03 Aug 20

How to prevent and treat blisters when hiking

Sam McCrow Training and Preparation

To prevent blisters when hiking the key is to eliminate friction.

Different things work for different people, but one thing’s for sure: preventing blisters when hiking can be done with just a little bit of effort. The best strategy is to be aware of how your feet are feeling. If there is discomfort or a ‘hot spot’ developing, take off your boots before you get a blister. If you feel sand or dirt, prickles or a fold in your sock, stop and remove it straight away.

Also, bring a spare pair of shoes in case you get a blister. Sometimes changing shoes is a huge relief!

Here’s a range of blister prevention strategies different RAW travellers and our Destination Experts have found work for them. There are no hard and fast rules here, what works for one person may not work for another person as feet are very individual! Why not test a few out on your training walks and see if they are effective for you.

1. These boots are made for walking

Buy comfortable, well-fitting walking boots. They must be waterproof, and they must have a good sole with good grip.
See our expert tips about what hiking boots to buy.

2. Toughen up

Condition your feet by walking, gradually building intensity, pace and distance. Moisturise your feet with a good quality foot cream after showering.

3. Adjust

Adjust your laces during your walk so that your shoes fit perfectly. Foot swelling and different temperatures and terrain will affect the fit of your boots. (When you buy your boots, ask the shop assistant to explain the lacing system. This is really important. If they don’t have a clue, either take a friend who is a regular hiker with you, or shop elsewhere.)

4. Get wrapping

Wrap hiking wool around your toes to prevent them from rubbing together. Many of our clients swear by this!

5. Powder

Put cornflour or talcum powder in your socks to keep your feet dry.

6. Chop, chop

Keep your toenails short.

7. Invest in good socks

Use moisture-wicking socks and consider double-layers. Experiment with the thickness of your socks, and change them whenever your feet get wet.

8. Try taping

Apply tape (such as Fixomull) or dressings to reduce friction. It can be difficult to perfect the technique and can be time-consuming, so you’ll need to practise.

9. Be prepared!

Always carry blister pads in your daypack. The cushioned gel pad immediately reduces pain and promotes fast healing. You can even use them to prevent blisters.

10. Seek professional help

See a podiatrist if you think the way you walk might predispose you to blisters. You might need orthotics.

Blister treatment

  • Broken blisters that are leaking fluid should be disinfected and bandaged
  • Small blisters that are not painful should be left alone because the best protection against infection is the blister’s own skin. These will heal by themselves and will be reabsorbed in a few days
  • If you do have blisters, shower in the evening to allow your feet to be fully dry when you dress them and set off in the morning

See more on preventing blisters.

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