Take Care of Your Feet
Blisters on your feet can quickly ruin a hike or adventure. I learned this the hard way on a long hike last summer. I’ve taught our scout troop how to treat a blister as part of our first aid training for a few years now, but on that trip I learned a lot about how to prevent them. Unfortunately, those lessons were learned after the fact, and I also got to practice how to treat blisters so that I could keep walking. Needless to say, on the last half of our trip, walking was a bit painful.
I’ve always followed basic guidelines, making sure I didn’t take long hikes in new shoes or boots, making sure I have boots that fit well, and socks that provide enough padding. But, I learned a few more things last summer. That trip involved some extreme heat, with some days hitting 100+ degrees, and some of our hiking in that heat being on pavement. And although I’ve always put a lot of thought into the boots I purchase, I have never really taken the same amount of care in selecting socks, and the socks I was wearing were not good at wicking moisture away from my feet. And lastly, when I started feeling a little discomfort, I didn’t take care of it right away. If you start getting hot spots, you need to address them right away to prevent blisters.
Blisters are caused by moisture and friction. Having boots that fit correctly, and keeping your feet dry are key. Once you develop blisters you need to add padding and reduce friction to that area of your foot. The best way to do this is with a moleskin pad.
If you have a hotspot, or a blister that hasn’t swollen a lot yet, sticking the moleskin over the entire area is usually sufficient. You can cut appropriately sized pieces of a moleskin pad for this, or you can also utilize a Blister Relief Kit which has a number of precut pads. The Boy Scout first aid procedure for treating a blister recommends cutting a hole in the moleskin so that the area around the blister is covered, but the blister itself is exposed. This helps to relieve pressure on the actual blister. In my opinion, that is the best way to treat the blister when it is on the bottom of your foot, or if it has swollen quite a bit.
Should you lance a blister? In some cases, the fluid on the blister increases the amount of pain, and some sources recommend lancing the blister with a sterilized needle or tip of a knife. You also need to remember that your foot may not be clean, so besides sterilizing the sharp point you will use to lance the blister, you will need to thoroughly clean the area around the blister. Your skin plays a very important role in keeping germs out of your body. Any time you puncture the skin, you can open yourself up to an infection. Unless absolutely necessary, I would not recommend lancing a blister. And if you do, make sure you clean it, bandage it, and use antibacterial first aid cream. Then change the bandage and clean the area on a regular basis as you would with any other open wound.
Prevent Foot Blisters
I already mentioned some of the basics for how to prevent blisters, such as keeping your feet dry, having your boots properly broken in before a long hike, and also making sure your boots fit properly. There are other factors that are also very important though.
First, keep your feet dry. A good pair of moisture wicking socks are worth their weight in gold. My favorites are Darn Tough socks (visit the Darn Tough web site) which are a Merino Wool blend sock that is made in Vermont. These work great, are durable, and are extremely comfortable. I even wear these for just everyday socks now, and my old cotton socks are now gathering dust! I have also used CouldLine socks. CloudLine socks are made in the USA. These are also a merino wool blend socks. Visit the CloudLine Apparel website for more info. These also wick moisture well and are also durable, and are almost as comfortable as the Darn Tough socks.
You also need to be careful wearing water shoes or crocks or something around your campsite after swimming or bathing. If your feet get wet and you are wearing something like this around with no socks, you can actually start a hotspot quickly that may turn into a blister much more easily the next day hiking.
One source of information that was recommended in a hiking forum to help you take care of your feet was the book Fixing Your Feet by Jon Vonhof. I downloaded the eBook to check it out. This book is intended for all athletes and active individuals, and is a great guide to caring for your feet. This goes into much greater detail about how blisters form and how to prevent them, as well as other types of foot injury. It is a good handbook (or foot book) for anyone spending lots of time outdoors.
For the sake of full disclosure, some of the links in this article lead to Amazon.com through my affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I will get a commission on the sale. However, I have not been paid to endorse these products. I am recommending them because they are items I use and have purchased.