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Uncle Stevie's Patented Duct Tape Heel Blister Repair

This time- and trail-tested solution to heel blisters has saved our Rocky Mountain Editor's bacon on many an epic. May it do the same for you.
Photos by Jennifer Howe / howephoto.us
  • 1. Heel blisters can cause agony step after step, and they often make a surprise appearance at the start of big trips, when your payload is heavier than normal. Your first step; Clean and disinfect the area.
  • 2. To help moleskin, Glacier Gel, and tape stick better, paint any unopened areas on and around the blister with tincture of benzoin, a skin adhesive. (Note: The alcohol solvent hurts on open sores).
  • 3. For open blisters, Glacier Gel from Adventure Medical kits is the ticket. Apply it stretched, with as few wrinkles as possible. Keep your ankle flexed forward during the taping procedure.
  • 4. Hold Moleskin and Glacier Gel in place preferably with slippery duct tape, which allows socks and boots slip over the wound. Blister unopened? Just paint the bubble with Vaseline or antiseptic cream and go to duct tape.
  • 5. Start by tightly stretching a 6- to 8-inch piece of duct horizontally over the blister.
  • 6. Rounding the edges keeps them from rolling into pressure points later on.
  • 7. Stretch several more pieces in the same direction.
  • 8. Once the heel is thoroughly and smoothly covered, put several sections of tape in a 'stirrup' fashion under the heel and instep, attaching them to the horizontal bands.
  • 9. Layer tape in both directions until you have a smooth, tight wrap that covers the heel pocket completely. Wrap well forward of your ankle bone, but not far above them.
  • 10. Finish the wraps with one or two sections of tape running down the Achilles and underfoot. This keeps heel lift friction from rolling and peeling the horizontal tape bands.
  • 11. Almost finished, the repair should look like this.
  • 12. Hold the assembly in place by running one or two half-widths of duct tape around your heel and across the forward fold of your ankle. Keep your shin tilted forward during this, to prevent uncomfortable tension while walking.
  • 13. To finish, trim up any uneven edges and awkward folds with scissors. While hiking, you may need to trim back the achilles, shin and forefoot to avoid irritation. Avoid wet-footed river fords, since they'll loosen the whole blister repair.
  • 14. On multi-day trips, remove the tape overnight to let your foot breathe. To save time and make tape last longer, cut the instep strap and carefully remove the tape booty for re-use. A short piece of tape will reattach it.
1. Heel blisters can cause agony step after step, and they often make a surprise appearance at the start of big trips, when your payload is heavier than normal. Your first step; Clean and disinfect the area.
Image 1 of 14

1. Heel blisters can cause agony step after step, and they often make a surprise appearance at the start of big trips, when your payload is heavier than normal. Your first step; Clean and disinfect the area.

READERS COMMENTS

Page 1 | 2

I sent e-mails to Backpacker trying to get their attention about a product called "Cover Roll" that works terrific as a means of preventing blisters. Been using it for over 10 years with no blisters. You can get it on the web - just do a search for COVER ROLL". I get 2" X 10 yds at Amazon. It REALLY works. It stays on for days and doesn't hurt when taken off.
— Gordon Ripley

Interesting technique. Seems like a lot of work, but can you really put a price tag on a blister-free experience? My only concern is with the amount of duct tape required, especially if you need to re-apply or have sweaty feet that would require changing out the entire setup on a daily basis.
— Aaron

For those who are minimalists,toting a roll of duct tape must be comparable to lugging a boat anchor.
Think battleship anchor.
— desert shellback

In my experience to put duct tape directly on a closed blister as stated above is guaranteed to pull the skin off the blister and create an open sore. We tried duct tape with blisters in all directions and it always caused grief. I can see if you had it covered first as the first pictures showed you might be safe but the other problem we found with duct tape is it dose not breath creating a wet wound highly prone to infection.
This comes from 40 years experience with hundreds of students.
— Larry wells

Tennis players have been using this technique for decades. The slippery outer surface of the duct tape reduces friction and thus no more blisters.
— Mel

Interesting that most of the complaints in this comment section were addressed in the slide show captions. Seems to be a common theme with BPs website commenters. The Facebook comments seem smarter and more informed.
— lifelong trekker

Adding on to Larry's comment. I also remember seeing some "worst case" pictures in my first WFR course that showed a student who had worn a duct tape bootie for multiple days without taking it off at night. The adhesive of the duct tape ripped half of the skin on his heel off! Some stronger language emphasizing the need to remove the duct tape should be considered for this article.
— Jim Parker

Yikes....how many yards of duct tape can a guy fit in his boot? This entire remedy sees waaaay overdone. I've had good luck with a flexible fabric BandAid placed over the blister, with a bit of Neosporin over the blister to eliminate friction. And I don't have to carry a mile of duct tape!
— Dave

Good for protecting a blister, but a bit of overkill on the tape. To each their own. I have tried a sundry of methods (including duct tape)- newest is Body Glide roll on with a good liner or synthetic sock to prevent, seems to be working well.
— Jaggedburn

Looks like massive overkill to me. I've treated blisters (some of them nasty), and prevented hot spots from turning into blisters, for years with a variety of the simpler, and more minimal, techniques, that others mention. Depends on the blister. Neosporin, Body Glide, Second Skin, Band-Aids, and ye ol' moleskin (the most complicated approach I've used). Always appreciate a new suggestion for any skill area, but I think I'll pass on this one.
— Craig


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