We've all had them and we'd all like to avoid them, but blisters happen and, as shown in the lovely picture, they can be quite a horrid sight.
Essentially they're burns on your feet caused by friction against the skin and if left untreated they can become particularly painful and nasty, potentially ruining your hiking trips. As is the case with a lot of ailments, prevention is better than a cure so here's a few quick tips to help prevent blisters.
Buying your boots
Blister prevention starts when you walk into a shop and start trying boots on. Get your purchase wrong and you could be nursing some battered feet on your next hike. There are three things you should look for in regards to the fit of a boot:
- You should be able to freely wiggle your toes about
- Your feet shouldn't slip forward when you walk down a hill/ramp. If they do you'll find your toes taking a bashing as they constantly press against the front of your boot.
- You should be able to fit a finger in between the heel of your foot and the boot, however, your heel shouldn't lift up when you take a step.
You should also make sure you buy your boots in the afternoon, why? Because your feet expand during the day and you'll want to make sure you buy them when they're in their expanded state for correct fit.
Just like a horse needs to be broken in before it can be ridden, new boots should be worn in before they're used on long hikes. Wear your boots around the house for a few days, and before you take them on a long trek make sure you've worn them on a few shorter ones. It's best to do this so that your boots lose their stiffness and so that you can recognise any potential blister problems they may cause.
Time for a snip
Long, uncut toenails digging into your toes can be very uncomfortable as well as a recipe for blisters. Make sure they're trimmed and kept smooth.
Getting your socks right can help prevent the onset of blisters. Use socks that have good wicking properties to help get moisture away from your skin and prevent friction. Cotton socks are a no-no as they absorb up to several times their own weight in moisture and keep it next to the skin.
Keep them dry
Your feet are more than likely going to get wet during the day from sweat, especially if wearing gaiters (even the 'breathable' ones). No one's going to want to put wet socks back on in the morning, but sometimes it's unavoidable. Make sure you try and dry your socks out once you've set up camp.
Some people suggest wearing two pairs of socks during the day to help prevent blisters. The theory behind this is that the socks rub against each other rather than your skin, preventing friction directly on your foot. Having tried this method I think there's some truth behind the theory, and if anything it makes hiking more comfortable as your feet have extra padding.
Even if you don't have a full on blister yet you should apply a blister plaster as soon as you start to feel a niggle. Don't try and be all macho and brave the pain.
As soon as you feel a blister coming on stop and check your feet. Sometimes blisters can be caused by socks bunching up or dirt in rubbing against your skin, so it's worth having a quick look to see if you can remove the problem.