How to Win the Battle Against Blisters

Death, taxes, and blisters? Not so fast. Here are ten ways to avoid every backpacker's pet peeve.
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Death, taxes, and blisters? Not so fast. Here are ten ways to avoid every backpacker's pet peeve.

1. Be proactive: Five miles into your hike should not be the first time you worry about blisters. The best way to avoid them is to plan ahead and be proactive. Have you tied your boots correctly to prevent rubbing? Are you carrying moleskin, duct tape, or other first aid implements just in case? 

2. Toughen up your feet: Some people get blisters just because they have soft feet. At home, try taking off your shoes and walking around barefoot to toughen up the soles.

3. Choose the right shoe: Boot fit is the single most important way to prevent blisters on the trail. Don't order your next pair sight unseen online. Go into the retail store and try on multiple pairs while wearing a fully-loaded pack to give yourself a true simulation.

4. Socks: Just like shoes, not all socks are the same. Choose synthetic socks that wick away moisture and fit your feet snuggly without any bunching in the heel or toe.

5. Sock layering: Don't want to splurge on pricey double-layer socks? Try wearing two pairs of thinner socks at the same time. The extra cushion will prevent rubbing and a technical fabric will wick moisture away from your feet.

6. Moleskin:  These preventative adhesive patches can be a lifesaver—if you know where hotspots are likely to develop in advance. Put 'em on before your hike and enjoy knowing that 

7. Duct tape: Duct tape fixes everything, including blisters. If you feel a hotspot, take some duct tape and cover the spot securely. It's adhesive enough to stay put and slippery enough to reduce friction in your boot.

8. Keep your feet dry: Moisture buildup causes the skin on your feet to swell and rub awkwardly, so do your best to stay out of puddles. Choose boots that are waterproof yet breathable (like the La Sportiva Synthesis Mid GTX). If your feet do get wet, take off your boots and socks in camp to let them air out.

9. Keep 'em clean: Hikers' feet won't win any beauty contest, and a little grime comes with the territory. But over the long haul, dirty feet can contribute to blisters and cause existing sores to become infected. Rinse your feet off whenever you come across a source of running water.

10. Get some insoles: Sometimes the insoles in your boots are just not very good and can be the main cause of a lot of your blister problems. You can buy new boots, but the more cost effective solution would be to pick up some better insoles to put in them.