Enjoy Hiking Without Blisters

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If a blister establishes itself, it can render someone immobile and then cause a problem for the rest of the trip/holiday for the whole group. This guide is aimed at families or groups including inexperienced members and suggests ways to stay blister free and what to do if blisters develop.

From a hikers point of view it is important to know that the likelihood of blisters is increased when the feet are hot and also when they are wet or damp. Both heat and moisture soften the feet and make them more sensitive to the effects of friction from footwear.

I think there are 4 main things that can be done to limit the risk of Blisters:-

i) Reduce friction against the foot ii) cool down your feet periodically and iii) Dry your feet periodically iv) At the first sign of soreness (before a blister develops) protect the sensitive area. 

If you are planning walks on rougher terrain there can be a lot more friction as the foot is buffeted about on the uneven surfaces. To protect against this you obviously need to be wearing appropriate (well fitted) boots/shoes/’trainers’ including. Always break in new footwear before you go. This can be achieved by undertaking a series of shorter walks in the days or weeks leading up to departure. That will soften up the footwear and toughen up your feet – reducing the likelihood of blisters. In order to avoid your feet getting wet, waterproof boots or trainers might be advisable.

You might wish to invest in a pair or two of good quality hiking socks – e.g Bridgedale – which have padding in all the right places and allow the feet to breathe. Such socks can help your feet stay cooler by allowing your feet to ‘breathe’ and helping moisture to escape away from the skin. Having said that, I hear that ladies tights, worn under thicker socks, works well to reduce friction and keep blisters away. Other socks are available which have 2 layers to provide protection against blisters - the inner layer moves inside the outer layer reducing friction.

If you are planning a walk/hike with inexperienced walkers, plan for regular stops/breaks – don’t make the walk unnecessarily challenging. During all stops you can cool down and wipe your feet (remove any sand and moisture).

If anyone has the slightest sign of a blister then attend to it with a plaster or moleskin or similar (an artificial skin that you can cut to shape and stick to your skin – don’t wait until it looks like it needs one.

Where possible, carry lighter loads. Your feet obviously have to work harder carrying heavier loads. My wife and children limit the contents of their individual rucksacks to their own personal survival kit to include water, emergency ‘snacks’, a compass and a whistle + anything else they might need. In our family group everything else tends to go in my rucksack/back pack (Dad’s bag) which is fine for me.

Just to put in a mention here for one of the ruck sacks in my shop. It is very similar to the one I use, when serious trekking is not on the agenda. It’s a 70 litre ruck sack which includes a detachable 10lt day bag. That smaller zip off bag is perfect for sight-seeing days. I think these are really well made and good value – definitely worth checking out in my store. 70L Outdoor Gear 8800 Rucksack

I thought I would finish here by providing more detailed information about blisters. I hope it is of some interest.

Foot blisters are usually triggered by friction in the shoe/boot/trainer/sandal. This leads to the collection of fluid in the area between the dermis (inner layer of the skin) and the epidermis (outer layer of the skin). By doing this, nature is protecting the inner layer of skin from infection and inflammation.
If a blister forms, new skin grows beneath the blister, the fluid contained within it is slowly reabsorbed by the body. When this is done the ‘old skin’ on top will become dry and peel off. So the unbroken skin over a blister is acting as a natural barrier to infection until the healing process is almost complete. For that reason try to keep blisters intact.

The earlier you can dress a blister the better. If you allow friction to continue, the outer layer of the skin will be scraped off exposing the raw sensitive flesh. My favourite method is to dress a potential blister before it develops – avoids all that messing about!

Main reasons why people get Foot Blisters:-

• Footwear that is too tight increases the force of the friction.
• Footwear that is too loose increases the amount of friction from foot movement within the ‘shoe’.
• Footwear that is ‘new’ will act as a solid force against your foot. Once ‘broken in’ they will move with your foot and so reduce friction.
• Ill-prepared feet also contribute – so get them used to exercise and get them used to your chosen footwear before undertaking any significant walks/hikes.
• People tend to let the blister develop before they cover it. Don’t. If anyone has the slightest sign of a blister then attend to it with a plaster or moleskin – see above.
• People often set off ill-equipped - nothing available to stop a blister developing (no plasters/moleskin etc).
• Insufficient rests to cool and dry the feet during the walk/hike/trek.

Enjoy your walking and stay blister free.

Please feel free to visit my shop. You will be most welcome.  INFINITE SPORT AND LEISURE

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