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Tips for Preventing Blisters While Hiking

Blisters on your feet can be extremely painful, turning what might be an otherwise pleasant hike or backpacking trip into a nightmarish struggle to continue moving forward on the trail. Follow along as our Gear Specialist, Becky, offers some quick tips on preventing blisters from forming and keeping your feet happier while hiking.

Preventing Blisters While Hiking: 6 Tips

1. Break in those boots!

Before embarking on longer hikes, break in your boots by taking them on short day hikes and wearing them for normal activities throughout your regular day (running errands, doing work around the house, etc.). This will get you acclimated to the weight and general feel of your boots and will help mold the boots to your foot shape. This will also alert you to any problem areas or hot spots that you’ll need to address before setting out on a longer excursion.

2. Invest in good socks

Invest in good socks
Good socks go a long way toward preventing blisters.

You may be thinking, “those socks cost WHAT?!” when shopping for hiking socks. Don’t let sticker shock sway you; good quality merino wool or synthetic hiking socks are made to wick sweat, manage moisture, fit well and last a long time, which is more than bargain bin cotton socks can claim! (In fact, some of our favorite premium sock brands, such as Darn Tough even come with a lifetime guarantee). Hiking socks definitely support the idea of “you get what you pay for;” good socks are more carefully sewn and have fewer seams, which can mean the difference between a painful blister and a completely blister-free experience while hiking!

3. Keep feet dry

This can be challenging on the trail, as both external moisture from things like wet weather or stream crossings and internal moisture from sweat can dampen your boots and socks, which in turn can make your skin more prone to blistering if not addressed. As explained in Tip #2, good socks go a long way toward moisture management next to skin, but you may have to take additional action to dry boots (see our Expert Advice video on that topic here).

4. Take breaks on the trail

Taking a break and taking off shoes
Take breaks once in a while, and be sure to inspect for signs of blisters forming.

Related to Tip #3, taking breaks on the trail to keep feet dry is important. Sometimes, you need to simply take “foot check” breaks to assess whether blisters may be forming, especially if you’ve had problems with blisters in the past, or if you have a new pair of boots that isn’t entirely broken in. Stop and completely remove your boots and socks…if just for a few minutes mid-hike to give feet a chance to rest and dry.

5. Practice good sock hygiene

Especially important on multi-day trips, allowing socks to fully dry (or, better yet, changing into fresh, dry socks) between full days of hiking can mean the difference between getting blisters or keeping them at bay. Wet weather can make this more challenging, but allowing feet to “breathe” while you’re resting in camp by removing socks and boots while eating a meal or even sleeping (if temperatures allow) helps keep feet healthy and comfortable.

6. Don’t ignore problems!

First aid kit
Be sure to hike prepared with a first aid kit in the event you do develop a blister.

So, you took all the right precautions, but you’re still getting a blister? Unfortunately, some of us are just blister-prone. The good news is taking early action on a small blister that’s just beginning to form can keep it from getting larger and worse. There is much debate on HOW to treat a blister, (which is a subject for another Expert Advice article), but chances are you have a preferred blister treatment method that works well for you. The key is to be proactive. Begin treating that blister right away!