How To Prevent and Treat Blisters When Hiking

Hiking blisters can be a real pain. Literally. Not only can they slow you down on the trail, but they can also become infected and cause even more problems. In this article, we will discuss how to prevent and treat blisters when hiking.

We’ll cover everything from choosing the right shoes to using moleskin to treating an infection.

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hiking in the rocky mountains
Hiking in the Rocky Mountains

What causes blisters?

There are a few different things that can cause this common hiking injury: blisters when hiking.

First, if you’re not wearing good-fitting hiking shoes or boots, you may be more susceptible to blisters.

Second, if you don’t break in your trail runners or hiking boots before hitting the trail, this can also lead to blisters.

Third, if you hike for long periods without taking breaks, this can cause your feet to sweat and eventually lead to blisters.

Finally, if you have any cuts or scrapes on your feet, these can also become infected and cause blisters.

Prevention is the best medicine

taped blisters on the toes

There are many different strategies that hikers can adopt to prevent blisters when exploring the great outdoors.

Here are a few blister prevention tips that have worked for me:

Choose the right footwear

Merrell Women's Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe, Taupe, 9 M US

These highly-rated Merrell trail runners will keep your feet cushioned all day. They come in a variety of colours as well.

The best hiking boots are the ones that fit well. You’ll want a pair of waterproof boots that are comfortable and breathable. If you usually opt for trail running shoes, they make a great lightweight hiking shoe since they fit like sneakers and don’t require as much or any time to break in.

The right hiking footwear can make a world of difference in blister prevention.

Hiking boots that fit well-break them in

How To Prevent and Treat Blisters When Hiking

If you’ve just purchased brand-new footwear such as leather boots (which tend to be hard) be sure to break in your hiking boots before hitting the trail. This will help to soften up the boots and avoid any uncomfortable rubbing that can lead to blisters. Most trail runners these days don’t require a break-in period.

Hiking socks

CWVLC Hiking Crew Socks, 4-Pack Men Women Boot Socks for Walking, Hunting, Camping, Winter Outdoor Work, Cosy Cushion, Moisture Wicking, Arch Compression, Anti Blister, Medium, Blue Purple

Choose a cushioning performance sock like these that are designed not to slip, bunch, or leave blisters.

Wear wool or synthetic socks while hiking. These quality socks have some unique properties that help to prevent blisters and provide additional cushioning and support for the feet.

Merino wool and synthetic socks hold moisture much better than cotton socks. They will wick sweat away from the skin and keep your feet cool and dry which is essential for preventing friction-based blisters.

Additionally, these materials tend to be less itchy than other fabrics, keeping your feet comfortable all day long.

Choose a pair of good hiking socks that fit snugly and have hidden seams, which will avoid any chafing in that area of the foot.

Cotton socks

Cotton socks should be avoided since they don’t wick moisture well so you’ll end up with sweaty feet and then blisters.

Consider toe socks to reduce toe blisters

Injinji Women's Run Lightweight No-Show (X-Small/Small, Gray)

Toe socks such as Injinji trail socks are designed to form a snug, protective barrier around each toe.

Which limits bunching and friction between the feet and the toe box. This, in turn, helps to prevent blisters from forming and allows you to keep walking with comfort and confidence.

Additionally, many toe socks are made from breathable materials that keep your feet dry, thereby reducing the chance of hiking blisters.

Wear gaiters to avoid debris

These handy accessories wrap around your ankles and lower legs to shield your boots from pebbles, prickly bushes, and leaf debris.

Made from lightweight materials such as nylon or Gore-tex, gaiters extend over the top of your boots and create a tight seal.

They will prevent sand and other gritty material from getting inside your boot and irritating your skin. And if you expect to encounter rain or wet trails, wearing waterproof breathable gaiters can help keep your feet dry.

Pre-tape problem areas

Pre-tape vulnerable areas of your feet by carefully wrapping strategic areas with duct tape, athletic tape or a special blister bandage known as mole skin.

This will give your skin extra protection against friction and heat build-up, two common causes of blisters on the trail. 

How to prevent and treat blisters when hiking
Applying moleskin

Use anti-chafing products

One of the best approaches to prevent blisters is to use anti-chafing products like Gold Bond foot powder or Vaseline.

These products help to create a barrier between your skin and your shoes, reducing friction and preventing painful blisters from forming.

Additionally, many anti-chafing products are infused with natural ingredients like aloe that soothe irritated skin and promote healing.

I prefer the Gold bond method to the vaseline as it’s less messy.

Upgrade your insoles

Insoles such as those found in high-quality hiking boots are designed with excellent cushioning, shock absorption, and moisture management properties. These features help reduce friction while you’re walking, reducing the likelihood of chafing or blistering.

