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How to Prevent Foot Blisters

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Blisters on your feet can ruin a hike or backpacking trip. It's bad enough that the pain can be intense, but walking further on a blistered foot can cause the blisters to get worse, or to break open and get infected even. Obviously it is good to know how to treat them, but even better to avoid them completely. How can you do that? Try the following ten things that have worked for hikers and backpackers.

1. Use running shoes instead of hiking boots. I know that not everyone will agree with this. In fact, not everyone can forgo the extra support that a boot offers. But without a doubt, switching to running shoes is a big part of what stopped me from getting blisters. On top of that, I enjoy hiking much more without those heavy weights on my feet slowing me down.

2. Use different socks. Switching to light nylon dress socks was another of the best changes I've made in my backpacking routine. Foot blisters are caused in part by heat, and thick socks add to that. Experiment with a couple different kinds, to see what works best for you.

3. Make sure your shoes or hiking boots fit properly, with no spots that will be rubbing on your toes, the back of your heel or the side of your feet. If you're not sure how to fit your shoes, go to a footwear store where serious runners buy there shoes.

4. Deal with "hot spots" as soon as you notice them. When you feel an irritation or hot spot on your foot, stop and apply some moleskin before it becomes a blister. Although duct tape may work too, it can be messy to remove later, and if a blister develops it may tear it open when you try to remove the tape. Another alternative is bandages.

5. Tighten those laces. Loose shoes slide around, and the resulting friction can lead to foot blisters, so lace up well and tighten the laces evenly along the shoe, not just at the top end.

6. Be sure your shoes stay clean and comfortable. Clean them out before putting them on, and stop to remove sticks, stones or other objects promptly as you notice them. Stop to adjust your socks if there are wrinkles or seams against the bottom of your feet.

7. Use insoles. Some hikers swear by their "gel" insoles, and even cheap foam ones may help keep your feet be more comfortable. Foot movement inside the shoes often causes blisters, so an insole may make your foot more snug, preventing this as well.

8. Have extra socks, and change them often. Use light socks as suggested above, and this is easy to do, even on a lightweight backpacking trip (my socks are an ounce per pair or less). Clean cool socks are a pleasure, and they help prevent foot blisters. Rinse out the dirty socks in a stream and hang them on your pack to dry, so you'll be ready for the next changing.

9. Care for your feet at home. Before any hike, deal with athlete's foot or other skin conditions that can soften or weaken the skin, because healthy feet are less likely to develop blisters on the trail.

10. Take off your shoes and socks during breaks. I try to go barefoot for a while on top of every mountain I climb. You should take off your shoes and socks off several times during a long day of hiking. Doing so allows your feet to cool, and your socks and shoes to air out and dry as well. Having cool and dry feet is a sure way to prevent foot blisters.

Use the tips here for healthier, happier feet, but if you do get foot blisters, here is the basic treatment: Apply moleskin with a hole cut out for the blister to rest in. It keeps pressure off the spot, so it won't get worse. Generally you shouldn't pop blisters, but if you must, sterilize a pin with alcohol or a flame and insert it from the skin along the bottom of one edge. Force out the fluid gently, then cover the blister and keep it clean and dry.



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The Ultralight Backpacking Site | How to Prevent Foot Blisters