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Backpacker Magazine – April 2001

Blister Prevention: Hiker, Heel Thyself

Think blisters are a sure thing when you hike? Think again: Here's your ticket to preventing and treating the dreaded sores.

by: BACKPACKER Editors


Friction Prevention

  1. Clean and dry feet thoroughly, then coat each blister-prone area with tincture of benzoin (see "Stick-to-it-iveness"). Let feet dry for 3 minutes, spreading apart any toes that were treated.
  2. Apply a thin layer of lubricant over all sticky areas. Try Vaseline, Sportslick, Bodyglide, or a silicone cream like Hydropel or Avon's Silicone Glove. In a pinch, use cooking oil.
  3. Wear a sock liner to prevent your wool or synthetic socks from getting slimy.
  4. Change your socks and reapply the lubricant every 4 to 6 hours. Be sure to wipe any grit from your feet before applying another coat.

Recommended by John Vonhof

Heel How-To

  1. Pop and drain a heel blister (see "Should You Pop?" ).
  2. Apply antiseptic cream directly to the blister and a layer of tincture of benzoin around the wound to help the dressing adhere.
  3. Cut a circular piece of moleskin, Molefoam, or your covering of choice 1/2-inch bigger than the blister. Cut a hole slightly larger than the blister in the middle of the covering and place the "doughnut" over the blister to create a pressure-free pocket around the sore.
  4. Cover the entire doughnut with a second piece of moleskin, then secure it with duct tape. Run tape strips along the sides of your foot toward your toes, then secure the ends with a few loops around the instep.

Recommended by Buck Tilton, Backpacker contributing editor and author of Medicine for the Backcountry.

Stick-to-it-iveness
Tincture of benzoin, a balsamic tree resin, has antiseptic, aromatic, and adhesive properties. It can be found in many forms-impregnated in cotton swabs, in small vials as a liquid, and as a spray-at drugstores and medical supply houses. Keep a little benzoin in your first-aid kit and use it to:

  • Augment the stickiness of any blister treatment. Just apply it to your foot, let it dry until tacky (a few minutes), then affix your dressing of choice.
  • Protect your skin from friction. When applied to unblistered skin, tincture of benzoin dries to a hardened shield, like a second layer of toughened-up skin.
  • Seal an existing blister as a last resort.
-Kristin Hostetter

Foot Soldiers

The brave men and women who serve in our military, hiking with heavy loads for days at a time, also serve as guinea pigs for blister research. Here's what they've discovered: n Antiperspirant applied to feet reduced sweating, but it didn't prevent blisters. In some cases, it even increased irritation.

  • Those who jogged regularly were less likely to get blisters on a 10-kilometer (6.5-mile) hike.
  • The sock-and-liner method worked best if the outer sock maintained its loft (and thus its cushion) when saturated.
  • Soldiers using foot powder had a higher incidence of blisters than those not using it. Once saturated, the powder clumps and abrades feet.
  • Cadets who wore their boots for a total of at least 20 hours in the 2 weeks prior to maneuvers had fewer blisters.
-Susan Newquist



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READERS COMMENTS

Peter
Mar 23, 2012

For friction and moisture prevention I use Tape Relief (http://www.taperelief.com/). I is a lotion but it dries to create a barrier on the skin. I haven't had any blisters for a long time!

Peter
Mar 20, 2012

Most of my blisters come from friction on the upper ankle. I use Tape Relief (http://www.taperelief.com/)to prevent the friction from affecting the skin. It has worked pretty well so far!

Mark
May 28, 2010

I find that it is best to drain blisters immediately (as described above) then wrap the area with athletic tape, putting at lest two wraps on. This way it sticks to itself and doesnt come off when you sweat. I replace it when the tape is worn through or it eventually falls off. For very sensitive ones, I put a small patch of tape sticky side up before wrapping. But, like Brian said, the best treatment is conditioning your feet.

PS I have also tried packing tape, but I feel like my foot "sloshes" in the shoe and I do not have the control I like.

Mark
May 28, 2010

I find that it is best to drain blisters immediately (as described above) then wrap the area with athletic tape, putting at lest two wraps on. This way it sticks to itself and doesnt come off when you sweat. I replace it when the tape is worn through or it eventually falls off. For very sensitive ones, I put a small patch of tape sticky side up before wrapping. But, like Brian said, the best treatment is conditioning your feet.

PS I have also tried packing tape, but I feel like my foot "sloshes" in the shoe and I do not have the control I like.

Bryan
Dec 07, 2009

Just as the article says blisters are a simple equation: friction + moisture = blisters. Two things have worked well for me in the past. First and foremost is proper training of the feet. If you dont start slow your going to get them on your first hikes or rucks. Second, foot prep prior to your hike goes even further. While training your feet you should have identified your problematic areas and will know where to apply moleskin. Before putting your boots on, apply spray antiperspirant then powder to your feet. Also, if allowed a thin sock liner works wonders under your main boot sock. While on your hike or hump, if the situation allows change socks and repowder. These methods have worked for me. Happy hunting!!

IsaacBrooks
Oct 06, 2009

I am in the marine corps infantry, needless to say I do a LOT of hiking. I have found that the best treatment for blister is to just push through it. I have tried duct tape, moleskin, etc. but nothing has truly prevented blisters. I think this is a topic that has no absolute way to stop blisters, best thing you can do is to change your socks and try to keep you feet as dry as possible. Good luck and step it out!

Rich
Oct 11, 2008

I completed the 220 mile John Muir Trail in September and had serious blister issues. I tried duct tape, moleskin, bandaid blister block, Nexcare blister and Spenco 2nd skin. I hiked 15+ miles per day in light trail runner shoes with a 21 pound max pack weight. All of the above treatments would become filthy from trail dust and would be partially hanging off my foot by the end of each day. Good old duct tape and moleskin were the least expensive treatments yet were just effective as expensive Bandaid, Nexcare and Spenco blister treatments. Next time I won't waste my money on the special blister products! Happy hiking.

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