Pain and suffering due to blistered feet is not the way you want to remember your adventure. Although sometimes unavoidable, blisters can be prevented or reduced if cared for early and properly. Preventing blisters initially is more effective and easier than treating your feet after the blister has developed. Follow our guide below to learn how to prevent blisters from occurring when hiking.
What causes blisters?
Blisters are caused by friction, heat, and sweating. Once a blister occurs it can be painful and debilitating. Blister prevention is key to making your walking experience much more enjoyable.
Your boots must fit properly to avoid blisters. Too snug or too loose is always a problem. If you are unsure what boot to purchase, come visit a Paddy Pallin store and see one of our professional staff to make sure you are choosing the correct boot for your foot and purpose. Otherwise, ensure that there is a 10mm space between your longest toe and the end of your boot. Be sure that you have enough room to wiggle your toes inside the toe box, and that your heel does not slip when you walk.
All boots require some breaking in. Leather boots in particular tend to be quite stiff when they are new. It will take some time for the leather to flex freely and evenly. If you don't break your boots in properly it may result in painful and debilitating blisters. Blisters can be a terrible affliction when you are out in the bush. For this reason, we strongly recommend that your first walks are short ones. Better still, wear them around the house or down to the shops, before progressing to day walks.
Quality Socks are just as important as quality boots. Sock technology has come a long way from your standard wool or cotton blend. Many people prefer to wear two pairs of socks and this is certainly a good idea if your boots are new. The best combination is a lightweight liner sock under a heavier or technical sock (two thick socks may be too hot). A heavier technical sock provides insulation, shock absorption, and support. A lighter liner sock will help keep the foot dry and prevent blisters, particularly if it is made from a fabric that has good moisture transfer properties. Try a merino wool or polypropylene liner in cool conditions, or a Coolmax liner in warm conditions. Bear in mind that the thickness of the socks you choose will affect the fit of the boot. So when fitting the boots in the store you should always wear socks similar to those in which you intend to walk. Lace boots firmly (not tightly) to help prevent any movement.
Keep your feet dry
When walking long distances it is important to keep your feet dry to prevent blisters from occuring. Using powder such as talcum or foot powder along with the right sock can really help at keeping your feet dry. Bringing a spare pair of socks is also a good idea to change into if your feet become sweaty or wet.
Many walkers use lubricants on their feet to prevent blisters from occurring. Lubricant products such as Body Glide are effective for reducing friction when hiking.
Blister Blocks, Second Skin
If you have specific places that are prone to blisters you might try applying a blister block prior to your hike. These items can be used as a preventative, or to provide cushion and protection after a blister has formed.
Wrapping and Taping
When hiking you should tape any pressure points or hot spots before they become blisters. If you wrap your feet it is important that the tape is applied smoothly (no wrinkles) and is not too tight. Ultra walkers might tape their entire foot, but most walkers only need to tape up hot spots.
Hopefully using a combination of the preventatives above you will come away blister free. It is important to apply the products prior to your walk if you are prone to blisters. You can also carry supplies with you on your walk to treat the hotspot before it develops into a blister.
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