I'm currently hitchhiking in South East Asia where it's of course always hot. I'm getting a rash around my ankles that I've had in the past but never looked into.

Rash on my lower leg
(The same rash, but on a different trip, in Korea, about 5 years later.

In Australia I guess we would call something like this "heat rash", though I was never prone to such things when I was younger so I'm not that familiar with what such rashes look like. Doing some Googling it seems to be known as "golfer's vasculitis".

It doesn't hurt or itch or sting. I know it's not caused by poison ivy or allergies. It just looks ugly plus I wonder if it could be doing harm that I don't know about.

I thought it might be to do with type of socks or socks being too tight. But those are just guesses. Is there something that can be done to prevent getting this rash?

Update seven years later:

A month and a half ago in Singapore I walked over 40km in one day and this time the entire lower half of both shins and ankles was solid red and there was at least a small amount of discomfort that wasn't quite itching or stinging. I'm now convinced that what I get is definitely heat rash even though it's not painful for me like it is for some people.

  • I think whatever is applicable to Bra-chafing is applicable to you as well. Is it around the socks btw?
    – Josh
    Commented Nov 29, 2014 at 11:35
  • @Josh: I don't think it's chafing because I suffer from that too in other areas. Chafing hurts and this does not. It does occur around about the top of the socks. This time I didn't notice it until after I'd removed my shoes and socks and had a shower. Commented Nov 29, 2014 at 12:04
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    I am not sure if it can prevent them from happening, but then I think using some kind of a calamine lotion should really help.
    – Josh
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 4:53

5 Answers 5


Heat rashes are caused by excessive heat trapped under the skin.

  • As you specifically referred to ankles and shins, I'd suggest you considering using shorts instead of full pants, only if those tiny red rash-bums have not burst. If those are already burst then you should be going to a doctor in order to avoid any infection.
  • Try to avoid clothing with synthetic fiber material as they are less breathable. Cotton should be an obvious choice. Wear something which is a light-weight, loose-fitting attire. Socks would be an exception to that.
  • Before the rash actually appear, you may have felt some sort of itchy feeling. That is a sign of possible heat rash development. In such a case, dry that part of skin thoroughly. Consider applying Calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to get rid of itchy feeling.
  • If it the weather is hot and humid than what you are habitual with, apply a paste of baking powder (Mix baking powder with a little bit of water). (If you have hypersensitive skin, then please consider taking a professional medical advice first before trying this.)
  • Consider taking a shower when you get a chance. A Detox bath shall be even better. Apply talcum powder or cornstarch.
  • Applying Lavender/coconut oil to the skin is one of the ways to prevent the Heat rashes and chafing.
  • Drink adequate water, Stay hydrated. Staying well hydrated will help prevent them by allowing you to perspire freely. The moment you stop perspiring, your sweat will form salt crystals on your body, closing the sweat glands and heat will trap beneath the skin causing a rash.
  • Not sure if its applicable to your situation, but if possible avoid getting out in the sun.

This sounds to me what we would call in the UK prickly heat.

What causes prickly heat?

Prickly heat usually develops when a person sweats more than usual, such as during hot or humid weather. However, it is also possible to get prickly heat in the winter. The condition is caused when the body's sweat glands become blocked. Excessive sweating can result in sweat becoming trapped beneath your skin. The trapped sweat causes skin irritation and the characteristic heat rash. The symptoms of prickly heat are usually worse in areas that are covered by clothing. This is because clothing can make you sweat and sometimes causes friction (rubbing).

In your case I'd say the cause is likely sweat not being able to evaporate off your skin, thus blocking the pores.

