We’ve All Had Them ... Blisters!

By Stacy Bean, Girls Who Hike Alabama Ambassador

Oh my goodness the pain, aggravation, and injury I have caused my poor feet after hiking! I cringe at the thought of blisters. How do we prevent these horrid wounds?

First, to understand how they come about:  

The Ripe Peach Principal
If you take a ripe peach and press your thumb against the fruit and gently move your finger back & forth. You’ll notice that the skin moves under your thumb. Now, press HARDER & RUB. The skin wrinkles, rips, and soon you’ll have peach juice dribbling down your hand.  
The same “pressure-friction principal” applies when we hike. The outer layer of the foot’s skin can move more than the inner layers can. Boots & socks apply pressure & friction as you walk causing the skin layers to separate and fluid to fill the “blister”.  

Back to the Peach….
If you were to dunk a ripe peach into HOT water, you’ll notice that it will peal more easily. Again, same with our feet! Warm, moist skin will blister quicker than cool dry skin will.

Our goal then is to keep our feet COOL, DRY, and FRICTION-FREE to avoid blistering. Here are some things that I have found that have helped me tremendously:

1. I usually wear 2 pair of socks to help wick moisture away from the feet.

Liner socks: These are very thin. Made from wool, silk, or other synthetic material. My favorite liner socks are the Injinji Toesocks.

toesock.png

I know, I know…My first impression was “Oh heck no!! I’ll have toe-wedgies and be uncomfortable the ENTIRE hike!” But, I was completely wrong…these things are awesome!

Benefits (as noted on their website):  

  • “Prevention of Blisters. With each toe protected, skin-on-skin friction is completely eliminated protecting your foot from blisters & hotspots.”
  • “Total Foot Utilization. When your toes are separated, properly aligned and splayed, your weight is distributed evenly which allows your entire foot to be engaged in any athletic activity.”

Synthetic or wool outer sock: Wool and other synthetic material will wick away moisture from your feet. We must keep in mind that COTTON IS OUR WORST ENEMY when hiking, as it retains moisture.

I have multiple outer socks of varying thickness and wear them depending on the weather, season, and length of the hike I’m going on.  
*Lighter/thinner socks during summer or shorter hikes.  
*Thicker outer socks for colder weather and longer hikes to help provide more cushion and insulation.

2. Wear hiking boots that fit right and are laced tightly.

 Photo courtesy of Switchback Travel

Photo courtesy of Switchback Travel

All those steps we take during a hike add up! Each stride taken in a poorly fitted boot generates heat. Parts of your foot will rub against the interior of the boot creating a “hot spot”—an uncomfortable sensation caused from abrasion that will eventually evolve into a blister if you continue. Investing in a great pair of hiking boots is probably the most effective means to keep blisters at bay!  

Suggestions:

  • You want your shoe to be tight but not cramped! Once on and laced, you should have enough room to wiggle your toes. If you can’t, you might want to move up in size.  
  • Lace them up TIGHT. You want to be sure that your heels are secured. With any movement you make, your heels should remain “glued” to the sole without any lift. A heel slipping and sliding in a boot is a surefire way to get a nasty blister.  
  • Find boots that are waterproofed to help keep moisture out.

3. What to do if you feel a blister or “hot spot” developing while on the trail:

  • STOP. Don’t wait until it turns into a blister! I bring along moleskins and/or tape to cover the spot while on the move. This helps decrease the amount of friction on the area.  
  • Bring extra socks and change them as needed.
  • Be sure any pebbles or grit is removed from your boots. It happens! When this sediment gets trapped in the shoe, it creates chafing.  
  • If a blister does form and it is not unbearable, it’s best to just “power through” and not pop it! (Blisters form a natural barrier against bacterial infection.)  

Preparation is always key when adventuring outdoors—as well as for blister avoidance. Happy Hiking!!


Stacy is the Ambassador for our Alabama chapter. You can join her local meet ups and discussions through the Alabama chapter by clicking here. To become a member of Girls Who Hike, click here.

Sharron McBrideComment