Unsurprisingly, blisters are the number one reported injuries in hikers. Although seemingly harmless, blisters can quickly deter you from continuing a hike or other physical activity you may have been looking forward to.
If they burst, blisters can become unbearably painful and even infected.
Thankfully, there are many ways to prevent blisters. Below, we will cover the most effective ways to prevent blisters, in addition to helping heal current ones if you didn't get to read this article in time to prevent one.
Keep reading to learn how to prevent blisters and enjoy your physical activities pain-free.
What are Blisters?
Blisters are pockets of fluid that form on the top layer of your skin. A blister can be filled with blood, pus, or a watery part of blood called serum. Most blisters occur when there is irritation or damage to the top layer of skin.
The most common causes of blisters are friction, moisture, and direct pressure on the skin.
How Can I Prevent Blisters?
When it comes to blisters, prevention is key. Here are some great ways for you to prevent a blister from forming.
Wear Properly-Fitted Shoes
It's important to find properly-fitted shoes that are not too tight or too loose, which often cause friction on your top layer of skin. This becomes especially important for people who have wide feet, as conventional shoes may not be wide enough.
While you might be looking forward to flaunting your new hiking boots, a long duration of wearing shoes that have not been "broken in" is a recipe for blisters.
Always pay attention to the footwear you have, and try wearing them around the house for a few days before hitting the trails.
Keep Your Feet and Socks Dry
When your feet are wet or moist, your skin becomes soft and susceptible to the forces of friction.
This is why is it important to find socks with moisture-wicking properties. These materials can include wool and synthetic fibers. This means you should avoid cotton and other fibers that simply retain moisture.
If your socks get wet, simply swap into a dry pair and you'll avoid painful blisters.
You may also consider wearing liner socks, which help prevent friction on your feet. In addition, experiment with padded and thin socks and see if the extra protection helps prevent friction.
Although this may contradict the previous tip, there is evidence that rubbing against moist skin generates more friction than against wet or dry skin.
Because of this fact, you may consider using lubricants and powders to reduce friction. Lubricants (such as petroleum jelly) keep the areas wet and slick, minimizing friction.
Powders help keep feet dry, and also reduce friction. Some people use an antiperspirant to achieve the same effect as powders and keep feet dry.
When you're home or found a campsite for the night, replace that lubricant or powder with something that can help you heal overnight, such as restorative gels and creams.
If you have spots prone to rubbing, or feel discomfort, try wearing bandages or moleskin on that area. These products act as a barrier against friction and provide your skin with an extra layer of protection.
Some avid hikers and even ultra-distance runners swear by duct tape. They use the tape to wrap around sensitive or friction-prone areas. The tape is tough, durable, and often available in most stores.
Consider placing bandages on and around your toes, heels, and other areas prone to hot spots.
If you're able to stay hydrated, you may be able to prevent foot swelling that often accompanies physical activity. By minimizing this swelling, you will also reduce pressure and friction on your skin.
However, be sure to be adequately hydrated, as even being over-hydrated can cause fluid retention if you're also inputting excess sodium.
So be sure to monitor your fluid and electrolyte levels to prevent any unnecessary swelling and fluid retention.
This tip may be the most difficult for you avid hikers and lovers of the outdoors. Simply put, if you find yourself succumbing to blisters and are unable to use any of the previous tips, stop hiking and take a moment to rest.
Consider whether a blister is detrimental to future trips and if the pain you are experiencing is going to get worse.
I Have a Blister, What Should I do?
If you find yourself with a blister, it's important to take good care of it to prevent it from getting worse or even infected. Here are some steps you should take to help your blister heal.
- Wash your hands with soap and water, so you don't bring any new germs or bacteria to the site
- Wash your the blister and surrounding areas with soap and water
- Consider whether you want to bandage the blister or drain it. If you choose to drain it,
- Sterilize the affected area with rubbing alcohol or an iodine swab
- Use a sterilized needle (one that has been dipped in alcohol) into the sides of the blister to drain the fluid
- Apply an antibiotic ointment to the would
- Immediately cover the wound with gauze, and secure it well with tape
- Check the wound frequently, reapplying ointment and replacing gauze as needed
It's important to only drain the blister as needed, and never remove the top layer of skin from the blister. Although it may feel uncomfortable, this skin helps prevent debris and bacteria from entering the wound and causing infection.
If you experience blood coming from the blister, or pain, swelling, or a fever, seek medical attention as your blister may have gotten infected.
Blisters can take about 2 weeks to heal, so it's important to limit activity that can reopen the blister or further agitate the wound.
When you take to the great outdoors, you can expect not only beauty and bliss but also occasional discomfort. Unfortunately, chafing, blisters, and other skin irritations are common when hiking and romping around in nature.
Thankfully, there are many steps that you can take to prevent blisters and products that prevent friction, pressure, and moisture.
For products to help you enjoy the great outdoors without pain and discomfort, check out our line of all-natural products.