Couple of hints I'd suggest:

  • Ensure your socks, shoes, etc. are as breathable as possible, give the sweat a chance to evaporate. If you're in a humid climate this might be easier said than done though.
  • Try to keep the irritated area dry and clean. Again easier said than done but try and take care of the skin. When you stop, wash and dry the area carefully.
  • Try and keep the area cool. Thin cooling socks and shoes where possible, don't use water unless you intend to dry the water off.
  • Hydrocortisone cream should help with any reactions. Try and use sparingly because of side effects (thinning of skin, etc.)
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    Yes I think "heat rash" and "prickly heat" are synonyms for the same thing but are not medical terms. They seem to apply to several kinds of one medical term "miliaria" and one kind of medical term "vasculitis". Anyway my socks were not so thin and were bunched up in this area because they were a bit long and I didn't want to wear them long in the hot humid conditions. I'll see if I can dig out some thin short socks for the next attempt and see if that makes the difference. Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 10:56
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    If you're getting the irritation regardless of being indoors or outdoors that's a good indication that it is Prickly Heat, though some women can get a rather nasty looking shaving sunburn on their legs (you shave, go outside and burn, and it looks similar to prickly heat but it isn't). I was mistold I had prickly heat as I get a similar rash without the sweatiness nor the excessive clothing and it's a common mild allergy instead, Polymorphic Light Eruption
    – Aravona
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 12:04
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    @hippietrail if your interested I'd recommend the Bridgedale coolmax socks if you want something for this kind of terrain.
    – user2766
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 14:17
  • @Aravona: I only get it when I do a lot of outdoor walking in hot and/or humid climate. Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 15:26
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    @hippietrail I would say it is likely still prickly heat but a mild form as usually you can get it regardless of being indoors or outdoors, usually by having smaller pores that don't breathe properly. Liam's suggestion of better outdoor gear might be the best start for you, if it persists and itches badly see what your doctor recommends? :)
    – Aravona
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 15:29

This sounds like exercise induced Vasculitis. This is tiny blood vessels which break due to heat & restriction due to socks & friction. Also known as a golfers rash. It tends to happen more in people over 50. It has nothing to do with being overweight either as someone commented on the web. Mine was as a result of hiking a minimum of 25km per day in heat on a walking holiday. Creams do not help. Antihistamine tablets could help but also removing socks and shoes when resting and elevating your feet. I saw a consultant for this diagnosis. In my case I've been left with some scaring but other people on my walk recovered completely when they returned home. It is not well documented as a condition so I hope this helps.

  • I have had this (rarely) since my 20s. It is most common when walking and stopping, like golfing or touring museums for long periods, though excessive heat is also a factor.Massaging the ankles or shifting back and forth between the legs or kicking the legs, to get the blood moving, prevents it from getting worse. Look up prickly heat on WebMD; it looks different than just the red welts of golfer's vasculitis. The OP's picture shows such a mild case, I can't tell if it is vasculitis.
    – danak
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 17:03

Have you considered just not wearing socks? There are lots of proper hiking sandals for sale if you walk a lot, and you could even wear some light washable shoes without socks too once you’re used to it. I find that for hiking in the tropics, unless it’s really high up in the mountains it’s almost never worth it to wear shoes. And if you’re hitchhiking as you say, I wouldn’t know why you’d want something warm and sturdy for those times either.

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    I actually intend to get some hiking sandals when I get to the next big city. I'll report back how that goes. Most of the time I wear "flipflops" but when I know I'll be on a big walk I'll wear shoes / hiking boots. The main reason I don't travel with hiking sandals is I aim to travel through different seasons and don't want to carry one pair of hot weather footwear and another pair of cold weather footwear. (Not including the flipflops since they are light and don't take up space.) Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 9:17
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    @hippietrail I find that open shoes aren't nearly as cold as I expected them to be. Especially the semi-closed models like for example bfgcdn.com/1500_1500_90/025-0060-0711/…. I've been living in the tropics for 7 years and I rarely wear shoes, if I do then usually without socks and just very lightweight skateboard shoes. On most mountains the hiking sandals I linked are still warm enough, unless you have to spend the night while not active. Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 9:52

I was told to keep dry, take as cool of showers as you can stand and use dial non scented soap. Also bring a change of socks. In the military I changed socks about 3 times a day.

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    Please try to make sentences - I added some punctuation for that. Also try to add some more background to your statements, currently it is just an uncorrelated list of measures (e.g. who told you to do this or even better why does it help).
    – imsodin
    Commented May 17, 2016 at 18:06

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