Blisters are more common than most people think. For example, women who wear high heels on a daily basis are very likely going to have to deal with a blister situation every single week.
However, it goes without saying that hikers and those that enjoy their fair share of camping are much more prone to blisters than the average city dweller. Regardless of how loose one’s shoes are, trekking all day through forests and mountains causes blisters in almost 90% of cases.
Therefore, it is essential to know how to both prevent and treat hiking blisters. We’re talking about hiking because, in this case, a blister can put an end to a beautiful day exploring nature!
The Main Causes of Blisters
Overall, there are three main causes of blisters. Naturally, each of them can individually contribute solely to the formation of a blister but when all of them are present, the chances grow exponentially.
Let’s take a closer look!
· Moderate to High Pressure – this can be caused by a shoe that’s too tight or even by something as small as a wrinkle in one of your socks. While pressure alone usually doesn’t cause the most serious of blisters, it can really impact their severity.
· Friction – with enough pressure and a bit of friction, hot spots form on the skin. If further friction is applied to these, a blister is formed. The most common places affected by friction are the toes, base of the foot, and the back of the heel.
· Moisture – last but not least, moisture really makes things worse. This is because moisture usually softens the skin up to the point that it gets highly sensitive. As such, a hotspot formed on moist skin will result in a rather painful blister if friction also occurs.
These are the three ingredients needed to create a blister. But keep in mind that sometimes fabric that’s too rough or dirt specks that end up in your sock can also contribute to blisters if paired with friction.
As a sidenote, friction is almost always present since you’re constantly on the move, especially when hiking.
How to Prevent Blisters
Preventing blisters, or at least trying to, is essential. As mentioned, a harsh blister can completely stop your hiking session. If you don’t want this to happen, then you should follow these steps:
· Fit and Broken-in Boots – first and foremost, you shouldn’t wear a brand-new pair of boots on a hike. They have to be broken-in prior to intense use and the best location to do that is in the comforts of your home or around it – definitely not off-road.
· The Right Socks – the right pair of socks for hiking are not made out of cotton. Even though they are cozy and warm, woolen socks or synthetic fabric is better suited for hiking. Naturally, they have to be just the right size for you. Socks that are too big or too small can cause hotspots or wrinkles that cause friction.
· Consider Liner Socks – liner socks are ideal if you want increased blister-protection. They add an extra layer of security between your feet and your pair of socks and, on top of that, prevent moisture build-up as well.
· Manage Hotspots – as soon as a hotspot makes its presence known, you should stop and take care of it. Your boots and socks should come off, and then you have to do your best to dry the hotspot and try to apply protection. The latter comes in the form of either topical relaxing creams or a blister prevention kit.
· Blister Prevention Kit – such kits can be found in convenience stores and pharmacies and usually contain tape, moleskin, or bandages that feature gels or pads. All can be applied to the hotspot to reduce pressure and friction.
If you remember the information above and prepare properly before your hiking trip, you should never experience a blister – only a hotspot at worst!
How to Treat Blisters
Still, blisters cannot always be prevented. In most cases, we overlook – or ignore – hotspots or places that experience a bit too much friction. As such, we’re often met with a half or full blister when we take off our socks.
Let’s see how you should treat a blister that’s already formed and that is most likely already itchy and painful!
· Mole foam with a hole – mole foam is similar to moleskin (in fact, moleskin could be used as well). You take a round piece and cut a hole in the middle of it, enough to encompass the blister. Then, the mole foam is applied to the blister – another layer of moleskin or tape can be added as well. This is done to prevent friction and keep the blister bubble intact.
· Gel or Pad Bandages – these, usually found in a blister prevention kit, can also be used on already formed blisters. However, they should be thick and soft enough to ensure the right level of cushioning. If you know yours blisters get particularly itchy, keep in mind that gel can be used to cool the area.
· Blister Drain – first and foremost, do not drain a blister unless absolutely necessary. Draining it often implies removing the lid of skin that protects the inner layer of sensitive skin. If you do this, the risk of infection increases. However, blisters can get too big and too painful – if you want to drain them, you’ll need a sterile needle, alcohol, antibiotic soap and ointments.
The important bit is that, if you develop a full-formed blister while you’re hiking, you must stop immediately and take care of it. Even a bit of tape put over the area or blister giving you grief can be enough to help you keep going and protect you from further pain!
The Bottom Line
One shouldn’t take any chances when it comes to a hotspot or a blister, especially if there is a long hike ahead. Moreover, even if you don’t hike, the tips above can help you to always be prepared to take care of such a development.
At the same time, we can’t stress enough the importance of the right shoes and socks. People often bring a pair of loose shoes, thinking that they will be gentle on their skin. However, loose shoes promote friction, as well as moisture, since there’s a lot of room around the foot (inside the shoes).
A close-to-tight fit, a pair of synthetic socks, and some bandages are often just enough – of course, alongside the information presented above – to keep you safe!