Nothing can ruin a hike or backpacking trip as quickly as foot blisters. The pain can be intense, and walking further on blistered feet can cause them to get worse, or to break and get infected. So how do you just avoid them altogether? Here are ten things that have worked for others.
1. Wear running shoes instead of hiking boots. Not everyone will agree with this, nor can everyone forgo the extra support that a boot offers, but this is a big part of what stopped me from getting blisters. I also enjoy hiking much more without heavy weights on my feet.
2. Try different socks. Wearing light nylon dress socks was another of the best changes I made. Blisters are caused in part by heat, so heavy boots and socks add to the problem. Try a couple different kinds, to see what works best for you.
3. Be sure your shoes or hiking boots fit properly, with no spots that will be rubbing on your toes, the back of your heel or the side of your foot. Not sure how to fit your shoes? Go to a footwear store where serious runners go.
4. Treat “hot spots” early. If you feel an irritation or hot spot on your foot, stop and apply some moleskin before it becomes a blister. Duct tape may work as well, if that is all you have (but it can be messy to remove later, and if a blister develops it may tear it open when you try to remove the tape). Small bandages can be used too.
5. Lace up your shoes well. When shoes are loose your foot can slide around inside, and the resulting friction can lead to foot blisters, so lace up well. Tighten the laces evenly along the shoe, not just at the top.
6. Keep your shoes clean and comfortable. Shake them out before putting them on. Stop to remove sticks, stones or other objects promptly. Adjust your socks if there are wrinkles or seams against the bottom of your feet.
7. Try insoles. Some people swear by their “gel” insoles. Even cheap foam ones may help keep your feet more comfortable. Also, if foot movement inside the shoes is causing blisters, an insole may make your foot more snug, preventing this. Experiment.
8. Bring extra socks, and change them often. If you use light socks as suggested above, this is easy to do, even on a lightweight backpacking trip (my socks are one-ounce per pair). Changing into clean cool socks is a pleasure, and it also helps prevent foot blisters. You can rinse out the dirty socks in a stream and hang them on your pack to dry, so you will be ready for the next switch.
9. Take care of your feet at home. Prior to any hike, deal with athlete’s foot or other skin conditions that can soften or weaken the skin. Healthy feet are less likely to develop blisters on the trail.
10. Remove shoes and socks during breaks. When I reach the top of a mountain, I try to go barefoot for a while. I recommend taking your shoes and socks off several times during a day of hiking. This allows your feet to cool, and your socks and shoes to air out and dry. Keeping your feet cool and dry is a sure way to prevent foot blisters.
Follow the tips here for healthier, happier feet. But if you do get foot blisters, here is the treatment routine: Apply a piece of moleskin with a hole cut out for the blister to rest in. This keeps pressure off the spot, so it won’t get worse. You generally shouldn’t pop blisters, but if you do, sterilize a pin with alcohol or a flame and insert it from the skin along the bottom of one edge. Push out the fluid gently, cover the blister and keep it clean.