No More Bursting Your Bubble: How to Prevent Blisters While Hiking

That feeling. That sudden, sharp pain just a few kilometres into your route, where the hiking boot meets the sock meets the shoe at just the wrong angle. That tiny little feeling that shivers up your leg and into your brain with one dreaded thought: “blister.”

There’s very little more instantaneously worrying than knowing you’ve got a blister forming right out of eyesight, but very much in the scope of feeling. You don’t want to slow your pace and take off your shoe, because you’re worried it might get worse, so you soldier on through the day as your heel starts to get more and more tender, getting increasingly anxious at the carnage you might find when you settle into camp for the night and unlace your footwear.

Blisters while you’re hiking – and yes we are exaggerating here – are literally the worst thing that can possibly happen to a human being in their lives, ever! They can turn a perfectly scenic walk into a fiery hell-route and can stop a solidly planned multi-day trail in its tracks before it’s even gotten off the ground. They’re also, admittedly, kind of gross. Don’t get too worked up at the thought of breaking out in blisters, though. The good news is that you can take measures to prevent them from forming. Here are some of our favourite blister-busting techniques:

Wear high-quality hiking boots

If you’re a regular hiker, it’s important that you take the leap of setting aside your gym trainers and investing in a pair of hiking shoes that are specifically engineered for walking trains. So, boots that were literally made for walking, if you will.

When you try on a new pair of boots, pay close attention to any hot spots that feel like they might pinch or rub you straight away, as these are sure indicators of blisters in the making. You should also make sure you break in any new boots before a large hike by wearing them around the house or on short walks beforehand. This way you can identify any potential problem areas and sort them out before you’re too far from home.

Always try on boots before you buy them, as the shape of the shoe should match the shape of your feet and toes smoothly. If you bought your boots online and they feel like the wrong fit, don’t be afraid to return them. It’s imperative to try on your boots with the socks you intend to wear, as thick trekking socks might necessitate a size up from your regular shoe size for maximum comfort.

Ensure your laces are tight

Blisters come from repetitive friction on the same patch of skin, causing a space to open between skin layers that fills with fluid. If you prevent that friction, you prevent the blister entirely. If your hiking boot is laced properly, it will help your boot fully encompass your foot and prevent any movement from happening between your foot and your sock.

If you find your boot rubbing mid-hike, don’t be afraid to stop and retie your laces. If your hiking buddies object, they’re probably not the right people to be hiking with. If the friction you’re feeling when you stop is in the toes, tighten the laces in the front of the boot. To stabilise your heel, tighten the laces around the instep and at the ankle.

The better the socks, the fewer the blisters

Socks are socks, right? Wrong! A good quality pair of socks can make or break your hiking experience, as they’re the direct interface between your boots and your feet. High-quality hiking socks in the correct size will not only make for a more comfortable hiking experience overall, but they’ll also be a massive factor in the prevention of blisters.

There are even “anti-blister” socks on the market, that have a double-layer system to prevent friction from reaching the bare foot. Carrying extra socks on a hike is always recommended. It’s also imperative that you keep your socks dry, as a wet pair is a recipe for deeply uncomfy feet. Your second pair of socks might come in handy in this regard, too.

Take active care of your feet

Paying attention to foot care before and during a hike could be the deciding factor in whether you’re cursed with blisters on the trail. Before a hike, use second-skin bandages on areas that you know are prone to blisters on your feet.

You can also ensure your feet stay drier by powdering them before you slip your socks on. This will prevent your sweat from adding excess moisture to the inside of the shoe. You can ask your pharmacist about certain types of cream that can harden the skin of your feet during a hike but be sure to do this a few days in advance, as many of these take a while to take effect.

During your hike, make sure to keep your feet clean and dry. If you stop and take off your shoes, dust off your feet before putting them back on. If a pebble or other object gets caught in your shoe, stop immediately to remove it before it becomes painful. Always take advantage of stops to take off your boots and dry off your feet in the open air to prevent soggy, fatigued feet at the end of day one.

We’ve had our fair share of hiking blisters and we’ve always wondered how something so small can have such a profound effect on the overall quality of our outdoor experience. Thankfully, over years of traversing the trails of South Africa, the Camp Master team has learned a thing or two about avoiding those pesky nuisances at all costs.

Another way we’ve figured out to stop blisters in their tracks? Keeping all our gear dry, all the time, even when it’s bucketing down with rain. Shop these moisture-busting Camp Master must-haves at Makro, Builders and Game today:

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