hiking blisters

hiking blistersWhether you’re hik­ing, ski­ing, or adven­tur­ing, blis­ters can ruin a trip—but they don’t have to. Foot injuries (includ­ing chaf­ing, blis­ters, and bruised toe­nails) are the most com­mon­ly report­ed injured in out­door sports, but they’re also the most pre­ventable. Try these sim­ple tips for pre­vent­ing blis­ters, admin­is­ter­ing foot first aid, and choos­ing gear that will leave your toes as pret­ty as they were when you started.

Prac­tice Your Sock System
The first rule of thumb: avoid cot­ton socks. When­ev­er you’re on the trail, your feet will almost cer­tain­ly sweat—so, regard­less of what kind of shoe or boot you’re plan­ning to wear, it’s impor­tant to invest in wool or oth­er mois­ture-wick­ing sock mate­r­i­al. For ski­ing or moun­taineer­ing, look for a thick sock that comes up your calf; for hik­ing or trail run­ning, you’ll want some­thing lighter.

After you’ve cho­sen your sock, you may want to con­sid­er an ultra-thin light­weight lin­er to wear under­neath your thick­er hik­ing socks. These are made in silk, poly­ester, or oth­er syn­thet­ic wick­ing mate­ri­als, and the idea is that your sock will rub against a lin­er instead of the skin of your feet. Some peo­ple swear by them—but oth­er peo­ple can’t stand to wear them. If you’re blis­ter-prone, it’s worth test­ing them out on short walks near home—not on a ten-mile day in the backcountry.

Choose Shoes Wisely
Accord­ing to the Amer­i­can Podi­atric Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion, “[…] ensur­ing that your shoes fit cor­rect­ly is the eas­i­est and more impor­tant way to pre­vent injuries to the feet and toe­nails.” If shoes are too small, you’ll bang your toes. If shoes are too big, your feet will slide around, cre­at­ing the fric­tion that can ulti­mate­ly lead to blisters.

The fix? Always shop for shoes in the after­noon or evening, when you’ve been on your feet for a cou­ple of hours. “Feet can swell up to a half-size over the course of a day,” says a Seat­tle-based podi­a­trist. “When you’re shop­ping for new kicks, I always rec­om­mend siz­ing them to your feet dur­ing the sec­ond half of the day.”

His oth­er sug­ges­tion: learn how to lace your shoes or boots cor­rect­ly. Some lac­ing sys­tems have a “lock­ing eye­let,” which can hold your low­er foot in place (pre­vent­ing your heel from slip­ping) while allow­ing for some move­ment in your ankle and shin. When in doubt, ask footwear sales­peo­ple about this feature—or look it up.

If You Get A Hot Spot
Stop and deal with it! Always stop to address foot issues as soon as you feel them. Take off your shoes and socks, clean the area with an alco­hol swab, and cov­er hot spots with a Band-Aid, Mole­skin, or ath­let­ic tape. If you have an actu­al blis­ter, don’t pop it—just use Glac­i­er Gel to cov­er the area and avoid fur­ther injury. If the skin is torn, keep it clean and cov­ered loose­ly. And when you get to your des­ti­na­tion, do your best to air out your feet.