Tips To Prevent Blisters When Hiking
Every hiker has at one point suffered the excruciating pain of blisters. Blisters are the result of heat, friction, and moisture accumulating on one spot on your foot. The friction causes fluid to build up beneath the skin and before you know it, there’s that painful little bubble. Blisters can completely ruin a fun day out hiking. You feel you can’t take a single step more but you must. The worst situation you can find yourself in is experiencing a blister and hour or so into your hike. Unless you can get a vehicle to your location, you will face a torturous hour or so hiking back.
When it comes to blisters, prevention is always better than cure. You certainly won’t be able to cure them while you’re halfway up a mountain hiking trail. Before you trek out for even a short hike, take a look at these preventative measures so you can avoid those bothersome blisters and enjoy your outdoor adventure.
Get the Right Footwear
Most blisters are the result of poor footwear. They could be the made of the best materials, but if they don’t fit you perfectly, a blister is inevitable. When it comes to regular hiking shoes or water shoes, you really can’t afford to compromise on quality and comfort. The best hiking shoes you can invest in should fit snugly, but not too tight. Keep in mind that after several hours of hiking, your feet will swell up so you want a little wiggle room, particularly in the toe area.
What you want to look for are durable, yet pliable materials. The shape needs to be right for your feet, they should be wide enough so your toes can move freely, but not loose around the rest of your feet. Your feet should never be able to move around freely in your boots. They will chafe around the edges and you’ll end up with blisters. Most hiking and mountaineering specialty stores have in-house experts so don’t be afraid to ask for their help in choosing the perfect hiking shoes for yourself.
Don’t Hike In New Boots
You’ve managed to find the perfect pair of hiking boots and you just can’t wait to hit the trails with them. SLOW DOWN! You should never go hiking in brand new boots as you will run the risk of blistering feet. Break those new boots in a little by walking around the house, going shopping or on short walks first. This way, you’ll give your feet a chance to get used to them and the materials will conform to the shape of your feet. Once you get them a little more comfortable you should be fine.
Wear Proper Hiking Socks
You probably have a sock drawer at home full of socks for every occasion. But do you have a pair specifically designed for hiking? If you answered no, then you really need to go and get yourself a few pairs. Proper hiking socks have been designed to wick moisture away from your feet, keeping them dry which, in turn, prevents blisters. They are also a little thicker than regular socks so they cushion your feet really well where it’s needed the most. You may be thinking you can just double up on regular socks, but you really can’t. After several hours of hiking, the double socks will start to separate from each other and the discomfort can be awful. It’s always better to get a good quality pair of socks, specifically for hiking and keep your feet protected. For that matter, you should always have two pairs in your backpacking backpack on hand with you in case the first pair gets wet.
Stop At the First Sign of Trouble
If you start to feel the heat in your boots and you just know it’s going to mutate into a blister, stop and take a break. It is crucial to know how to care for your feet when hiking. Readjust your socks, or change them for fresh ones, loosen up your shoes or tape up the potential hot spot. Do whatever you can to make your feet feel comfortable again before you continue with your hike. When you do stop for a break, remove your shoes and let your feet breathe. This will cool your feet down and let some of the perspiration dry off. Then you can ease your feet back into socks and shoes and continue with your hiking. If you’ve packed a blister kit you can use some of the materials in the kit to cushion your feet against a possible flare-up.
Invest In Good Insoles
Another great way to prevent blisters during hiking is to invest in good insoles. The technology available today has produced some great insoles and for hikers, this is great news. Depending on what you’re needs are, you can find different types of insoles so you’re certain to find a great pair for yourself. In particular, look at some of the gel insoles. These provide soft cushioning and cooling relief for your feet. The gel pads in these insoles have different densities of cushioning for different areas of your feet and will give you optimal support where you need it the most. The other benefit of these types of insoles is that you can remove them when you rest and cool them down which will give your feet much-needed relief when you put them back inside your waterproof boots.
Get a Good Pedicure
Good foot grooming isn’t just about having pretty feet. A professional pedicure will ensure your nails are trimmed which will go a long way in avoiding pressure in the front of your boots. Your toenails shouldn’t have any sharp edges or corners that will start digging into your nail beds causing pain, and you can enjoy a little extra comfort for your entire feet. Of course, if it’s not really your style to get a pedicure, at least make sure your toenails are trimmed. Your feet will thank you, and so will your socks.
Keep Your Feet Dry
The quickest way to hiking discomfort and painful, blistered feet is trekking with wet feet. Hiking in bad weather conditions is never a good idea because the temperatures can drop quite drastically in mountain areas putting you at risk of getting caught in a storm. Professional soldiers are always taught to keep their feet dry. In fact, they are taught that socks are one of the most important parts of a military uniform. Dry feet are less likely to blister, you avoid bacteria multiplying in sweaty shoes and good socks also improve circulation. Always carry extra socks and whenever you have the opportunity to sit and rest for a while, take your boots and socks off and let your feet dry completely. If needed, this is when you put on fresh, dry socks so you can keep moving in relative comfort.
Dunk Your Feet While Resting
If you’re hiking along a river or stream you’re not only enjoying breathtaking scenery, you’ve also got a nice foot spa on hand when you want to take a break. If it’s a nice warm day, take off your boots and socks and dunk your feet in the water. The cool water will refresh your feet and cool them down considerably, which will also reduce the swelling from hours of hiking. You’ll also rinse off any dirt and bacteria that has gathered around your feet during the hike. Dirt and sweat don’t’ cause blisters, but they can accelerate their progress and make them worse when they do appear. If you don’t have a natural source of water to cool your feet in, just splash some your feet with some water and let them air dry completely before you gear up and resume your hike.
Lubricate Your Feet
If you can avoid the friction in your hiking boots, you will most likely avoid the blisters too. You can help prevent blisters on your feet by rubbing them with a little petroleum jelly to potential hot spots. There are also a number of products specifically designed for active feet. These can be found in stores selling sporting equipment, particularly for runners. Some are applied like a roll-on deodorant, other come in a tube. They can be plant or silicone based. Take this product with you when you go hiking and apply an additional thin layer each time you stop for a break and let your feet breath.
In the event that you do get blisters, you’ll just have to try your best to get back to civilization. If the blister is particularly large, you may have to make a tiny incision and drain out the fluid. Cover with a band-aid and keep walking. You should never head out without a first aid kit, so use the band-aids and surgical padding to cushion the blistered area until you can have it attended to properly, and always look after your hiking essentials.
Don’t let a little thing like a blister stop you from experiencing the wonders nature has to offer out there on the trails. The good news is, blisters tend to heal very quickly so you’ll be in good shape to get out there again in less than a week. Happy Trails.