Blisters are painful and often annoying, but they can be prevented. In fact, prevention is key to keeping your hike enjoyable and pain-free while avoiding blisters and hot spots. In this blog post we will discuss how to prevent blisters while hiking and how to treat them if you do get one.
What Causes Blisters?
Blisters on the feet are caused by friction, which happens when your shoes rub against your skin, causing it to chafe or blister. This can be due to poor fitting footwear, socks that aren’t right for you, too much time spent in brand new boots without breaking them in ( read about How to Break In Hiking Boots here), and other things. One of the biggest catalysts to blister formation is moisture + friction. When your feet get sweaty or wet, the skin becomes soft and is more prone to damage from friction. Hiking in the rain puts your feet especially at risk for getting blisters.
Preventing Blisters While Hiking
- Cotton is Rotten: The key element in blister prevention is picking the right socks for your hike! Cotton socks should be avoided at all costs as they absorb sweat and will make your feet wetter (and therefore more susceptible to blisters). Instead, opt for synthetic materials or wool blends that help wick moisture away from your skin.
- Liner Socks are a lifesaver: A liner sock is a thin and tight-fitting sock that you can wear underneath your regular hiking socks. This layer will help to absorb moisture and prevent your foot from getting too wet. It also creates a barrier between your skin and the sock, preventing the friction that leads to blisters.
- Wear comfortable, well-fitting hiking boots: A top way to prevent blisters while hiking is proper foot attire! Make sure any shoe or boot fits well before starting at the trailhead and never hike with worn-out soles as they will likely cause you pain throughout your journey. Start out by hiking for a few minutes, then stop to tighten your boots and adjust your laces as needed. Staying on top of your shoe fit will help prevent blisters over the course of your hike.
- Break in your boots before big trips: Wear your boots in small spurts and in varying conditions to break them in before using them on long trips or more difficult hikes.
- Don’t ignore the pain: Tend to hot spots quickly to prevent them from developing into a blister. If you feel any areas that are starting to rub, stop and carefully retie your laces. This will ensure the best fit for your footwear (and prevent potentially painful blisters). If this doesn’t help enough, you can apply some blister prevention materials to the hot spot to help prevent it from getting worse.
- Take Breaks: Take breaks as often as you need if you’re doing a long hike. This allows your feet time to air out and dry off – preventing moisture build-up which can cause friction later on. If you stop for lunch or a long break, take off your boots to let your feet air out. Just make sure your boots are properly tightened when you put them on again.
- Mole Skin vs Duct Tape. Mole skin and duct tape are both great options for blister prevention and treating blisters on trail. Learn more about mole skin vs. duct tape, as well as how to use duct tape on blisters.
How to Treat Blisters While Hiking
If you do get a blister while hiking, don’t panic! There are a few ways you can take care of it and continue on your journey. The first step is to stop hiking – this may seem like common sense but sometimes we push through the pain in order to reach our destination. If the blister is small, you can usually just pop it and carry on. But if the blister is large, or has already burst, then you’ll need to cover it up with some moleskin or medical tape. Consider airing out your feet, changing socks, or adding a sock liner (if you haven’t already). If this and mole skin don’t work, the best thing you can do is finish up with your hike and let the hot spot heal before adventuring out again.
This blister kit from Adventure Medical Kits has everything you need to treat and prevent blister on trail in one convenient little package! We never head out on trail without one.
Blisters will heal up within a few weeks, but if you continue to hike on an injured foot it can cause more damage and pain, or even an infection. One of the most important things you can do on a hike is take care of your feet, and they will take care of you.
When you think ‘how to prevent blisters when hiking’, think wool or synthetic socks, sock liners, properly fitted shoes, and carrying some type of blister tape at all times. Blisters are probably one of the most annoying things that could happen while hiking – especially when they occur early in your journey! But by taking proper precautions before heading out as well as treating any existing ones quickly and appropriately, you’ll be able to prevent them from interfering too much with your trekking experience.
Can Vaseline prevent blisters?
The short answer is a resounding “no.” Your socks will absorb most of it, leading you to blister anyways. The goo will take tons of washes to get out, and it will most likely lead to the downfall of your expensive hiking boots by coating the inside, softening the leather, and causing the mid-sole to delaminate. Forget the Vaseline and wear proper fitting boots and sock liners instead.
How do you stop a blister from forming?
Take all our points above into consideration, and you’ll be golden! Wear well-fitted hiking boots with the laces properly done up, wool socks with sock liners, and avoid cotton. Break in your boots in small spurts before wearing them on longer hikes.
Is duct tape good for blisters?
If the blister hasn’t formed yet and it’s just a hot spot, you can put duct tape directly on the spot. If there’s already a blister forming, cover it first with a gauze or mole skin, then cover the larger area with duct tape. I’ve known tons of hikers that swear by duct tape, saying it out performs more expensive options like traditional mole skin or brands like Rock Tape. We personally haven’t used it, but I wouldn’t be opposed to giving it a try.
Does baby powder prevent blisters?
Since one of the main elements of blister formation is moisture, using a powder like talcum powder can help soak up the sweat and act as a lubricant. What’s the difference between talcum powder and baby powder? Well, talc is a main ingredient in baby powder, but it often includes other ingredients and fragrances. You can use baby powder, or purchase pure talc powder without the extra stuff.
About the Author
My goal with my writing and Know Nothing Nomads as a whole is to share my passions of hiking, camping, and a love of the outdoors with our readers. Making the difficult and uncertain feel more approachable to people that might not know enough to feel comfortable taking their first steps into the wilderness is a driving factor for me. When I’m not writing you can find me on a trail, in a forest, or next to a river with hiking shoes on my feet and a fly rod somewhere close by.