12 Easy Steps to Prevent Hiking Blisters!

One time when I was about 12 years old, my family and I went for a hike somewhere in the mountains. I don’t actually remember where because the only thing that really sticks out in my mind was the intense pain I felt on my heel as we were on our way back to the car.

I was too young to know why I was feeling this pain, just that it was excruciating! I even started to cry, it was so intense. My dad thought I was just complaining to complain, but when I took off my shoe to show him, he suddenly became aware. I had a fat and puffy blister growing on my foot!

Prevent Hiking Blisters

I wish I knew then what I know now, and that’s the basic steps you need to take to prevent hiking blisters. To me, there’s nothing more damaging to a serene outdoor hike like an aching, shoe biting, son of a gun, blister!

Hiking is one of the easiest activities we can do as an outdoor adventure enthusiast, and it should be enjoyed to the fullest! Unfortunately blisters can pop up out of nowhere. Sometimes they seem to just magically appear!

However, if you’re armed with the right knowledge and preventive measures, you can minimize the occurrence of these pesky little annoyances and effectively treat and manage them when they do show their ugly little heads.

So follow along below for a short and informative guide on how to prevent hiking blisters!

Understanding How Blisters Form

Firstly, in order to combat and overcome any obstacle in life, including the very small, we need to under how and why these little buggers form. Simply put, blisters are small pockets of fluid that form between the layers of the skin due to continuous rubbing, friction, or pressure, and eventual irritation of the skin.

The skin is composed of different layers, including the outermost layer called the epidermis and the inner layers, including the dermis. When these layers experience excessive friction or rubbing against each other or an external surface, the skin cells in the epidermis can separate from the underlying layers.

Prevent Hiking Blisters

This separation causes fluid, usually plasma or serum from nearby tissues, to collect between the layers of the skin, creating a bubble-like formation known as a blister. The fluid acts as a cushion, protecting the underlying tissues from further damage and allowing the damaged skin to heal. They are basically little skin airbags haha, ewww..

Prevent Hiking Blisters

So when you’re out walking or hiking, sometimes ill-fitting footwear, excessive moisture, and/or repetitive motions can accelerate the formation of these pain pads, particularly on the feet and that’s no bueno. Fortunately there are several things you can do to prevent hiking blisters from ever happening. If you want to know more about blisters, check out this basic wikipedia article.

Techniques to Prevent Hiking Blisters

1. Proper Footwear: The most important thing you can do is to find the best hiking footwear. You need to know which pair of hiking shoes, boots or trail runners are best suited for your needs.

Prevent Hiking Blisters

After you have made your choice, make sure to break in your new foot gear gradually before embarking on any long walks or hikes. Here’s a great jumping off point – great hiking shoes for beginners. Options for men’s, women’s, kid’s, water proof and comfortability are given.

2. Moisture Control: Secondly, you need to focus on keeping your feet as dry as possible by wearing moisture-wicking socks and/or breathable shoes if you’re not specializing in hiking specific footwear. Consider bringing an extra pair of socks as well so you can swap them out if your main pair become damp during an extended trek in the wilderness.

3. Foot Care Routine: This might sound strangely but trimming your toenails properly to prevent hiking blisters from rubbing against the shoe and causing friction is actually quite important. Long toenails can actually impact your toes and stop them from the proper spacing you need in your shoes. Also try to apply talcum powder on your feet or bring specialized blister prevention products to reduce moisture and friction.

4. Sock Selection: Ditch your standard cotton sock for some awesome high-quality, moisture-wicking socks made from materials like merino wool or synthetic blends. They are specifically designed to reduce friction and maintain dryness for long periods of time and they are almost as important as a great pair of hiking shoe.

Prevent Hiking Blisters

5. Proper Lacing: This might be the one area where a lot of us don’t think it’s as important as it really is. Ensure a safe journey with shoes that are properly laced, ones that prevent excess movement inside of them. If your feet are shifting about then either you need to tie your shoes a bit tighter, or you need to get a smaller size of shoe. You can also experiment with different lacing techniques, if they don’t feel quite right in order to ind what really works best for you and your feet!

Treatment for Blisters

6. Stop and Assess: This might be a no brainer but If you start to feel discomfort or notice a hotspot while you’re walking, stop and examine the area. If you notice some redness or the beginnings of chaffing, you might want to start taking some precautions in preventing a potential blister.

A great thing to apply to the affected area is a blister-specific bandage, a moleskin, or another type of adhesive padding to protect the spot from receiving any more damage. Check out some great options here.

7. Blister Drainage: If a blister forms, don’t freak out! I know it can be a little frustrating and sometimes tempting, but something you should never do is pop that sucker, unless it’s absolutely necessary.

If it’s large, painful, or likely to burst, you can disinfect a needle with alcohol and carefully puncture the blister near its edge to gently press out the fluid, leaving the skin intact as a protective layer. A big mistake is popping it and than tearing away the loose skin. This is a no-no. All you are going to do is cause even more irritation or pain.

8. Clean and Protect: If you are able to, try and wash the affected area with mild soap and water. Once you have finished and your feet have dried, apply an antiseptic ointment. After you’ve generously layered your ointment, cover the blister with a sterile adhesive bandage or specialized blister patch to protect it from further friction and infection. The last thing you want to do is make it even worse!

Prevent Hiking Blisters

9. Relief and Rest: After all of that try and reduce pressure on the blistered area by adjusting your footwear or using moleskin padding. Easier said than done I know. Definitely take a break from hiking to allow the blister to heal. They usually are good to go in a few days, especially if you are using a good antiseptic ointment.

Long-Term Care and Recovery

After your hike or walk, don’t neglect your feet:

10. Keep the Area Clean: If you’re like me in any way you might just let your foot heal on its own after you’ve returned home or to your campsite. This is a mistake. It only prolongs the healing process. You should clean the blister every day until it’s gone. You should also apply an antibiotic ointment daily to prevent infection down the road. You’ll thank yourself in the long run on this one.

Prevent Hiking Blisters

11. Let Them Breathe: Your feet love to air dry and when you have a unruly blister on your foot, one of the best things to do is let them waft in some fresh wind. Allow your blisters to air out when you can by removing your bandages at night or during periods of rest. A good 15 – 20 minutes should do the trick!

12. Avoid Friction: Once the blister begins to heal, you should continue to protect it with cushioned bandages or padding. Anything you can do to prevent hiking blisters from continually rubbing against anything.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve made it this far I thank you for taking the time to read my article on how to prevent hiking blisters. Even though they can be a nuisance, the proper proactive preventive measures and care techniques can prevent hiking blisters from ever forming.

Think about good footwear comfort, maintain foot hygiene, and be vigilant in addressing hotspots to ensure a comfortable and blister-free outdoor adventure. Remember, listening to your body and taking necessary precautions can significantly enhance your hiking experiences while keeping your feet happy and healthy.

Lastly I leave you with a pensive quote, “The world reveals itself to those who travel on foot!”.

Author

  • James Ryan

    A seasoned hiker and adventurer who loves to travel and experience new things. An extrovert and creative at heart, James is most definitely a "People Person". He started this blog in the hopes of making somebody's day just a bit brighter!

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