How to Avoid Blisters

I’m sure over the years we’ve all had our fair share of blisters, but what is the best way to avoid them and what should we do when we get one?

Blisters generally occur from friction on the skin from your socks or shoes this repeated friction causes the outer layer of the skin to separate from the fiber layer. The resulting “pocket” then fills up with a clear fluid (serum) and forms a blister.

Some Bad Blisters. Source : Jason Cartwright - Flickr
Some Bad Blisters. Source : Jason Cartwright - Flickr

How to Avoid Blisters

  • Make sure you have a pair of boots that are a good fit and be sure to break them in well.
  • Wear socks made from a synthetic material which wick the moisture away from your feet.
  • Do not wear socks that are too worn as they will have thin areas and holes which will lead to blisters.
  • Always carry a spare pair of socks and change them if your feet become wet or get very sweaty.
  • Keep your feet dry, some people put talcum powder inside their socks to help with this.
  • Wear a thin liner sock that will absorb sweat, wear a thicker heavier pair on top of these. The liners provide a protective layer for the outer socks to rub against causing the friction to be between the 2 socks rather than your skin.
  • Cover areas that you know are prone to blisters with tape, moleskin, or a plaster before you start walking. If you feel a blister started to form then stop and cover it up in the same manner.
  • Some people claim that rubbing surgical spirit on your feet for a few weeks will harden the skin and prevent blisters. I personally have never tried it but know many people who swear by it.

Treating Blisters

If you follow all the tips above you should avoid getting a blister altogether but what should you do if you do get one? The first main decision is whether to pop or not. This really depends on where the blister is, although if you can avoid having to drain it then this is the best course of action as the skin provides natural protection. If it is small then just cover it up with a plaster or some moleskin.

If the blister is very large, signs of infection start to develop or you are unsure about anything then you should contact a medical professional immediately. Diabetics should take special care when dealing with blisters and always seek professional medical advice.

If the blister does need to be drained the follow the steps below.

  1. Clean the area around the blister thoroughly with alcohol or antiseptic soap.
  2. Push a steralised needle gently into the base of the blister.
  3. Apply pressure gently to allow the fluid to drain out.
  4. Apply an antibiotic cream to the area.
  5. Cover the area with an absorbent, non-stick bandage. This should be changed frequently.
Draining a blister : source icopythat flickr
Draining a blister. Source: icopythat - flickr

In my opinion there is no miracle way to avoid blisters except for staying at home, lying down on the sofa and watching TV all day. If however you do want to get out on the hills and still avoid blisters then make sure you have good socks, a good pair of boots and look after your feet.

Have a look at our advice about choosing backpacking boots and information on deciding between walking shoes, mids and boots.

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