Blisters on the hiking trail are no fun. The best way to handle blisters is to avoid them at all costs. If a blister does form on your foot after hiking, there are steps you can take to ease your discomfort and protect the wound. Here's how to manage blisters on the trail.
1. Choose and Break in the Right Hiking Shoes
Blisters on the feet happen due to allergic reactions, wet feet, bee stings, and contact burns. On the hiking trail, most blisters are caused by friction. An ill-fitting boot or sock rubs on part of your foot or ankle as you take each stride. The constant rubbing causes the area to form the protective, fluid-filled spot known as a blister.
Properly fitted boots, shoes, or sandals are the answer. Ensure your new shoes are the correct length and width for your feet, with no sliding up and down the back of the heel or rubbing against the edge of a toe. After choosing the best-fitting pair of hiking shoes, spend some time breaking them in before you hit any lengthy trails.
Unless you order custom shoes, no shoe will be an exact match for your feet. Wear your shoes for an hour while you take a brisk walk. Take off your shoes and see if there are any noticeable red or sore spots on your feet. These are the areas that will give you trouble in the future.
On longer hikes, cushion vulnerable spots with socks that support your feet. Sometimes, adjusting the laces will tighten the slipping spots or loosen pressure points in a shoe. Use sole inserts to solve shoe-tofoot mismatches when the shoes are a bit too big after the break-in period.
2. Cover Your Feet for Blister Prevention
Many hikers swear by their blister-preventative measures. They smear cornstarch, coconut oil, or petroleum jelly on their feet to keep water away from the skin and prevent friction while hiking.
Other hikers use blister tape when they first feel a blister form. Blister tape, blister plasters, and moleskin all work to protect a beginning blister from growing worse.
Socks are another protective measure. Support-socks provide extra cushioning in loose areas of the shoe. Use socks that aren't too bulky in the toe or heel to prevent blisters from socks.
Use two pairs of socks on really long hikes. An inner moisture-wicking sock and outer cushioning sock help reduce friction due to wetness and rubbing. Some hikers use knee-high nylons as the inner sock, but nylons can make your feet feel more hot and sweaty on a long hike.
3. Treat Your Blisters to Avoid Infection and Pain
Take off your shoes and socks throughout the day on extended hikes. Airing out your feet allows them to dry, lessening the chances of developing a moisture-related blister. Inspect your feet during each rest period.
If a blister has formed on your feet, check out the size and fullness of the blister. Small blisters can be taped and left to dry out on their own. Large blisters need a bit of treatment.
It's helpful to drain blister fluid to reduce the pain. To drain and treat a blister, take the following steps:
- Sterilize a needle with alcohol or boiling water; you may also use a hot flame. Allow the hot needle to cool.
- Disinfect the skin on the blister with alcohol or wash with soapy water, then rinse.
- Gently squeeze an area of the blister to make a deep spot to prick the skin. This way the needle won't accidentally prick the tender skin under the blister.
- Prick the skin at the deep spot. Remove the needle and allow the fluids to drain.
- Clean the sticky fluid from your foot, then apply antibiotic ointment over the blister.
- The protective foot skin should be left intact when possible. Use a blister plaster, tape, or moleskin to protect and cover the blister while you hike.
- Routinely check and clean the blister, changing the covering to a fresh one after each clean-up.
At Workshoe Outlet, we carry shoes for hiking and working outdoors, including waterproof, anti-fatigue, and protective toe boots. Contact us today to order the right pair of boots for all your adventures.