Friction, heat, and moisture — when combined together, these three elements create an ideal environment for blisters to form. To avoid blisters when hiking, you’ll need to eliminate some or all of the factors that cause them. In this post, we’ll share trail-tested techniques for preventing blisters and treating them if the damage has already been done.
How To Avoid Blisters When Hiking
Let’s start with prevention. With the right prep work, blisters don’t have to be a consequence of enjoying your favorite hikes. Here’s how to avoid blisters from forming.
Ensure Your Boots Fit Properly
Well-fitting, high-quality boots are your first line of defense against blisters. If your boots don’t fit well, your feet will experience a lot more friction, and more heat will be generated as a result. Common issues like developing heel blisters are often due to the constant movement of a boot across the back of the heel. You’ll also need to keep debris out of your boots since sand, leaf litter, and other irritants rubbing around on the inside can cause even the highest-quality boots to perform poorly. If you’ll be hiking in an area with loose terrain, consider a pair of low gaiters to keep debris out.
Check out our Hiking Boot: Size, Fit, and Style Guide to ensure you get the a boot that fits well and is deigned for the type of adventure you plan to use if for. Erem’s hiking and backpacking boots are custom-designed to keep feet cool, dry, and protected, from day hikes to tough, multi-day treks.
Wear Moisture-Wicking Socks
Socks act as a friction barrier between your hiking boots and your feet. The best hiking socks to prevent blisters are made from materials that wick away moisture. Wool or technical synthetic materials are ideal since they keep feet dry, eliminating one of the primary conditions blisters need to form. Avoid cotton socks since they tend to hold on to moisture, dialing up the friction your feet will experience. For longer hikes, consider bringing a second pair of socks to swap out halfway through.
Looking for trail-tested socks? Check out our curated list of top trail socks to help you conquer even the toughest trails.
Consider Sock Liners
Sock liners are socks for socks. They’re made from moisture-wicking fabrics designed to whisk away perspiration quickly, reducing both moisture and friction even more effectively than socks alone. Additionally, sprinkling a thin layer of foot powder onto your feet before putting on the sock liners enhances their effectiveness.
Watch Out For Hot Spots
Hot spots are pre-blisters. They’re those red, tender, warm areas that indicate trouble is brewing. If you notice a hot spot forming, don’t ignore it. Covering it up with a blister bandage or Molefoam is the best way to prevent a hot spot from turning into a blister.
Wrap Blister-Prone Areas
Hiking blisters tend to happen in very predictable places. Your big toe, little toe, and back of the heel are the most common. Wrapping your trouble spots with surgeon’s tape or kinetic tape can prevent the type of direct contact between your skin and socks that spawns blisters. You can use Moleskin pads in this capacity as well.
What To Do if You Get Blisters While Hiking
Blisters can happen even on shorter day hikes, but on longer, multi-day backpacking trips, the chances of developing them are much higher. Far away from civilization with only your now-blistered feet to get you back, it’s crucial to know how to wrap a blister to prevent further damage. Here’s how to care for a blister once it’s formed.
Cover It Quickly
Priority number one is to cover the blister so it doesn’t get worse. You have a few good options to choose from. The first is Molefoam. Trim out a hole large enough to accommodate the blister and apply it to the skin. This foam padding protects the blister from the forces of friction and the heat it creates. Another good option is a bandage specifically for treating blisters such as Hydro-seal or Molefoam. These coverings provide targeted cushioning to help protect the blister from additional damage. Some even have a special gel filling that helps cool the blister down.
Drain a Blister Only When Absolutely Necessary
The fluid buildup in a blister serves an important purpose: It’s your body’s way of protecting an area of the skin that’s been compromised. Popping a blister can short-circuit the natural healing process and open the area to infection. If a blister pops on its own, treat it like a wound, disinfecting the area before applying an antibiotic cream and a bandage. If the blister becomes too large and you need to drain it, use a sterilized needle, wash your hands and the area thoroughly, then make a small hole in the blister. Do not press or peel the skin — the blister will drain on its own from there.
Pack a Blister Care Kit
Being miles from your car isn’t an ideal time to realize a blister is on the way or already arrived. Keep the basics for treating a blister in your basic first aid kit. Must-haves include blister bandages, surgeon’s tape, Moleskin (or similar), hand sanitizer, and a sterile needle or safety pin.
Don’t Let Those Blisters Hold You Back
Hiking is an opportunity to journey deep into the natural world. Far away from the distractions of modern life, hikers get to experience nature the way it was intended to be. At Erem, when we’re not in the shop, we’re out on the trails (with proper blister protection!), exploring the special places that inspire us. We craft hiking boots for optimal performance on trails short and long.
Our hiking and backpacking boots are crafted using full-grain leather uppers and are loose-lined with moisture-wicking, 100% TENCEL™ Lyocell to regulate foot temperature and prevent the ideal conditions for blisters to form. Our Xerocole® boots are produced to our Biocircular standard, using only materials with proven paths back to nature. And with our Reboot program, you can send your worn hiking boots back to us, and we’ll restore them to a good-as-new condition. We’ll even throw in a new pair of laces.
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