blisters Blisters are the most common problem with feet when hiking, but there are other concerns as well. Impacting hard, rough terrain for miles on end is hard on feet. Just plain old tired out, sore, aching feet can make the end of a hike pretty miserable. Our feet take a lot of punishment while hiking and an urban or sedentary body will feel that punishment much more than someone who has conditioned his feet to the work.

Feet Conditioning


foot blister Just regular walking every day does a great job in preparing your entire body for an extended hike. It improves your breathing, endurance, muscle strength, and conditions your feet. In addition to walking, try these tips:
  • Treat any foot fungus before beginning a hiking program. See a doctor if you need more than over-the-counter medicines.
  • Use Benzoin on the bottoms of your feet to toughen the skin.
  • Wear your new hiking boots on at least 10 5-mile break-in hikes before going on a long all-day hike. Make sure boot and foot are fitted and matched up comfortably. Even your old favorite boots should be worn on a couple short hikes if you haven't used them since last summer.
  • Walk barefoot around your home and outside when you can. This will toughen the skin of your feet. Be careful of stepping on sharp things and stinging insects, of course.
  • Wear supportive, comfortable sandals or other open shoes to help keep your feet dry when just walking around town.
  • Thick calluses or corns can crack and become a problem. Keep your foot skin tough but elastic by using skin cream. You need the callus as padding against blisters, but you may want to remove excessive callus build-up.
  • Keep your toenails trimmed and free from ingrown parts or sharp edges that can irritate skin and wear out expensive hiking socks.

Feet Protection


blister treatment When you start your hike, its a good idea to protect your feet from blisters and other problems before they develop.
  • Wear well-fitting hiking boots. They should not chafe or have pressure points because that will cause blisters. They should be watertight to keep out moisture but breathable to allow foot sweat to escape. They should also have a scree collar to keep out debris.
  • Use thick impact-absorbing insoles.
  • Wear clean, dry, soft hiking socks with no seams that rub on your feet. A polypropylene sock liner that you replace when your feet get damp helps keep feet dry, free from blisters, and less likely to grow fungus. Do not wear cotton socks since they just soak up and retain moisture.
  • Air out your feet at least at the lunch break, but more often if possible, to keep them clean, cool, and dry. Include a soaking in a stream if available, but be sure to let them dry well before hiking again.
  • Stop and remove dirt, sand, or debris that gets in your boots. Stop now, not a mile down the trail or when its time for lunch.
  • Stop and rest your feet when they feel hot, tired, or sore. Remove your boots to allow your feet to cool down and dry off. Alter your hiking pace or adjust the tightness of your boots.
  • If hot spots persist, cover them with moleskin before they become blisters.

Blisters


how to treat blisters Blisters are certainly the most common problem for hikers. Lack of conditioning and improper caring for your feet while hiking are the major cause of these avoidable pains. Blisters are caused by:
  • Heat - generated from your foot rubbing against your sock which is being pressed by your boot.
  • Moisture - softens the skin, resulting in less protection. It also reduces the ability of soft socks to smoothly slide on skin, causing more friction.
  • Grit - sand, dirt, gravel in your boot will increase the friction in concentrated spots, generating more heat.
So, to prevent blisters, all you need to do is remove dirt, moisture, and heat from your feet. Keep your feet cool, dry, and clean. Following the Feet Conditioning and Feet Protection tips above will do that.

How to Treat Blisters

:
  • If the blister has not torn and is full of liquid, pierce it from the side with a sterile needle at its base. Let all the fluid run out.
  • If the blister has torn already, carefully cut away the loose skin of the blister and treat the area with antiseptic.
  • Allow the blister to dry and harden in the open air for as long as you can.
  • When you need to resume hiking, put a bandaid or gauze over a torn blister.
  • Put a layer of moleskin over the blister area. You may cut a doughnut shaped piece of moleskin that fits around the blister rather than directly on it.
  • Check the blister at each stop and give it as much time to dry off as you can whenever you can. Keep it clean and sterilized to prevent infection.
  • Do not pierce intact blisters that are deep, rather than just the top few layers of skin. Just apply a moleskin doughnut to relieve the friction and monitor the blister.

