I’m pretty sure anyone who has hiked for any significant distance has had to deal with blisters. If not, you are super lucky and must share your secrets with us in the comments below. Even after breaking in my boots, blisters were one of my biggest challenges on the Appalachian Trail!
I, like Cheryl Strayed in Wild, would have been better off to toss my boots off a cliff and duct tape flip flops to my feet after what my boots did to them. I had blisters, blood blisters, lost toe nails, and was in a lot of pain with every step.
I hiked through a few weeks of horribly painful feet, because people kept saying I just had to break my boots in more. But it was just getting silly, I was taking frequent zero days to try to let my feet dry out and heal, only to get more monster blisters as soon I started hiking again.
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How to prevent blisters on the trail
When I finally broke down and bought new socks and totally different boots – BAM! – problem solved! (I did go on several shakedown hikes with my first pair of boots and was totally fine on the shakedown hikes, so not really sure what happened there other than to say nothing can really prepare your body for what happens on a long-distance hike.)
Outside of finding hiking shoes that properly fit your feet, there are a few other ways you can prevent blisters:
Wear socks that fit and don’t rub. I discovered FITS brand socks in a gear store along the trail and never wear anything else now. They are the first socks I’ve worn that, like the name says, actually fit every contour of your foot so there are no loose spots, baggy spots, saggy spots, spots that wrinkle up, or seams that rub and poke you.
Be sure to keep your nails short and trimmed.
Your next best attack plan is to keep your feet dry. I can’t stress enough how wonderful it is to take off your shoes and socks at least once in the middle of the day and let everything air out. Obviously, if it’s raining, you’re SOL and will probably have wet feet for a day or two, but if it’s dry out, always, always, always take off your shoes and socks to air out mid-day and of course, overnight.
Every time you take off your shoes and socks, check your feet over for hot spots – red, irritated areas that will probably turn into blisters. If you catch them at this stage, that’s good news! Put some KT Tape or Leukotape over it to stop a full-blown blister from forming.
If you do get a blister – do you pop it or not? That is the question. If you pop a blister while on the trail there is a higher risk it might get infected, so most people warn against this, and I am warning you too – it might get infected! But…. Honestly, I usually pop them, since I find it does provide some comfort and relief. That being said, I keep a close eye on it, clean it every morning and night, and let it breathe as much as possible to help it heal faster. If you’re worried about infection, leave it be! It will heal on its own, eventually.
Hopefully, this helps, and I really do hope your feet never go through what mine did those first few weeks on the trail!
Feel free to share your favorite blister treatment and prevention tactics in the comments below.
For more hiking tips and how-to’s, check out these posts:
- A Guide To Backpacking In The Rain
- Wilderness Backpacking Tips
- 10 Essential Backpacking Skills Every Hiker Needs
- How to be Bear Aware