Hiking blister care is essential to avoid pain and discomfort on the trails. The following tips will show you how to prevent yourself from getting them in the first place and how to protect and treat them to avoid pain or more serious issues such as an infection.
What Causes Blisters?
Most blisters are caused by constant rubbing or friction of the shoes and socks against the skin. This can be caused by ill-fitting boots, boots that are not properly fastened or debris making its way into your boots and socks.
Circumstances can also increase the likelihood of blisters…
This can be made worse in heat as your feet swell, making a well-fitted boot become too tight. If you adjust this by loosening your laces, then the fit will naturally alter and you run further risks of blisters.
Increased heat increases sweat, softening skin, and making it difficult for socks to gently slide against your skin.
Another big issue is moisture. This can be through rain and mist, hiking through streams or sweat. As mentioned above, moisture softens the skin and causes your feet to swell.
Out on the trail you are going to find dirt, sand, and pebbles sneaking into your boots. These are naturally going to rub. So if you feel something in your boot, remove it, no matter how much of a pain it is to remove your boot, it is far worse to find yourself nursing blisters.
Tips for Prevent Blisters
Blister prevention falls into two camps – before the hike and during the hike.
Blister Prevention Before Your Hike
Before you even hit the trails there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of blisters.
- Toughen your feet by walking barefoot around the house and outside in your backyard
- Use a product like Benzoin, or a similar product, and apply to the sole of your foot (this stuff is also great if you cannot get a sticking plaster to…well, stick!)
- Treat callouses and dry skin to avoid build-up and cracking
- Trim toenails as they can snag or create pressure in your boot (also helps to avoid ingrown nails)
- Get treatment for verrucas, foot fungus, athlete’s foot, or similar
Blister Prevention On Your Hike
Once you are out on your hike these tips will help minimize the chances of getting a blister
- Make sure your hiking boots fit and are well worn in before you go on a hike. Friction is most noticed in the footwear that doesn’t fit well. Try a variety of brands and make sure to wear them in before walking on the most difficult terrain on the hiking trails. Plus, wear proper socks or aftermarket insoles to help achieve the preferred fit.
- If you get any debris in your boot or sock, stop and remove it as soon as possible. If you leave it until later the damage may already be done.
- Minimize moisture and heat. Keeping the feet dry while out on the trails is certain to help prevent the blisters forming. This is possible by removing the boots and socks each time you stop for a short break. Leaving the feet exposed to the fresh air will soon reduce the build-up of moisture or heat.
- Rest your feet throughout the hike by taking breaks – remove your boots during longer breaks, especially if your boots are not made from the most breathable of materials
- Pack extra pairs of socks. For those hikers that are more inclined to get the sweaty feet even after a short distance into a day-hike, it can benefit to change into a new set. Also, if possible, wash the feet in a creek or river and fully dry before putting on the fresh socks.
Tips To Treat Blisters
If you find you do get blisters while hiking, here are five tips for blisters to minimize the pain and discomfort while out hiking:
The first action to take on noticing the blister is to leave it alone or prick it. A basic rule is to leave the painless, small blisters, while the more painful, large blister on the feet can be pricked.
For the small blister that doesn’t make it easy to drain, it usually benefits to apply a bandage while active throughout the day, and at night leave the foot exposed to the air to help speed up the healing process.
For the blister that is drained, it is essential to sterilize the area. Plus, the pin or similar tool used to burst the blister should be sterilized.
Use a solution like rubbing alcohol on both the tool and skin to maintain the clean environment.
Pierce the skin
Use a needle or pin to pierce the skin with the needle, which is best pushed into the side of the formed blister.
Once the skin is pierced, push down gently on the blister to help drain the built-up liquid inside. Plus, leave the skin in place over the blister and don’t be tempted to pick it off.
Get the first-aid box and apply a germ-fighting solution or ointment like Neosporin to the affected area of the foot.
Once the blister is drained and ointment applied, cover the area with a gauze pad or adhesive band. Make sure the full area of damaged skin is covered and the pad is secure in place.
Replace the protection as and when required, such as noticing fluid still draining or after showering. Plus, remove the pad in the evenings when resting up to let the blister breathe and promote faster healing.
There is nothing like prevention for a comfortable hike. So make sure you take all precautions to avoid them wherever possible.
Good boots, that fit and are well worn in with good quality wicking socks are an absolute must.
If you do get blisters, do not just ignore it and “tough it out”. Treat them, keep them clean and protected or it can develop into something very nasty.
Matt Green, is an avid hiker and lover of the great outdoors. He is always planning his next big trip or hitting the trails for a solo hike.
He’s traveled extensively to many remote regions and has plenty of experience exploring various terrains, and stories to tell.