They say it’s not the mountain that defeats the climber, but the pebble in the shoe. Regardless of your experience level, and trip “severity”, we have all experienced the nightmare of blisters … In addition to their horror by nature, they often occur at the worst times possible – during a long-planned multi-day trip. We have to stay united in the fight against these devils and share our knowledge. Please find below my wisdom listed.
- Your fight against blisters begins in the store, when buying your boots. They must fit well, be of the right size; there should be no friction or pressure points. Your heel and mid-foot should feel snug, but not tight, but there should be space in the toe-box to wiggle your toes. When trying your boots, make sure to use the socks and any inserts you would be using for hiking, as it all affects the fit. Spend some time walking around the store, go up a flight of stairs or use a treadmill (if available in the store). It is best to your hiking boots in the afternoon, as it simulates the swell you will experience, when hiking.
- Get the right size. Regardless of the tempting discount, do not go with something that does not fit you well. Also, do not hesitate to try female’s models if you’re a male and male’s shoes if you are a female, as they might fit better. Female’s shoes are better for narrower feet, while some ladies require a bit wider profile shoes. Try different brands, as they often fit differently.
- Get a pair of Quality socks. Socks are underappreciated piece of gear; they play a massive role in your hiking comfort and blister prevention. You hiking socks should be made out of wool (ideally merino) or synthetic materials. Avoid cotton by all means, as it gets wet quickly, and takes really long to dry. Cotton socks also tend to loose shape, especially when wet. The heavier your boot, the thicket should your socks be. A quality pair of socks will provide you cushioning and warmth and they are worth the investment.
- Speaking of wet socks … Try to avoid your feet getting wet, as boots and socks are more likely to generate blisters. Choose waterproof boots if hiking in wet and snowy conditions. Gaiters are also excellent way of keeping water out of your shoes. If you need to do any river crossings, I do not recommend you taking your boots off; it is extremely dangerous doing river crossings in bare feet.
- Preventative taping. Tape is not only for when you have massive holes in your feet, it does miracles preventing it from happening. Use sticky fabric sports tape (not plastic or band-aids) to reinforce any areas the moment you start feeling any friction. Tape your feet in broad even patches and make sure there are no wrinkles. The idea of taping your feet (heels, the big toe, etc.) is to create a reinforcing layer that removed friction with your skin. If I’m out for multi-day trips, I usually just leave these tape “socks” for the duration of the trip. Some people also use duct tape, as it is even more slippery.
- Breaking-in your boots. Most of hiking boots and shoes, especially the heavier ones require a break-in time. So do not venture out for a long challenging trip with a pair of boots you have never worn before. First try them out on several shorter trips, and see if your feet are having any issues. Usually, the heavier the boot, the longer it takes for it to be broken in. Some of the lightweight hiking shoes and trail runners are designed to fit well from day one and do not require a break in time. However, despite the fact that the shoe will adapt to your feet, you should not consider getting something that does not work for you, hoping you will be able to break-it in. Most of hiking shoes and boots do not stretch that much.
- Wearing liner socks. Wearing two pairs of socks – one thicker pair over thinner liner sock is a good way to protect your feet from blisters. The liner sock should be relatively thin and close fitting for the best effect. This system helps to decrease the friction between your skin and your footwear and provide some extra cushioning.
- Hikers wool – this neat little invention, I discovered, is a neat little addition to blister prevention. You wrap the wool around your toes and any other sensitive areas and it will reduce some of the impact on your skin. Seek for those in your local hiking store.
As you can see there are tricks of how to protect your feet from blisters. But sometimes it so happens that they catch us off-guard. If you ever end up with blisters, be sure to clean the wounds well and cover them with quality tape, ideally with some padding underneath. Use antibiotic creams or just Vaseline to prevent the wound skin from drying out too much and cracking and from chasing the infections away.