How to Prevent Blisters While Hiking and Backpacking

Ramblings (Outdoorsy Stuff)Austin Lynch

How to Prevent Blisters While Hiking Backpacking

As an active practitioner of Type 2 Fun, I am often faced with various body parts wearing out or falling apart on me. One of the most frustrating experiences is the dreaded “hot spot.”

You know the feeling: you stop your strong and confident hiking to take a quick break (probably to re-tie a boot or rescue an endangered species), and when you stride heroically back onto the trail, you notice a small discomfort in your foot. Your mighty gate is ever so slightly stilted, and by the time you reach camp and peel off your socks, you see the vicious truth: you’ve been hobbled by the most pernicious and insulting of bodily responses, a blister.

As is the case for all maladies, injuries, and illnesses, the best treatment is prevention. If you can keep moisture and friction from your precious soles, you’ll be blister-free. A little preparation with some of the tips below, and your feet will propel you to greater heights, further distances, and faster speeds than you had ever dreamed possible! At least until you get shin splints…

 

How to Prevent Blisters While Hiking Backpacking

 

Find the Right Shoes

Finding the right shoes for your activity, whether it be racing, trail running, hiking or climbing, can be tough. You can certainly get yourself fitted and looked at by a professional, but you still need to put the miles in to see if your shoe is right for you.

I hiked for decades in Merrells and thought that blisters were just part of the game. In early 2018, I switched to a pair of lightweight, zero-drop trail runners, and haven’t had a single blister since! I’ve hiked hundreds of miles in these shoes, including into the Sonoran Desert and Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim in the Grand Canyon without a single hot spot.

Don’t be afraid to try a new pair if you’ve been getting blisters! But whatever you do, make sure to thoroughly break in your new shoes before taking them on a trip.

Check out Garage Grown Gear’s lineup of zero drop footwear!

 

Find the Right Socks

Call me old fashioned, but I still believe in a good pair of liner socks. They help wick moisture from your feet, and if you sweat like me, then you’ll need all the help you can get in the wicking department. I also find that my outer socks last longer when I have a pair of liners on.

If you’re on a longer hike and have a source of water nearby, consider rinsing your socks well whenever you have a chance. It’ll help get rid of the salty residue from your sweaty paws. Just be sure that your socks have a chance to dry out thoroughly! I like to hang my socks from my pack as I hike. It’s a friendly reminder to your friends that you don’t care about appearances.

hin splints… 

Check out Garage Grown Gear’s lineup of moisture wicking ultra-comfy socks in both men’s and women’s styles.

 

Use Wool-It

Wool-It is a bunch of  clean, New Zealand wool that you can wrap about your toes and feet to prevent blisters.

Last year, I did an extremely scientific study of Wool-It to test its blister preventing properties while I ran a marathon with essentially no preparation. I will never do that again, but I can certainly tell you that the foot with the Wool-It wrapped around my toes fared significantly better than the other one.

How to Prevent Blisters While Hiking Backpacking Running Wool-It

It fits nicely into your socks once you’ve got it in place and allows you to adjust the degree of cushioning as you hike by adding more wool. It works best if you know that you have sore spots or problem areas on your feet and can wrap those bits early before they start to heat up. I take it with me on every hiking trip.

Wool-It is available for purchase on Garage Grown Gear!

 

Lubrication Gel

Be sure that any lubricant you purchase is specifically for anti-chafing purposes. If you’re in the Family Planning aisle, then you’re in for an unpleasant surprise on the trail.

There are a few options in this category, which I’ll list here. With these, like with Wool-It, you’re going to want to apply the gel to your feet well before you experience any chafing or hot spots.

Sportslick – this is a gel that you squeeze out and rub on your sensitive areas. It has an antifungal agent, so it’s ideal for foot use. Doubles as chafing prevention anywhere else, too. Our founder, Amy Hatch, got through many an endurance race thanks to Sportslick.

Gurney Goo – this is Amy’s new favorite blister prevention product. While Spotslick still might have an edge in its ability to address hot spots, it’s offset by the inclusion of tea tree oil in Gurney Goo. The not quite rank, but not quite pleasant smell of Sportslick has become come too synonymous with Type 3 Fun for Amy. The wonderfully appealing scent of Gurney Goo is a welcome alternative.  

Body Glide – I’m a fan of this product, and usually have a few tubes of it around. It comes in a small deodorant-like package that makes applying it easy.

HikeGoo – we don’t have first-hand experience with this product but it seems to get good reviews.

 

So there you have it! Follow these steps, and you’ll be well on your way to blister-free feet! My personal regimen is liner socks, wool/blended socks, lightweight and well-fitting shoes, Wool-It and/or Body Glide. And I’m serious – no blisters in the 300+ miles I’ve put on in 2018. Happy hiking!

Ramblings (outdoorsy stuff)

1 comment

Janet

Janet

I change my socks (Darn Tough brand)
at around the halfway point if I’m hiking 10 or more miles. Hanging the original pair of socks inside out on the pack gets them dry. Keeping the shoelaces tight helps keep the boots from slipping. On the rare occasion I feel a hot spot, I stop right away and get the pressure off with a Dr. Scholl’s corn pad that I reinforce by wrapping Johnson and Johnson tape around it.

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