Knowing how to prevent and treat blisters can save your hike. The biggest cause of blisters is wet feet and friction. Both can be dealt with to eliminate one from getting blisters. Your feet get wet from the thousands of glands each contains.  Excessive sweating will greatly increase your chances of getting blisters, which can lead to infections, foot odor, nasty footwear, and in cold conditions frostbite. Friction is the major leading factor to blisters. Proper shoes, sock liners, and use of tape or moleskin can prevent friction.

The best way to avoid either of these issues is prevention. This is not an easy task when you’re trying to cover miles while in the backcountry.  Over the thousands of miles I’ve hiked, I’ve learned some tricks to ensure my miles are blister free. Read on to learn how to prevent and treat blisters and enjoy blister free hiking.

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Prevention

6 Steps To Blister-Free Bliss

The first defense against blisters is to not get them, stop them before they form. As the old saying goes, Prevention is the best Medicine.

  1. Purchase shoes that fit. Note I didn’t say boots here. Unless you’re trekking to Everest or through a jungle I personally don’t think boots are needed in today’s day and age of light weight gear. Trail runners offer plenty of support and comfort when you have a light load. Try lots and lots of shoes. If you’re like me you know when a shoe fits. Don’t say, It might break in. If it doesn’t feel right in the store it probably won’t feel right in a month on the trail either, move on to the next brand. In over 10,000 miles of hiking I’ve had less than a handful of blisters. Each time it was from improper fitting shoes. I firmly believe that if you have the right shoe for your foot, you won’t get blisters.
  2. You might not find the perfect shoe but both over the counter or custom insoles might make the difference. Experiment with these as well to find the perfect fit.
  3. Using the right socks is important. Stick to synthetic or better yet wool. Avoid cotton. There are tons of options out there for both. Make sure your socks are snug and avoid baggy ones. Body Glide is great for friction points as well as sock liners. Experiment with both as well as different thickness socks.
  4.  If you feel friction, STOP, and tend to hot spots before they become blisters. Dry your feet, apply moleskin or duct tape in a jam and if you’ve acted quickly enough a blister shouldn’t form. If you know you have an area that is a problem put moleskin or petroleum jelly on that area before you start.
  5. Take your shoes and socks off at each break and let them dry out. If you need to, switch socks mid day and dry the first pair out as you hike. I carry one pair of camp socks so I always have a dry pair at the end of the day. Another good idea is to wash your feet daily if not more. Clean feet are happy feet. Just be sure you dry them completely before putting your shoes and socks back on.
  6. Keep your feet neat. Keep your toenails trimmed and filed, as well as calluses.
  7. Another issue that plague your feet while hiking is the constant pounding and extra weight you carry. Try to eliminate weight where ever possible. You can find some tips on how to do this on my post about cutting pack weight.
La Sportiva Ultra Raptor and Akyra Trail Running shoes - Cutting Pack Weight

Treatment

Treatment

To treat a blister, dermatologists recommend the following:

    1. Cover the blister: Covering a blister with a bandage should be done loosely. You can fold under the edges of the bandage so that the middle of the bandage is a little raised.
    2. Pad the blister: If your blister is in a pressure area you need to add padding. Use padding to make a donut to place around the blister. Finally cover the entire area with a bandage.
    3. Popping or draining blisters can lead to infection, avoid if possible. If your blister must be popped or drained to continue your hike, draining may be your only option. See steps to properly preform this below.

If you determined the best course of action is to pop and drain your blister, you should first check for signs of infection. If your blister is oozing yellow or green pus, becomes swollen or inflamed, and call/see a doc. If there are no signs of infection, foll0w the below steps:

  1. Wash your hands & blister – Don’t half ass the job, use lots of  soap and water. Use rubbing alcohol or iodine on the blister.
  2. Sterilize a needle – A pin or small needle works great. Be sure to sterilize it first with rubbing alcohol and a clean swab.
  3. Puncture the blister on the side in several spots. Puncture the blister at its edge. Catch the draining fluid with a clean piece of gauze or cotton.
  4. Apply antibiotic ointment. Place gauze or an adhesive bandage over the area treated with antibiotic ointment. Secure with medical tape.
  5. Wait 2-3 days. Cut away and remove any dead skin. Be sure to sterilize the scissors or tweezers and use rubbing alcohol to keep the area clean.
  6. Repeat step no. 4. Apply clean bandages and antibiotic ointment until healed.

Be sure to watch for signs of infection as your blister goes through the healing process. If you notice redness, pus, or suffer from increased pain or swelling, see a doctor.

Items you’ll need:

Gauze Bandages

Padding

Medical tape

Rubbing alcohol or Iodine

Gauze

Adhesive bandages

Antibiotic ointment

Scissors

Dirty-feet- How to Prevent and Treat Blisters.

In the end, it’s all about finding the right shoes and shocks that feet your feet or using the prevention methods discussed above. Then this post would only be called How to Prevent Blisters instead of How to Prevent and Treat Blisters. Unfortunately not everyone can find that perfect fit. At least now you know what to do when you do get a blister.

How to prevent and treat blisters

MORE RESOURCES

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