Additionally, insoles that fit snugly into your hiking boots can help distribute weight more evenly across your feet, preventing pressure points that may result in blistering later down the line. 

So upgrade to an after market pair of insoles if you don’t have the proper support in your hiking boots.

foot above an insole

Cut your toenails

Long toenails can create extra pressure on the inside of your hiking boot, leading to friction and friction leads to blisters.

To prevent blisters, keep your nails short and smooth by trimming them prior to setting out on the trail. 

How To Prevent and Treat Blisters When Hiking

Learn how to lace your boots- for maximum comfort

Lacing your boots properly is essential if you want to prevent blisters while hiking. There are a few different lacing techniques that can help you achieve this goal, and each has its own unique advantages to help alleviate some boot-fitting issues.

For example, the surgeon’s knot is a simple and versatile way to avoid heal slips. This knot allows you tie tight enough to support your foot without causing discomfort or leaving gaps that could cause irritation.

How To Prevent and Treat Blisters When Hiking- pair of my hiking boots with surgeon's knot
Surgeon’s knot- double knot laces on the 2 speed hooks

Another popular option is window lacing, which alleviates pressure points on the top of the foot by distributing force along the sides of the boot.

Relieve pressure with window lacing

Finally, for a quick emergency fix, Toe-Relief Lacing can be used to temporarily relieve pain and prevent further damage before returning home or reaching a trailhead.

Toe-relief lacing-skip the 1st set of eyelets

Prepare with a blister first aid kit

Blisters can be a real nuisance on the trail – not only do they impede your progress, but they also tend to get inflamed and painful.

That’s why having an effective first aid kit comes in handy. It can help to soothe blisters and provide instant pain relief so that you can continue on your way.

Blister treatment

Even if you take all the right precautions, sometimes you can’t avoid getting blisters. So be prepared with the first-aid supplies and know how to use them.

When treating blisters, there are a few different approaches that can be used depending on the severity of the blister.

How to prevent and treat blisters when hiking
Blister forming on the heel

Treat hot spots right away

Hot spots are red, painful areas on the skin that appear before blisters form. They’re usually caused by friction between your foot and shoe.

This involves stopping as soon as you notice a spot that feels tender or irritated.

If it’s just a hot spot, and no blister has formed you can apply an antiseptic ointment and cover it with leukotape, moleskin or duct tape. This will help prevent further friction damage.

If the hot spot area isn’t getting worse, keep the tape over it until you’re back home. Gently remove the tape to avoid harming skin that may have already been damaged.

Should you pop a blister?

This is a controversial topic, as some people believe that popping a blister can help to speed up the healing process.

However, this isn’t always the case – in fact, popping a blister can often lead to further irritation and pain.

If you do decide to pop a blister, follow these tips from the American Academy of Dermatology Association.

Sterilize the area beforehand to avoid introducing any bacteria into the wound. Pierce the blister with a pin, blade, or needle at the bottom of the blister, to allow the fluid to drain out.

Do not remove the blistered skin from the foot, it acts as a cover to protect the skin from bacteria and further infection.

Once the blister has been popped, apply an antibiotic ointment and cover it with a bandage or moleskin to protect it from further damage. 

Lastly, apply a piece of tape to keep the bandage in place.

How to prevent and treat blisters when hiking
Small blister on pinky toe

Treat the blister

If you have a large or painful blister, you may need to take some time to treat it before continuing on your hike. Start by cleaning the area with an alcohol swab or antiseptic wipes to prevent infection.

After that, apply an antibiotic ointment from your blister kit and cover it with a bandage, moleskin, or duct tape. This will help to protect the blister and speed up the healing process.

Once the blister has been treated, you can continue on your hike. You may need to try lacing your boots a different way to avoid causing any further pain. Just be sure to keep an eye on it in case it pops or starts to hurt again.

After your hike- foot care tips

It’s important to treat your feet properly after a long day of hiking.

Some key tips to keep in mind include:

Take off your boots and socks and let your feet air out. Wear a pair of crocs or flip-flops if you don’t like to go barefoot.

Keep your toenails trimmed and filed to avoid any sharp points or edges.

Take care of your feet in the shower, and clean your feet to remove any sweat or dirt that’s accumulated from the day’s hike.

Also, a little moisturizer will keep your skin from developing painful heel cracks. Use a pumice stone to smooth away calluses and then apply the moisturizer.

Treat your feet during downtime by resting and elevating them.

Soak your bones and sore feet in a hot tub to relieve muscle soreness.

A foot massage will keep your feet strong and flexible.

Be sure to also treat athlete’s foot, planters warts, or other troublesome skin irritations as they arise.

How to prevent and treat blisters when hiking
Take care of your feet

Final thoughts

By following these simple steps for taking care of your hard working feet, you can be sure that they will stay feeling happy and healthy no matter how far you wander!

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