The biggest cause of blisters is wet feet. Your feet get wet from the thousands of glands each contains. Excessive sweating can greatly increase your chances of getting blisters, which can lead to infections, foot odor, nasty footwear, and in serious conditions frostbite in cold situations.
The best way to avoid this from happening is to keep your feet as dry as possible. This is not an easy task when your trying to cover miles while hiking. Over the thousands of miles I’ve hiked I’ve learned some tricks to ensure my miles are blister free.
Wear good wicking socks. I prefer wool as they do not hold smell over time. I prefer thin to medium thick socks over thick. If I stop longer than ten minutes my shoes and socks come off. Take advantage of your breaks to dry out your shoes and socks as well as your feel. If you’re near water give them a soak. Not only will your feet feel refreshed they’ll be clean. If you’re a heavy sweater change your socks mid day and tie the wet pair onto your pack to dry. At night do your best to dry your shoes and socks for the next day. Lastly if your thru-hiking or doing an extend trip throw away your socks after every month. Even though you wash them bacteria can build up so bad that detergents can’t remove it all. The results are red and irritated skin that will ruin your day.
Powders and antiperspirant creams are great for reducing odor and sweating. Creams with aluminum hydroxychloride work best as their stronger than regular deodorants. Chafing can be a problem in areas other than ones feet, like on pack straps or waist straps. Gold Bond Powder like what I used in the Scatman Story works great for chafing and fights fungus.
Buy aftermarket insoles specifically designed to absorb sweat, like DryZ foam cushions ($16-$21), which wick foot moisture and store it in the insole’s gel-like core (to evaporate later when you remove your boots).
Consult a doctor for serious cases of plantar hyperhidrosis that don’t respond to over-the-counter remedies. Long-lasting solutions include skin surgery, botox injections, and iontophoresis; the latter is a noninvasive electro-chemical treatment that clogs sweat glands, and can be administered periodically by a dermatologist.
6 Steps To Blister-Free Bliss
The first defense against blisters is to not get them, stop them before they form. As the old saying goes, Prevention is the best Medicine.
- Buy shoes that fit. Note I didn’t say boots here. Unless you’re trekking to Everest or through a jungle I personally don’t think boots are needed in today’s day and age of light weight gear. Trail runners offer plenty of support and comfort when you have a light load. Try lots and lots of shoes. If you’re like me you know when a shoe fits. Don’t say, It might break in. If it doesn’t feel right in the store it probably won’t feel right in a month on the trail either, move on to the next brand.
- You might not fit the perfect shoe but either over the counter or custom insoles might make the difference. Experiment with these as well to find the perfect fit.
- Socks. Stick to synthetic or better yet wool. There are tons of options out there for both. Make sure your socks are snug and avoid baggy ones. Body Glide is great for friction points as well as sock liners. Experiment with both as well as different thickness socks.
- If you feel friction, STOP, and tend to hot spots before they become blisters. Dry your feet, apply moleskin or duct tape and if you’ve acted quickly enough a blister shouldn’t form.
- Take your shoes and socks off at each break and let them dry out. If you need to switch socks mid day and dry the first pair out as you hike. I carry one pair of camp socks so I always have a dry pair at the end of the day. Another good idea is to wash your feet daily if not more. Clean feet are happy feet. Just be sure you dry them completely before putting your shoes and socks back on.
- Keep your feet neat. Keep your toenails trimmed and filed, as well as calluses.
Another issue that plague your feet while hiking is the constant pounding and extra weight you carry. Try to eliminate weight where ever possible. You can find some tips on how to do this on my post about cutting pack weight and I show you how I cut my weight in the post Pack vs. Pack.