Hands and Feet

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Dirty happy feet

The above picture shows my feet in their preferred state: naked. Same goes for my hands; can´t sense my environment through fabric. No matter how you prefer your hands and feet, clothed or bare, if you rough it out there on a daily basis, you need to be taking special care of ´em!

As previously mentioned, a hobo´s most important possession is her body. Sure, walking and handling objects are everyday tasks and so we may not appreciate what our hands and feet do for us. But once you´ve experienced painful foot infections and severely cracked skin on your hands, you realize how much nicer it is to sense and navigate through your environment pain free. Add walking a few miles everyday, being exposed to the elements, carrying one´s belongings around, climbing rough terrain, and other common outdoor lifestyle activities, and you have hands and feet in desperate need for some serious care!

Lotion, lotion, lotion

Ok guys, I get it. Rough skin is a sign of hard work and manliness. You don´t want to be caught slapping butterfly-fart-scented lotion onto that skin and, god forbids, end up with soft hands! However, for those of us who are exposed to nature´s force, cracked skin is most definitely not an advantage, especially not when paired with insufficient hygiene. See, the skin protects us from harmful bacteria out in the environment. By letting your skin crack, you are pretty much asking for an infection. So, for crying out loud, if you have the means, invest a couple bucks in some Vaseline and keep your skin healthy. It is important to note, that excess moisture on your feet paired with air tight conditions can lead to infections as well (see below). A thin layer of lotion is sufficient for that area.

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Hobo hands which receive lots of lotion every day (now imagine lotionless hands!)

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My skin after a shower without lotion

When foot meets moisture (for too long)

I am not sure there is a hobo out there who doesn´t know the struggle. Especially during the winter, we stuff our feet into socks and boots and when we release them 15 hours later, … well, you know the story. Unfortunately, chemical warfare inside shoes is not all one needs to worry about. Athlete´s foot is a common fungus that at first looks a lot like flaking skin between your toes (especially your pinky toe). Now, neither the fungus nor the gym you shower at, are the problem really. You could dance in a bucket filled with that fungus for hours and not get it…. unless you happen to stick your feet into a warm, moist environment afterwards. There are creams and meds to fight the fungus. Here are some tips to avoid getting athlete´s foot in the first place.

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The perks of getting dressed in the dark… but they are clean!

  1. Clean your feet at least once a day. Water and soap are optimal, but baby wipes will work just fine. No, the area in between your toes is not self-cleaning (your belly button isn´t either, by the way). Get in there and clean it good!
  2. Keep your socks and shoes as dry as possible. Sprinkle some baby powder into your socks before putting them on; this helps absorb moisture.
  3. Change your socks at least once a day. Wear different socks to bed or wear no socks at all (during the summer).
  4. Take off your socks as much as possible.
  5. Check for signs of broken skin between your toes. If the area is red and itchy as well, you may want to invest in some athlete´s foot creme.
  6. Keep them nails trimmed! It is very uncomfortable to have to dig out an ingrown nail.
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At the library, at your sleeping spot, in your car, …, . Wherever you can take your shoes and socks off, do it!

Basic hygiene, lotion, and air. Do you have anything to add? More tips and tricks? Comment!

In terms of general health and hygiene advise, please see my posts hygiene for the houseless and what´s for dinner.

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2 thoughts on “Hands and Feet

  1. You mentioned Vaseline: good call there! The best thing you can do for your skin is to use a barrier. I use the thick, thick Eucerin creme, because my skin is old and very thin. Young skin doesn’t usually need that level of goop, unless there’s eczema to deal with. Vaseline is great though. For years I used a skin protectant that I made myself out of beeswax, lanolin, and a combination of coconut oil, Shea butter, and other goodies. Now my skin is too fragile for even that. For younger folks, plain coconut oil works great. You can melt it and pour it into those plastic tubes that you get at camping stores, the tubes that are meant for peanut butter and jelly. That way you’re not lugging around some heavy jar that could break.

    Remember the sunscreen! High altitude hobo-ing means big UV exposure. Remember to slather all exposed skin, even those hands and feet, and reapply several times a day. Yeah, I know, but just do it.

    The best time to moisturize is immediately after bathing, when your skin is well hydrated. You can lock that moisture in! I take my moisturizer with me along with my shampoo and conditioner…what, no soap? Well, I do wash any part that’s likely to smell or become infected, but dermatologists caution against removing the protective mantle of oils and bacteria from healthy, intact skin. And don’t use harsh soaps like Dial ANYWHERE! Sooner or later it will give you the rash from hell, because of destroying the skin’s own defenses.

    Well, that’s about enough of that!

    Liked by 1 person

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