7 Ways to Prevent Blisters When Hiking
There’s nothing worse than ending an amazing hike with blisters on your feet. The good news is blisters don’t have to occur every time you lace up your hiking boots. Check out these tips on how to prevent blisters when hiking so you can enjoy a pain-free hike on every adventure.
What Causes Blisters?
To understand how to prevent blisters when hiking, it helps to know what causes blisters in the first place. You can get a blister from a burn, an insect bite, and even an allergic reaction. However, friction is the most common cause of blisters.
When you get enough friction on one spot, damage to the skin occurs. The body will produce a fluid inside the blister to help protect and heal the damaged skin.
When you’re hiking, there are several factors that can make a blister more likely to occur:
- Moisture: Chances are good your feet are going to sweat when you’re hiking. But that sweat will make your skin softer, which makes it more susceptible to damage from friction.
- Friction: Any place where your skin constantly slides can cause a blister. While this most likely occurs on your feet, it can also happen on your hands when you’re gripping a hiking pole.
- Pressure: A wrinkle in your sock or a tight spot in your hiking boot can create a pressure point and result in a blister.
How to Prevent Blisters
Now that you know what causes blisters, you can take steps to minimize those factors and prevent blisters when hiking. Follow these 7 tips to keep blisters from forming when you hike.
1. Wear the Right Boot
I used to think that blisters when hiking were just a given. But then I started wearing the right pair of women’s hiking boots for my feet, and I suddenly realized that getting a pair of boots with the proper fit makes all the difference in the world. (Don’t worry guys, you can find the best pair of men’s hiking boots to suit your needs as well!)
To make sure you avoid pressure points and friction spots, you want to ensure your hiking boots fit properly. Pay close attention to the sizing guidelines since different manufacturers can produce slightly different sizes. Plus, keep in mind the size you wear in a regular shoe might not always be the same size you wear in a hiking boot.
2. Break in Your Boots
Once you find the right pair of hiking boots, you don’t want to wear them for the first time on a 5-mile hiking trip. Instead, you need to properly break in your boots.
Not sure what to do? We have an entire guide on how to break in hiking boots that goes over the simple steps you can follow.
Just keep in mind that different boots require different break in times, so you’ll want to make sure you plan accordingly so your boots are ready for your next hike.
3. Wear the Right Socks
One of the biggest mistakes beginner hikers make is wearing cotton, and that includes cotton socks. Chances are good your feet will sweat and produce moisture. Cotton holds onto moisture, and we already know that moisture is one of the major causes of blisters.
Instead of cotton, you want to wear wool socks. You also want to make sure your socks fit properly.
If they’re too big, you could get wrinkles that will cause a blister. If they’re too small, they’ll create pressure points and, once again, cause a blister.
There’s some hiking gear I don’t mind saving money on because the affordable stuff is just as good as the expensive stuff. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that you never want to cut corners on the things that go between you and the ground.
That’s why I highly, HIGHLY recommend saving up some money to make sure you get a good pair of hiking boots and socks. Trust me when I say they make a world of difference!
If you’re not sure what type of socks to get, this guide on the best hiking socks includes a variety of options to suit every type of hiker.
4. Wear Liner Socks
Although not necessary, liner socks are another option you can consider to help prevent blisters when hiking.
Liner socks are lightweight and thin, and they go between your feet and your regular hiking socks. Not only do they add another layer of protection, but they can also help absorb and wick away moisture.
5. Bring Extra Socks
Are you starting to realize just how important socks are to blister prevention? An extra pair of socks are one of the important items you should carry on every hike.
If your socks get soaked from sweat or from a stream crossing, you can prevent blisters by changing into dry socks. It also feels amazing to change into dry socks at the end of a long, challenging hike!
6. Take Preventative Measures
As they always say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you’ve been hiking several times before and you notice the same spot on your foot always gets a blister, apply a preventative measure before you even start your hike.
My feet seem to be shaped in such a way that my baby toe ALWAYS gets a blister. These blister guard toe bandages are my absolute favorite way to prevent a blister from forming in the first place.
I put one on before I start my hike, and I keep a few more in my first aid kit in case I need to reapply one during my hike.
If you find you often get blisters on the back of your heel, you can also find blister guard heel bandages.
7. Take Care of Trouble Spots Immediately
If you’re on a hike and start to feel any type of pain or discomfort in your feet, you should immediately stop and address the issue.
Take off your boots and socks and inspect the area. If the skin looks red or irritated in any way, dry off any sweat and use one of these protective measures:
- Blister bandage: The same blister bandages I recommend to prevent blisters when hiking can also be used to protect any blisters you feel cropping up during your hike.
- Moleskin: Moleskin is a thin, durable bandage with soft padding. You can cut it to any shape and size to cover a blister.
- Kinetic tape: Even something as simple as applying some kinetic tape to certain trouble spots can help stop a blister from forming.
How to Treat a Blister
Sometimes you can do everything you’re supposed to do to prevent blisters, yet they still end up forming on your hike. If you get a blister on your hike, you can treat it with one of these options:
- Blister bandages: Blister bandages provide cushioning and a protective layer that can keep a blister from getting worse.
- Molefoam padding: Cut a square of molefoam padding large enough to cover the area, then trim a hole in the padding so there’s enough room to leave the blister open. This should provide space to keep your sock from rubbing the blister. You can also cover the area with moleskin for a little extra protection.
What to Do if a Blister Pops When Hiking
For the most part, you should avoid popping a blister when you’re on your hike. Popping it will open the skin and increase your chances of infection.
However, if a blister accidentally pops or it’s so painful you can’t walk on it, you can treat it on the trail.
- Wash the blister and surrounding skin with biodegradable soap.
- If you need to pop the blister, sterilize a needle with heat or alcohol and insert it near the base of the blister.
- Apply antibiotic ointment and cover the area with gauze or a bandage.
- For added protection and to prevent further irritation, you can place a blister bandage or moleskin padding around the area.
If you start to notice signs of an infection around your blister (pain, redness, or oozing puss) call emergency services for an evacuation.
How to Prevent Blisters When Hiking
Going for a hike doesn’t automatically mean you have to come home with blisters on your feet. Thanks to these helpful tips on how to prevent blisters when hiking, you can enjoy a comfortable and pain-free hike every single time!
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