I Always Get Blisters When I Hike – What Can I Do?
No, really I always get blisters on multi-day hikes. I’ve tried different shoes, socks, band-aids, tape, lubricants, on and on… I have managed to reduce the number of blisters, just can’t get away from the heel. It must be a result of my days as a tap dancer. Here are some suggestions to help you reduce the occurrence of your blisters using a common sense approach.
Let’s talk about what a blister is. In the hiking realm, it is your skin reacting to heat and abrasion. If the rubbing and heat continues along with some moisture, the damaged skin forms a small pocket of fluid under the first few layers of skin. This fluid is your body reacting and trying to protect the skin underneath it. Rarely do blisters form quickly. Usually, you will start to get a hot spot. Detected early enough, you may be able to prevent the mega-blister.
Thru-hikers have gotten blisters every where you can imagine, but most are on the heel, toes and balls of the feet. As a hiker, if you put enough miles in and have prolonged periods of flat terrain or downhill – you will get a hot spot or blister. Calluses are usually the result of a hotspot or blister in the same location.
Here are some tips to reduce the number of blisters:
– Pick your shoes wisely. The heel should be snug, not loose. Your feet will swell so you need a little extra room in the toe-box. Don’t wear the new pair of boots on your week-long backcountry trip. Break them in on some day hikes first. If you have bunions, talk to a healthcare professional to see additional considerations when choosing shoes.
– Socks. I wear a synthetic liner with good quality wool socks. The liners wick away sweat and the wool socks provide some cushioning. I’ve also used the synthetic socks with toes to cut down on the toe blisters with some success.
– Take a break after a few hours of hiking, remove your shoes, socks and air those feet out. Bonus: Stop near water and dip those puppies in there. Awesome! Use this opportunity to check for hot spots. Keep some moleskin in your first aid kit and apply it to those spots. It may prevent a full-fledged blister.
– When crossing streams, recommend you change out your non-waterproof boots for river shoes or sandals. Hiking in wet socks and shoes is asking for trouble.
First aid for blisters:
– There are different types of blisters. If you see blood, keep an eye and use some Neosporin to ward off infection.
– Don’t pop blisters unless they are too painful. The fluid is protecting the skin underneath and may keep it from bleeding. If you have to pop it, use a sterilized needle or safety-pin. Hold the needle under a flame to sterilize. You can actually run thread through the blister so the fluid drains out. I have done this as a last resort and don’t recommend it unless you have the blister from Hades. Again, use an antibiotic ointment.
– In your first aid kit, keep moleskin, scissors, waterproof medical tape (duct tape will work) and even a needle and thread. Use moleskin for smaller blisters.
– For your heels, you can apply duct tape to keep a hot spot from developing into a blister. I wrap duct tape around my hiking poles; you can peel off what you need. You can use a lubricant like Mueller Lube-Stickª for Runners Skin Barrier – 0.6 oz Stick – Each # 420206N . It helps to cut down on abrasion.