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Let's keep this simple:
Blister prevention is better than blister treatment.
You, an active hiker, do not want blisters.
Trust me on this.
Here's a check list you can use to prevent the pain and possible infection of blisters.
1. Spend time and money on finding boots that fit properly. Keep trying until you find boots hat give you no cause for concern on any type of terrain or any length of hike.
Give your toes plenty of room!
2. Duct tape spots on your feet that feel hot or tender after the first hour of hiking.
Full disclosure: Duct tape doesn't breathe very well, and is very slippery.
Here's an alternative:
It breathes better but the stickiness rapidly disappears if trail grit gets on it or your fingers touch it too much.
Handle with care!
And use the scissors from your first aid kit to cut it to fit.
One more option: a very thin bandage with a "bubble" to keep heat and friction from wreaking havoc on your skin:
3. Carry an extra pair of boots or hiking shoes in your pack.
I have been known to do this if I don't trust a new, or cranky, pair of boots.
As far as my feet are concerned, the extra weight is worth it for blister prevention.
4. Play around with different sock combinations.
Liners and hiking socks abound!
But not all of them are designed for the type of hiking you like to do.
So be willing to experiment for awhile until you find exactly what works best for you.
And don't get discouraged.
Luckily, socks are not as pricey as boots, and you'll eventually find the perfect boot and sock combo if you keep at it.
To prevent hot spots from forming on your toes, try these high performance toe socks:
And read my review of Armaskin anti-blister socks here.
5. Pay attention to your toenails.
If you clench your toes inside your boots due to nail issues, it can lead to blisters or worse - hammer toes, for instance.
Spot check yourself along the trail: Do you have the habit of curling your toes or clenching them up as you go downhill?
6. Know what normal wear & tear looks like on your feet.
Here's a personal example:
Why is that a big deal?
My liners can't rub and cause hot spots, which inevitably lead to blisters.
So check out your feet, especially the bottoms, and do a little preventive maintenance.
7. Avoid high heels in your non-trail life.
The shoes you wear daily have a huge impact on how your hiking boots fit.
There are any number of reasons for avoiding high heels, including
But the link between high heels and blisters is this:
Your feet will be molded into the shape of your daily shoes much more so than your hiking boots, simply because of the amount of contact time.
When you plunge your foot into your hiking boot on Saturday, after wearing heels Monday through Friday, the contact points will be vastly different.
This sets you up for rubbed skin, and the creation of a blister (which is the separation of your epidermis from your underlying dermis, in case I didn't mention it earlier).
Every chance you get on the trail, take off your boots and allow Mother Nature's cool waters to caress your footsies!
Hiking hydrotherapy is
Ahhhh... perfect blister prevention!
Sometimes blister prevention just isn't enough!
Especially if you have a tough hike out to the trail head.
Blister treatment is pretty straightforward, but you need a few supplies.
Try this magic stuff! I carry it in my pack "just in case".Adventure Medical Kits GlacierGel Blister and Burn Dressing
To combine the magic of Glacier Gel and the physical barrier of moleskin, get this kit.
It includes alcohol prep pads and antiseptic towelettes to ward off infection from trail dirt.
Now for the fun part:
Don't be defeated by your feet!
By paying attention to them, and investing a bit of time and money into hiker self care, you'll be dancing down the trail.
Disclaimer: As long as someone else carries your pack ;)
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