They can ruin a trip.
All is well on your hiking tour and then suddenly you feel an irritation on your foot. You ignore it. It gets worse. Soon, it becomes the only thing you can think about as you hike through a glorious landscape, which you have paid good money to experience.
Yes, blisters can stop you in your tracks while hiking and so it is important that you take some basic precautions to ensure you prevent them. This doesn't just mean to pack the appropriate medical supplies. Your preparation should start even before you leave how.
How do blisters occur?
Blisters form when there is too much friction between your foot and your hiking boots.
Blisters most commonly appear on your heels or around your toes, but they can appear anywhere on your body if the activity is repetitive enough and creates friction against your skin.
On multi-day treks and walks, blisters can make or break your experience, so to ensure your feet are healthy, comfortable and blister free, we recommend using the following techniques to prevent and treat forming hot spots.
Preventing blisters before you start your hike
Prevent blisters with well fitted boots - and break them in
Your hiking boots are the most important tool in preventing blisters.
Firstly, make sure your boots are the right size and fit you well – sounds simple but if you feel your boots pinch your toes together uncomfortably, they may be too small for you and your likelihood of blisters is almost guaranteed.
At the same time, a pair of hiking boots that are too big for you will make your feet move around loosely in the boots, creating unnecessary friction and consequently, increase the likelihood of blisters. A well-fitting pair of hiking boots will leave enough space for your toes, even when descending a steep hill. They will, however, hold your heels securely in place, which will prevent any heel blisters from forming.
Once you have a pair of well-fitting boots, you need to ensure your boots have been broken in before you start your hike. If not, the stiffness of a new set of boots can create unnecessary pressure on certain parts of your feet and cause blisters.
Breaking your hiking boots in slowly will make their sole more flexible and mould the inside of the shoes to your feet, helping create the perfect fit for your foot.
Prevent blisters by choosing your hiking socks wisely
Now you’ve got your boots sorted, the next thing to look at to help prevent blisters are your socks.
Hiking socks are usually thicker in certain areas, such as the heel and the ball of the foot, to reduce friction against your skin and provide padding between your trekking boots and your feet. Avoid cotton socks, as they tend to absorb your sweat and hold the moisture, while the bunched-up fabric will rub against your skin and create blisters.
Hiking socks are designed to transport moisture from your foot, through the socks and into the material of your hiking boots. If you have a breathable pair of hiking boots, these will then transport the moisture out of the boot and leave your feet dry and comfortable, helping you to prevent blisters.
Wearing two pairs of socks is another way to reduce friction and minimize the likelihood of blisters forming. Very thin synthetic socks closest to your skin with regular hiking socks worn on top. The theory is that the socks will absorb any friction. There are socks specifically designed for this purpose and, if you are susceptible to blisters, it’s worth trying this method.
Preventing Blisters On your Hike
There are a few things you can do to prevent blisters before you start your hike. If you already know of any problem areas that are likely to form blisters, tape them before you start to reduce friction.
If you start feeling any of these hotspots getting uncomfortable, tend to them immediately to prevent blisters from forming. You can do this by taping them with moleskin, bandages, medical leukotape, or even duct tape.
Alternatively, if none of these methods are available to you, simply take a break and take your shoes and socks off for a while to let your feet air out and give your feet a well-earned rest.
If your feet get wet or sweaty enough to soak your socks, this is a good time to air them out. Moisture creates more friction and favourable conditions for blisters to form. When putting your shoes back on, make sure you tie them properly in a way that relieves the hotspots from pressure or friction. Another way of avoiding wet feet is changing your socks regularly throughout the day; your dry, blister free feet will thank you later.
How to Treat Blisters On Your Hike
Notify your guides
On our guided hikes, your guides are trained on how to best treat blisters to reduce physical discomfort while on the hike. If you feel a blister forming be sure to notify your guides the moment you notice it. Early treatment is best making for a more enjoyable hike.
Treating your blisters yourself
Try to avoid creating any more friction on the affected spot by covering the area with an extra layer between your skin and your boots. You can use normal plasters, gauze, or special blister plasters.
If your blister has popped, it's important to protect the blister from infection, so apply a disinfectant cream to the area and cover it with a plaster to prevent dirt and sweat from touching the sore.
Should you Pop a Blister?
Popping a blister is a controversial topic. Small blisters, which are not painful, should usually not be drained. The intact skin on them protects them best from infection. Draining a blister that is larger and painful can reduce the pain but increase the risk of an infection.
If you decide to drain a blister, wash the blister and surrounding area thoroughly first. Sterilize your needle with heat or alcohol. Insert the needle near the base of the blister. Dress the blister like any other wound to keep it clean.
As the saying goes, prevention is better than the cure. Following these blister prevention tips will hopefully help you avoid blisters and allow you to make the most of your hike.
Have you got a blister prevention tip? Leave it in the comments below.