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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


6 Steps To Blister-Free Bliss
The easiest way to deal with blisters? Don't get them. Sounds obvious, but many of us forget that prevention is the best medicine. Here's some advice:

  1. Clip and file.
    Keep your toenails short and file down calluses.
  2. Buy boots that fit, then break them in.
    Wear your new or almost-new boots around the house and town, then venture out on dayhikes with a light pack. Slowly progress to longer trips. Use duct tape to smooth rough spots or protruding seams inside the boot. Heavy, stiff boots require a lengthy break-in. If you're in a hurry, do like some cowboys do: wade in water to soak the leather, then wear the boots until dry. They'll conform to the curves of each foot. Boot makers frown on this because it dries out leather, but if you regularly condition and clean your hikers, one thorough soaking probably won't hurt. A bit of mink oil will soften the toughest of tough shoes, but use it sparingly since it can oversoften leather.
  3. Adhere to three rules for socks:
    1) No cotton; cotton holds moisture next to your skin. 2) Wear socks with smooth, flat seams. 3) Wear socks with a snug fit and no wrinkles or baggy spots. Then experiment with different types and thicknesses. A thin synthetic sock liner slides against your sock and boot so your skin doesn't have to. Rub a bar of soap across the friction points on the outer side of liners to make them slide even easier.
  4. Tend to hot spots the minute they develop.
    Let feet air dry, then apply your choice of blister shield (see "Blister Beaters" on page 88). Timely application of duct tape or moleskin often will keep a warm spot from becoming a red-hot, weeping blister.
  5. Try supportive insoles.
    Both custom- made and over-the-counter insoles reduce movement inside a boot, thus limiting friction.
  6. Keep feet cool and dry.
    Change into dry socks at regular intervals during the day, and let the soggy pair dry outside your pack. In camp, don sandals so your sweaty paws can air out.
-K. Hostetter

Tape tips
Always place a layer of toilet paper over the skin before applying tape. Or, create a bandage by placing a smaller piece of tape in the center of a strip-sticky side to sticky side-so a smooth surface lies against the sore.

Avoiding Toe Blisters

  1. Wrap a small strip of tape, sticky side down, from the base of the toenail over the tip of your toe and then underneath it.

  2. Wrap a second strip around the circumference of the toe, covering the ends of the first strip. Cut the ends of the second strip as close to each other as possible without overlapping them.

    Recommended by John Vonhof

    Trouble Afoot
    Within 6 hours of damage, blistered skin begins to recover. Within 48 hours, a granular layer-the stuff that makes skin tough so it doesn't hurt when you touch it-forms. Complete healing typically occurs within 5 days.



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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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