Blisters are all too common a problem for hikers, sometimes forcing you to turn back or cancel tomorrows trek. Here we’ll go into how to avoid developing blisters before the become a problem!
Normally, blisters appear when your skin is made weak by friction from rubbing against your socks, or shoes, or other foreign stuff that might get stuck. Humidity from sweat or weather can also exacerbate this by softening your skin, making it more vulnerable. So, lets go through little things you can do one by one.
1. Test your shoes carefully before buying/using them
Regardless of if you bought online or in a store, you have to try your shoes. Try to walk on flat ground, slopes up and down, and rough ground (many stores have mini tracks for just this). If you’ve ordered online, make sure you’ve got time to exchange them if something isn’t right. Don’t just get them delivered to your destination, it’ll be too late!
2. Avoid making a long walk the first time wearing your shoes
Generally, new shoes will soften and mould to your feet. If some parts are stiff, your body might rub, causing friction and therefore, blisters. The best way to dodge this is to slowly build up the length of your walks bit by bit. Make sure that your insole doesn’t slip either (especially if you have an orthopaedic insert). Some insoles and inserts don’t have the best grip and aren’t designed to stick tight, making your feet slip and rub inside your shoes.
3. Choose socks suitable for the shape of your feet
To make sure your socks match your foots morphology, check the location of the seams (even if they’re small/fine) to ensure they do not rub against your bones and bits that stick out, or cause discomfort. Socks with holes or that have been worn thin won’t protect your feet so avoid them too. Above all else wear the right size socks! These details are pretty easy to overlook, but poorly adjusted socks will crease, which can cause blisters. It is also important to position your sock correctly on your foot when you pull it on (ensure the heel of the sock is placed on your heel, etc.).
4. Test your footwear and socks together
Just because you’ve got some comfortable socks doesn’t mean they’ll play nice with your hiking boots. Not all shoes are built the same, with different parts, materials and support zones, and your socks will need to work with that. If it’s cold and you need thicker socks, make sure to trial those. Also remember that how you lace your shoes will affect your comfort. Always feel free to adjust the tightness depending on how you feel once you’re out and about. You can see more in this post.
5. Keep your feet warm and dry
If you feel discomfort and rubbing from something that doesn’t belong in your shoes (like rocks, sand, bark) make sure to stop and get rid of it. If you’re walking for several days without changing socks, make sure to rinse them daily to get rid of any dirt or dust that might be sticking to them too. Ideally, you should have 2 pairs of socks so you can change if they get too damp. Don’t forget to take out your insoles to let them dry out during the night.
6. Look after yourself!
Sometimes we forget but we do get tired, and that affects our whole body. Your skin will be more irritable when you’re tired. It’s perfectly possible for someone who doesn’t normally get blisters, with nice shoes and socks, to have an unexpected reaction. What you eat or drink can help too. Alcohol, for example, makes your sweat more acidic and more harsh on your skin.
If even after all this advice you still get blisters, it might be worth looking into anti-blister creams. These can help to reduce friction irritation. Just remember, like your shoes and socks, to test this out before you go off for a long walk.
And what about you, did we miss anything? Do you have any blister-avoidance tips or advice to share?