With an estimated 47 million Americans going for hikes every year, any one of them can tell you about taking your boots off at the end of the day.
We all know that feeling of taking everything off your feet when you have a hearty dose of blisters, and we all know it isn't pleasant.
Luckily, there's plenty we can do to avoid this menacing pain. Let's talk about some helpful tips for preventing hiking blisters so you can stay on your favorite trails.
What Causes Blisters?
Before we dive into preventing blisters, let's talk really quickly about what they are. When you go for a hike, your boots and your socks rub against your feet continuously. This moved the thick outer layers of your skin more than the sensitive inner layers, which causes them to begin to separate.
This is called a hot spot. Shortly after that, fluid has fully filled the void between your skin layers, turning it into a blister. Moisture from sweat, rain, streams or puddles will accelerate this process.
How to Prevent Hiking Blisters
Preventing the blister process from happening doesn't have to be tricky. You are essentially attempting to minimize friction, moisture, and hard materials from rubbing on your feet.
Remember that whatever you are wearing on your feet will be rubbing directly on them, likely for thousands of steps, so the materials you choose make a big difference. Let's look at some tips and tricks to avoid hiking blisters.
Socks, Socks, Socks
Your socks are there for the sole purpose of protecting your feet from the inside of your boots. Choosing the right pair of well-designed hiking socks makes a big difference.
A good pair of hiking socks will suck up moisture, fit snugly on your feet, dry quickly, and have hidden seams.
It's also not uncommon to bring an extra pair of socks with you on your hike. Change into them halfway through if your feet are getting too sweaty. Remember, good socks are supposed to take moisture away, and they can't do that if they're already soaking wet.
Invest in a thick and comfortable pair of socks that aren't too sweaty. Hiking socks are made for this kind of activity and a good pair will be worth the investment.
The Right Boots, The Right Choice
This is super important. If you're trying to use socks to protect your feet from the inside of your boot, why not make sure that the inside of your boot isn't a threat to your feet in the first place?
When you are picking a pair of hiking boots, don't be shy of being overly picky. Wear each pair that fits your needs, walk around for a minute or so, and really pay attention to what you're feeling.
If you feel something that's out of the ordinary inside, keep in mind that even if it doesn't bother you now, you'll probably be hiking in them for hours at a time. A hundred steps might not do any harm, but ten thousand may.
Not only are you looking for a specific material, but you are also looking for the right fit. That is the key. Don't settle for a pair that's on clearance just because it happens to be in your size.
Make sure they fit snugly in every direction. Not too loose, and not too tight. This will best avoid any excess friction on your hike.
If anything is in your boots, get it out. It is best to take the extra two minutes off of your hike to get the gravel or sand out of your boots than it is to spend an hour taking care of your blisters.
Don't let it stay in for too long. Don't be a hero. When you feel it, get it out of your boot.
Take The Moisture Away
Cover your feet in baby powder or another moisture-absorbing powder before putting your socks on. This is best done anywhere outside of your car!
This will help eliminate some of the moisture for your socks to handle. Petroleum jelly is another alternative for your toes, the back of your heels, and other blister-prone areas.
There are plenty of skin products available to help with this, but make sure you are using natural skin products.
Sock liners are an extra layer of defense against moisture. Using them along with your socks will help absorb some extra moisture.
Take Care of Hot Spots
If you feel a hot spot starting to form, through discomfort or heat in one area, take care of it immediately. Stop the hike, take off your boots, and find the area that is in distress.
There's a trick that many hikers use that is rather crude but very effective. Simply dry the area, put some medical tape on the hot spot, get your socks and boots back on, and continue the hike. This should significantly slow down any additional friction on that spot, likely preventing a blister if done at the right time.
What Else You Can Do
Essentially, the best way to avoid hiking blisters is to simply avoid chafing. If the chafing persists, address it right away to prevent blisters from forming.
Anti-chafe products are affordable, easy to use, and they go a long way in preventing the kind of chafing that leads to blisters. Just follow these steps so you can stay safe and active on those trails!