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How to Prevent Blisters when Hiking

There’s nothing quite like hiking. There’s also nothing quite like the pain of a foot full of blisters. Recovery time for particularly nasty blisters can impede your progress for a good day or two. Not to mention that it can sour a fun experience. No one likes having to deal with blisters, especially when they’re out enjoying nature.

Though a lot of these may seem like common sense tips, they are the sort of things that too many people overlook when they’re getting ready to go on a hiking trip. Here is some helpful advice to preventing blisters the next time you go hiking.

Splurge on Good Socks

Whether you prefer to stick with thicker wool socks or buy the specialty hiking or backpacking socks, good socks are a key part of keeping blisters away. For some people, doubling up on socks is also a great way to prevent blistering.

Using a liner sock under your preferred sock can help prevent or lessen blisters. It may sound simple, but sometimes the simplest answer is the right one.

Don’t just go with cheap socks and hope for the best, you’ll end up paying for it much more over in the long run. I can’t stress enough how important good socks are, and what a huge difference they can make.

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Get and Wear Shoes that Fit Properly

For some, part of the fun in hiking and backpacking is gearing up. Yes, you want to make sure that you have everything you need, especially if you’re going to be gone for days.

But if you’re like me, you probably had that moment when you decided new shoes were a good choice. Thankfully, it was a mistake I only made once.

Shoes that fit, but are not worn out, are the best at preventing blisters. If you go hiking in a brand new pair of shoes, prepare to feel the pain, and soon! Same goes if you wear your old standbys that decide to pop open and rub your toes in interesting and painful new ways.

You want to wear a good pair of well-fitted shoes that aren’t too tight or too loose.

Recognize the Early Signs of a Blister

Hikers and runners call them “hot spots”. Blisters are caused by friction – constant rubbing.  Before a blister fully forms, the rubbing heats up the skin.

Experienced hikers can learn to recognize the feel early on before they form into blisters.  But if you are a new hiker, it’s easy to let the adrenaline from constant activity mask the pain.

If you are concerned about blisters, it’s a good idea to take a break every couple miles and take your socks and shoes off.  Examine your feet and feel around for any spots that are warmer than other areas.  If you feel some areas that you are concerned with, you have a couple options to take – taping your feet or applying moleskin.

Taping your Feet!

It might not be the most luxury foot treatment you’ll ever receive, but it can save you a lot of time and hassle by helping you avoid blisters. If you’re worried about the tape staying in place, apply some tincture of benzoin to it to help it stay put, or rub the tape for 30 seconds or so until it’s warm. It’ll help the adhesive bond better to your skin.

It’s preferable to apply the tape at least one hour before you plan on hiking. And it’s not a bad idea to tape them the night before you go hiking, either. But in a pinch, giving tape a few minutes to bond to your skin will work.

Taping your feet can prevent blisters when done right. If you’ve never taped your feet before, look over a tutorial or two, as taping them poorly or improperly can actually lead to blisters.

Take Some Preventative Measures with Moleskin

Apply moleskin strips and patches to problem areas. If you know you’re prone to getting blisters on certain parts of your feet, don’t just ignore it and hope for the best. Don’t take half measures, either.

If you’ve already invested in socks, shoes, and tape, a little moleskin strip or two won’t be too much more work to do. Putting some moleskin adhesives on, especially in conjunction with tape, can help to prevent blisters.

All those preventative measures, and you still ended up with a blister. What now?

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Well, It’s Time to Treat Those Bad Boys!

There are different ways to go about treating your blisters. If you absolutely hate popping them, you can always just apply some bandages and hope for the best. If the blister is too painful, you can pop it and apply ointments and bandages. For bigger blisters, I definitely prefer to pop them and take care of them immediately, as opposed to waiting for them to pop on their own or to go away in a few days. Always be aware of the risks of infection if it busts on its own or if you pop it.

Find something that works for you, that you’re comfortable doing. But whatever you do, don’t take blisters lightly – they can and will get infected if you don’t take care of them. This can definitely ruin a hiking trip.

It’s Just a Small Blister. Is Popping Really Necessary?

If it’s a small blister that’s not causing you much or any pain, it’s fine to live and live let. Just put some gauze or moleskin bandages over it so that it can still breathe, but be protected from further irritation. You don’t want it to get any worse, or to become infected. If it pops on its own, apply some ointment and fresh bandages.

How To Pop a Blister

It’s unpleasant and nobody really likes doing it, but it’s always better than just living in agony. Go ahead and get your supplies ready – it’s time to pop your blister.

True it’s unpleasant, but it’s better than something else busting it and risking an infection. So wash your hands, clean the blister, sterilize your needle, and puncture the side of your blister.

You’ll want to puncture it a few times and apply some pressure to make sure that it drains.

To top it all off, you’ll want to apply some antibiotic ointment. Don’t forget to bandage it up or cover it loosely with gauze.

Change out the bandage once a day or if it gets dirty or wet. Reapply ointment as needed and cut away dry, dead skin as needed.

Closing It Out

Whether you’re new to hiking or just looking for some friendly reminders, these simple tips will help you on your next adventure.

Proper socks and shoes, precautionary tapes and bandages, and a little bit of medical knowledge can take you far while hiking. It all boils down to a wonderful saying: take care of your feet and they’ll take care of you.

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