How to Prevent and Treat Blisters while Hiking
Blisters are seriously your foots worst enemy when you’re out there on the trail.
Once you develop a blister on your foot, your hike can go from enjoyable to extreme discomfort. Not to mention if they pop, then it’s just the worst case scenario.
Avoiding or treating blisters should be a skill every hiker knows extremely well.
Because after you get your first blister 6 miles out into the backcountry you realize quickly that you never want one again.
These little annoying bubbles sometimes just come out of nowhere but realistically there are a lot of signs that let you know one is on the way.
Below are a few ways to prevent and or treat blisters while out on the trail.
#1. Break in your Boots
Your boots are a direct lifeline to your feet.
Keeping your boots dry and fitted properly will increase the durability of your feet over extended trips and rough terrain.
Before wearing your boots out on some rough terrain make sure you properly break them in!
You’ll know your boots are broken in when you no longer feel any pain or discomfort after short/moderate walks.
#2. Wear Good Socks and Change them Frequently
Right up there with boots, without good socks your feet will drown in their own sweat or condensation.
Wearing wool socks will help keep your feet dry on the trail, and changing them often will keep the condensation and wetness down.
You’d be surprised at how much your foots comfort increases when changing socks halfway through a hike.
#3. Avoid getting your Boots/Feet Wet
I think by now you’re noticing a trend here, any type of wetness around your feet is bad.
Keeping your feet dry is a must when it comes to hiking on long and rough trips. Avoid walking through rivers or getting your feet and boots wet without either first taking your boots and socks off or if that’s not possible, at least letting them dry and change your socks on the other side.
#4. Address Hot Spots Immediately
While out on the trail, if you’re noticing some heat discomfort while you’re placing your feet it’s an sign that a blister is or will form.
The moment you feel the hotspot, immediately apply some moleskin, tie the boots tighter, or change your socks to avoid getting that blister.
When I hike, I mostly get hotspots on my heels especially when I’m traveling uphill for long durations of time.
This is caused by the back of the boot rubbing my heel as I lift my foot with each step, and since I’m not returning my foot to a flat piece of ground it causes more friction with the longer duration of heel travel.
In these circumstances I do two things, first I take some blister prevention aid like Moleskin and apply it to where the blister is and then reenforce it with some medical tape to make sure the little piece of moleskin won’t fall off.
Then I take either medical tape or even better duck tape and tape the inside of my boot. My goal here is to decrease friction by increasing the slipperiness of that spot.
In most cases I’ve experienced with my heels, this has stopped the forming of a blister.
Adventure Medical Kits Moleskin Blister Dressing
Spenco 2nd Skin Blister Pads
REI Zonas Tape – 1″- Wide Roll
Should You Pop It?
The most harrowing question after you get a blister is one that can go either really well, or terribly wrong.
Should you pop it?
The experts at Wilderness Medicine Institute say “that they open and drain almost all blisters (the exceptions are those caused by burns) and
including the controversial ones: blisters filled with hazy, cloudy fluid and even blood blisters on the heel or ball of the foot.”
They go on to include that their philosophy is that a blister in a high-stress area is going to pop if you keep walking on it. “We’d rather drain it in a controlled setting than have it burst inside a sweaty, dirty boot and sock.”
How to Drain a Blister the Right Way:
1. Clean the area with soap and water, alcohol, or an antiseptic towelette. then Dry thoroughly.
2. Sterilize a needle or sharp blade, either by holding it over a flame until its red-hot or submerging it in boiling water for 2 minutes.
3. Puncture the bottom end of the blister so gravity can help drain it. The opening should be no bigger than is necessary to get the fluid out. Starting at the top of the blister, massage the fluid toward the opening.
4. Apply antibiotic ointment to prevent infection, then wrap with the dressing or blister product of your choice.
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When I first started hiking, I was naive to blisters, and just powered through them. I had a lot of painful hikes and long recovery times in-between.
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Question: What was your absolute worst blister story and how you either overcame it out on the trail or suffered through it all the way back.
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