Hiking 101: Preventing Blisters

There are few things that can ruin a great summer hike like the nagging pain caused by a developing blister. With just a few easy steps, though, you can stop blisters in their tracks before they send you home early.

Step # 1: Put Your Best Foot Forward in Shoes That Fit

One of the biggest mistakes that you can make is choosing hiking boots or trail shoes available from places such as The Shoe Box that don't fit you properly. During a long hike, especially in warm conditions, your feet are likely to swell. If you didn't account for this phenomenon when making your shoes or boot purchase , you can quickly end up with blisters on your first outing. To prevent this from happening to you:

  • Choose a shoe that's one size bigger than you normally wear.
  • Ask about shoes and boots that come in wider widths.
  • Shop in the afternoon or evening when your feet are likely to be a little swollen.

Step # 2: Ensconce Your Feet in Comfort

Socks are generally thought of as rather low-tech pieces of clothing. For a hiker like you, though, choosing the right pair of socks can mean the difference between reaching a spectacular summit and hobbling home in defeat. So when you're looking for socks, it's important to look for two features: absorption and breathability. This creates a dilemma, though: thick socks provide absorption but lack breathability, while thin socks may be breathable, but aren't always thick enough to absorb moisture. The easiest way to solve this dilemma is by wearing two pairs of socks:

  • The first pair should be thin and extremely breathable (technical fabrics like nylon blends are ideal).
  • The second, outer pair of socks, should be thick and absorbent (wool is ideal).

Step # 3: Prep Your Feet Before You Go

Regardless of how carefully you've chosen your hiking boots and socks, your feet still need to withstand thousands of pounds of force during a long walk.  Plus, as grit and moisture get into your shoes during your walk, your feet can become irritated, causing blisters to form. Avoid this fate by:

  • Wrapping the arch of your foot with athletic tape. This can help to protect the sensitive inner arches of your feet, one of the most common spots for blisters to develop.
  • Applying a layer of petroleum jelly between your toes to reduce friction during your walk. 
  • Clipping your toenails. If toenails grow too long, they can contribute to the formation of blisters along the tips of your toes.

By taking these steps to prevent blisters, you can be sure that you'll reach your destination, while enjoying the journey along the way.