Blisters can quickly turn a beautiful walk into an endless trudge. For some of us they are a rare occurrence, whilst for others they may seem like an inevitable part of hiking. A lot of the work that goes into keeping blisters at bay begins long before you hit the trail; good footwear and appropriate socks are essential. However, there are some techniques that can be used to treat these nasty hot spots as they develop on the day.

Photograph by Lachlan Gardiner

There are two main factors to prevent blisters: dry and slip-free shoes. Blisters develop from friction between skin and shoes and this process is rapidly accelerated by moisture. Keep your toes dry and blister-free by taking some preventative measures before embarking on your trip.

Make sure your shoes fit

The first and most important step in preventing blisters is getting shoes that are a good fit for your feet. The most common cause of blisters is incorrectly sized trail shoes. It is always best to try on your shoes in store when you can to make sure they are the right fit for you.

When fitting hiking shoes we often allow extra space between your toes and the end of a shoe to accommodate the feet slipping forwards during a descent. However, we also want the shoe to be secure, to ensure the heel doesn’t slip. The shoe should have a firm but not tight fit. It is important to remember that your feet will often swell after hours on the trail, making it important to have enough width and length in your boot. When you find the perfect balance between length, width and tightness, you have found the right shoe.

You can find more detailed information about selecting the right book can be found here.

Photograph: Lachlan Gardiner

Right shoe for the right trail

It is important to know what kind of terrain you will be walking on. When hiking on well defined tracks, like fire trails, the stiffness of heavier boots can be unforgiving and can cause friction between the sole of your foot and the shoe. Over the kilometres, this friction can lead to painful blistering. If you’re walking on roads or reinforced paths it is best to go for a shoe with a softer sole like Arc’teryx Aerios FL GTX Hiking Shoe for men and women. These soft-sole shoes offer support while remaining flexible and cushioned on stiff trails. Hiking shoes and boots with reinforced soles and little lateral movement are designed for uneven terrain and heavy pack loads. A heavy-duty boot like the Scarpa Delta boot for men and women is ideal for rough and wild trails like the Australian Alps Track, though they are not the best option for fast and light hikes on well defined trails.

Arc'teryx Aerios FL GTX Hiking Shoe

Arc’teryx Aerios FL GTX Shoe Women’s and Men’s

Lacing

A good pair of boots can become your worst enemy on the trail if not correctly laced. Your boots should be laced firmly enough to prevent you from slipping forward in the shoe. Loose lacing means your feet can move and rub inside the shoe, leading to blistering. Loosening of the laces is likely to happen during the day, don’t leave your feet to slip around and become irritated, tighten them firmly when necessary.

Learning different lacing techniques can help you to address the specific issues you have with your feet that cause blisters. For example, for the flatfooted amongst us, it is often very difficult to secure your feet with flat arches. An easy lacing technique is to reverse the order of your lacing, start lacing at the top hook eyelet of your boot and bring the laces down the shoe, crisscrossing through the descending hook eyelet loops as you go. Finish your lacing by tying your knot at the lowest eyelet. This way your ankle is gripped more firmly in the shoe to prevent blister-promoting slippage.

Photograph: Lachlan Gardiner

Break in your boots

Heading straight out on a big walk in your new shoes is not considered a great idea if you want to keep some skin on your feet. Hiking boots are made tough and they often need to be worn in to become comfortable enough to wear for consecutive days. Taking your boots out for a few day-walks can help to soften and prepare them for long walks down the track.

Wear the right socks

Wearing the right socks is your first line of defence against moisture softening the skin and making it susceptible to blistering. Socks must be breathable and quick-drying to avoid sweat and water from sitting against the skin for long periods of time. Merino wool or synthetic quick-drying socks are ideal materials for sweat-wicking on the trail. Avoid cotton or bamboo socks as they tend to retain water and dry slowly. If you’re particularly blister prone, having extra socks may be worth the extra weight. Swapping out saturated socks for a dry pair can help to manage moisture.

Many hikers opt for liner socks if they’re particularly blister-prone. These thin socks are designed to be worn under your larger hiking socks. The liner helps to wick moisture away from your foot, preventing softening and potential hot-spots. Check out this blog on choosing the right hiking socks for more detailed information.

 

Smartwool and Injinji Socks

Smartwool Hike Liner Crew Sock Unisex & Injinji Trail 2.0 Midweight Crew Sock

Injinji socks for troublesome toes

The blister-preventing powers of Injinji socks mean they warrant their own category in a blister prevention program. Injinji socks are the perfect technical toe sock that splays the toes and protects them from skin-on-skin friction that can lead to blistering. Injinji socks swaddle each toe in a quick-drying synthetic fabric that rapidly wicks away moisture to keep your feet dry and comfortable. Without friction and moisture, Injinji socks can keep hot-spots at bay and keep you on the trail for longer.

Body glide

Another technique for preventing moisture in your shoes is to use anti-blister balms such as Body Glide. These balms work by forming a barrier against moisture and friction. They keep the feet dry and protected for hours on the trail and can be applied before hiking and topped up as you go.

Photograph: Lachlan Gardiner

Treating blisters on the trail

If you’re blister-prone it’s best to take preventative measures before you hit the trail, or if you notice a hot spot developing while walking it is important to stop and address it before it progresses into a blister. Taping pressure points and hot spots have become a popular technique for managing blisters. Taping your feet creates a barrier to prevent the friction from your shoe from rupturing the skin. It is important to use a medical-grade tape, like those found in the Equip Blister kit, as popular alternatives like duct tape use adhesives that are not intended to be used on the skin. Your taping technique will depend on the problem site, however wherever you are taping, be sure to avoid finishing the tape at a potential friction site like the side of your heel. Bring enough tape so you can wrap generously and reapply when necessary.

Equip Blister Kit and Adventure Medical Kit Blister Medic

Formulated patches found in the Blister Medic Kit from Adventure Medical can provide relief from hot spots and blisters. The kit includes antiseptic wipes, moleskin adhesive patches and GlacierGel blister dressings. The moleskin patches prevent further friction at the painful site, while the GlacierGel relieves pain and begins the healing process if the blister has raptured.

Blisters are an unfortunate part of hiking for many of us. If you know that you’re prone to blisters or you’re heading out for a hike in particularly warm, humid weather it’s best to take precautions to minimise your risk of blisters.

We hope these tips help keep you blister-free and enjoying the outdoors! Share your adventures with us on Instagram!

#ExperienceIsEverything | #PaddyPallin

About The Author

admin

Some 80 years ago, a young bushwalker's dissatisfaction with the limited and heavy bushwalking equipment available prompted him to design and make his own. Before long, word spread, and Paddy Pallin's lightweight, functional designs were soon in demand among fellow bushwalkers. From its early days the company has concentrated on supplying bushwalkers, travellers and adventurers with the highest quality and most advanced products and knowledge. Since 1930 the company has grown to become Australia's leading supplier of specialist outdoor and travel gear. The company, still owned by the Pallin family, now has thirteen stores throughout Australia as well as online, mail order and corporate sales divisions. We are using our vast wealth of knowledge, and experience, to build an online community where we can share our stories, reviews and tech tips to help you research and plan your next adventure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.