Hike On: Hiking Knees


Comments:
 Apr 19, 2012 - Shanae
I was wearing cowgirl boots with no socks for awhile and It caused blisters. one is ripped open and is SUPPER sensitive. if anything a sock or a bandage touchess it. it hurts really bad. :( and I have a blister on the left and its not popped and it really dosnt hurt. should i leave it alone and let it pop on its own?
Jun 13, 2012 - Jason
We are attempting the Tour of Mont Blanc prior to summit and walking the TMB expect a few blisters. Will let you all know how it goes. www.justgiving.com/2012MontBlanc
Jul 25, 2012 - Terra
Best of luck Jason! Get yourself some GurneyGoo ( www.pxtkayaks.com/categories/Health/ ) before you go, your feet will love you for it.
Jan 20, 2013 - Hikes for advice
I had a HUGE blister on my left foot; I was climbing a ladder and it popped and ripped.  Raw skin really hurts!!! Putting antiseptic on it helps soooooo much.
Feb 25, 2013 - Catherine
Hi, I'm doing the London to Brighton trek, 100k over 30 hrs.  No sleep. Been wearing my 1000 mile hiking sock which has a inner liner but find after a 10mile walk the hard skin on my feet go white and soft as if I've been n the bath for ages.  How can I prevent this, chg my socks after 8miles?
Feb 26, 2013 - Hiking Dude
Catherine - It sounds like your feet are sweating and the moisture can not escape your shoe.  Changing your socks is a good idea to try.  Take a couple extra pair and change them at 3 and 6 miles.
Or, look into changing shoes to something that breaths better - leather hiking boots don't let out moisture like mesh trail shoes.
Jul 20, 2013 - SIU_Avalanche
Thanks for the info!!  Just getting back into hiking with my son and Scouts - did 3.5 miles (25lb packs)with him yesterday and developed a blister on my heel.
What type of locations carry "moleskin"?
Jul 20, 2013 - Hiking Dude
@SIU - Pretty much any store with an outdoors section or first aid section has moleskin.  REI, Dick's, Target, Gander Mountain, Wal-mart.
I've found that moleskin, though adhesive, does not stick well by itself.  Covering it with a strip of medical tape or duct tape helps.
Jan 25, 2014 - ellie
zinc oxide tape is good for strapping up your feet before you set off as it reduces friction on your skin. I also find compeed great after a trek so your normal shoes dont rub.
May 20, 2014 - Helen
My  daughter  has just done her D of E practise walk  25K and she has severe blisters on her heals and arch of her feet  What can I do to prevent this from happening again when she does the actual walk.  I was thinking of strapping her feet up like a boxer does with his or her hands  but I am unsure if this will make matters worse.  Your advice will be much appreciated.
May 20, 2014 - Hiking Dude
@Helen - This entire page IS my advice.  I doubt your daughter did much of the foot conditioning or protection tips listed above.  Layering your daughter's feet in tape would just increase the pressure that caused the blisters.
Jun 08, 2014 - Jerry Harp
Abrasions are caused by skin rubbing against socks or shoe lining. Blisters are the result of a separation of outer/inner layers of skin caused by constant impact motion. Rub thumb/index finger together to get the idea.

