people are drawn to the outdoors. Find out what the top 5 hiking risks are and how to mitigate them.

Hiking: New longing in the corona pandemic

hiking risks

The risk of injuries while hiking is particularly high after a break in sports. Many novice hikers tend to ignore warning and since they are completely untrained, they go on long hikes. Foot injuries are one of the most common hiking injuries.”

1. Ankle twisting is the most common occurrence

The classic “twisting an ankle” is the most common foot injury when hiking. Uneven paths with stones, roots and slippery gravel are a great challenge for the ankles. If you are not careful here, your foot can easily be cracked. Usually the foot bends outward in a jerky movement. The ligaments that stabilize the foot cannot compensate for this spontaneous force. A ligament strain (ligament stretch) or a ligament tear (ligament rupture) occurs. Mostly the anterior ligament (ligamentum fibulotalare anterius) and the lateral ligament (ligamentum fibulocalcaneare) on the ankle are affected. The foot becomes unstable, painful and swelling occurs.


2. Broken feet and ligament injuries as a result of falls

Breaks in the ankle are also possible when hiking. They can be traced back to a sudden, very intense application of force, such as can result from a fall. Symptoms that indicate a fracture are severe pain, swelling and a bruise. The affected person can no longer appear,” says the orthopedist.

Your SOS tip: If you have a foot injury, it is best to leave your hiking shoe on – it stabilizes the foot and acts as compression to counteract pronounced swelling.

According to the expert, untrained ligaments and muscles as well as incorrect footwear are primarily to blame for ligament injuries and fractures while hiking. In order to reduce the risk of injury when hiking, legs and feet should be used to stress, so they should be well trained. Equally important is sturdy footwear with a firm, non-slip sole that sits firmly and gives the ankle the necessary support.

3. Fatigue fractures can indicate osteoporosis

hiking risks

If the foot hurts after a long hike, a stress fracture may be the cause. Fatigue breaks are common among older sport beginners and usually occur with unaccustomed long-term stress. Fatigue fractures are known from the military, where soldiers go on long marches – hence the name march fracture.

In the event of a fatigue fracture, the bone does not break through, but rather fine cracks form in the bone structure. Since there is no spontaneous application of force, very few people think of a break as the cause of the discomfort. You go to the doctor because of the pain and swelling.

The metatarsus is particularly affected by fatigue fractures. In the case of older patients who come to the practice with a metatarsal fracture, we always think of osteoporosis, i.e. increased bone loss, as the cause. The bones are more unstable because they lack bone substance. A bone density measurement shows whether osteoporosis is actually the trigger. According to the expert, a fatigue fracture in the metatarsus can be the first symptom of osteoporosis.

4. Cardiovascular risk in mountain air

hiking risks

Those who go on longer hiking tours without being trained can also overwhelm their cardiovascular system. Sports experts know: A beginner’s cardiovascular system takes about three months to get used to the strain. Anyone who embarks on a hiking holiday lasting several days without any exercise and possibly still climbs altitude, risks circulatory problems such as dizziness, headaches and nausea.

The risk of cardiovascular events is particularly increased in patients with cardiovascular disease. The German Heart Foundation e. V. therefore advises cardiac patients to speak to a doctor before hiking in the high mountains and to have an exercise ECG performed. Whether it could be dangerous for heart patients in the mountains depends on the respective heart disease and physical fitness. According to the heart experts, easy hikes in the lowlands and up to an altitude of 1,500 meters should not be a problem for patients with coronary artery disease (CHD).

5. Abrasions must be properly treated

Abrasions on the knees, elbows and hands are also common hiking injuries. They arise, among other things, from falls, when you scrape past a rock or fight your way through the thicket. If you have a small first aid kit with you in such a case, you can treat the wound quickly and easily.

If dust, sand or small stones get into the wound, it is important to clean the wound with water. If there is neither a tap nor a stream nearby, you can use mineral water. So that the injured skin does not become inflamed, the injured person should then treat the wound with a wound disinfectant spray to kill bacteria and germs. Finally, a plaster protects the abrasion from dirt and germs.

Michelle Halterman
Michelle Halterman
USA, China, South Africa and now Munich - Michelle has come a long way in the world. She is an outdoor person and loves to be in nature with friends and on her mountain bike. Or she meets up with friends for pasta, vino, cappaccino & Co.


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