Abrasions can be prevented with strategically placed tape or lubrication. Blisters....IDK, and neither does anyone else. Some are prone, some are not. Do all Hiking Dude suggest and hope for the best.
Jun 25, 2014 - Leah
Could you comment on hiking in rainy or muddy conditions? I had trouble with this on my recent 4 day hike. It was so muddy on the trail that I would have needed 10+ sock changes each day. It was also foggy/misty most of the time so even when I took breaks and removed my socks and shoes (including pulling inserts from my shoes and opening them wide) they didn't seem to be drier. I think my errors were not wearing liners, and not wearing mesh trail shoes. I could have done a better job of dealing with hotspots if I'd brought more first aid supplies. But if the choices are hiking with wet feet or not hiking at all I'd typically deal with the blisters.
Jun 26, 2014 - Vlad
Just letting you know that there is new polymer based technology in preventing blisters. It is like a second skin that covers your whole foot. It works by gripping the skin (similar to applying tape) on the inner side whilst absorbing friction (similar to a liner sock but smoother) on the outer side. Check them out www.armaskin.com
Money back guarantee if you get blisters whilst wearing this anti-blister second skin socks.
Jul 06, 2014 - miki
my daughter has very narrow feet. we have purchased the best boots we could afford, she has prepared her feet (she does alot hiking), uses good socks, has even tried tape and still she gets massive heel blisters everytime she hikes. any further suggestions?
Jul 20, 2014 - Hiking Dude
@miki - I've been trying out a new product called ArmaSkin.  They are a very interesting kind of sock that guaranteed to prevent blisters.  Over the past week using them, I've not gotten any blisters.  See Armaskin.com.
Aug 03, 2014 - Mac clarke
Hi..We hike daily to prepare with pack for 75 km hike at West Coast trail, B.C. I continue to get sore toes (underneath) when it is hot. I have great boots, proper socks, enough room in boots, ultra light packing and when temperatures get hotter my under toes ache terribly. Only when I take my boot off and cool them, does the pain go away. Do you know any other tricks to prevent the ache?

Thank you very much..

Aug 07, 2014 - Carol
Hi - I have been hiking for years but a couple of years ago had a bunion sorted on my right foot.  Now i have problems with my left toes - the underneath of the toes get blisters and hurt - I try to protect them with gel tubing but still they hurt although no blister - what else can I do?   Thank you
Aug 07, 2014 - Hiking Dude
@Mac and Carol - If your feet are in pain and you are going to continue hiking, then you should ask a doctor for help.  Supportive shoes, comfortable socks, extra supportive shoe liner pads, walking slower, carrying less weight, and walking shorter distances are all things that may help, but podiatrists are experts on foot problems.
Aug 10, 2014 - Carol
Many thanks for your help
Aug 18, 2014 - Christine Jones
Hi, just back from a 2 week walking holiday in North Wales, and I have quite a few blisters. Wearing my usual Boots, good walking socks, plenty of talc on my feet, and always take them off when we stop for something to eat. 2 large blisters on on foot, after 1 walk of 7 miles, and 2 blisters on other foot also after another 6 mile walk. Any help, would be very grateful. Thanks
Aug 21, 2014 - Hiking Dude
@Christine - Blisters are pretty simple.  That area of tissue is being repeated impacted or rubbed and it is not used to the abuse.  
Doing shorter walks, in the same shoes you plan to wear on a longer walk and carrying the same load, to get your feet used to the impact is the best thing to do to prevent blisters.
Sounds to me like the second foot got blisters because you were favoring the first blistered foot which caused more wear on the second.  One small problem often grows to more problems in that way.
Sep 04, 2014 - Peter
I like walking on a tread mill machine at our gym I suffer with soft heel and all the bottom.is there such a thing outhier as a jelly sock or something that will stop this getting so painful
Sep 04, 2014 - Hiking Dude
@Peter - There are lots of products available to help with foot pain.  My first stop would be my doctor to hear what s/he has to offer.  Or, search online.  But, I've been fortunate to never have need of them yet so I can offer no personal recommendations.
Sep 05, 2014 - doghiker
Many good suggestions in the preceding comments--have tried many of these myself. I suggest the book "Fixing your Feet" by John Vonhof, multiple editions, for an exhaustive illustrated reference on both preventing and treating blisters.  Found a few excellent tips in there that I had not tried before; still occasionally get foot blisters, but not as often and not as severe.  
Sep 08, 2014 - Bruce P
I am a cyclist that had surgery and am limited to walking for about 3 weeks. I had old running shoes and began walking up to 6 miles/day. I developed a blister below the ball of my big toe (one foot on the instep side).
 Bought new shoes, running socks and 2nd skin blister pads.  Should I leave the blister pads on my skin as the best healing solution   for many days or do something else... walked today and hurt again ,,,,the pad is stuck pretty well to the blister area...I think the blister broke on its own yesterday before I put the pad on
 
Sep 13, 2014 - Rick Collier
Checked out Armaskin website and am very interested, but does anyone on here have experience with them? I have narrow, low volume feet, good boots, good socks and still get heel blisters on one foot. Hiking Dude, how do rate Armaskin liner socks given your use since your post in July? Thanks!

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