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Blister Busters: How to Prevent Blisters on Feet From Walking

2 January 2024
Blister Busters: How to Prevent Blisters on Feet From Walking

We've all experienced the discomfort of discovering a blister on our feet after a long walk in the hills. The urge to pop them and release the pressure can be strong.

Blisters can happen to anyone. While we know we should let them heal on their own, preventing them in the first place is the key.

Jeremy Stevens, Footwear Buyer says:

"Anywhere that rubs inside the boot can develop a blister. The most common location is probably at the heel. If the heel moves up and down inside the boot (which can particularly be the case when going uphill in stiffer boots), blisters can result. The ball of the foot, toes and sides of the foot can all develop blisters as well."

Here are a few proactive measures to protect our delicate foot skin from friction and rubbing.

Choose the Right Footwear

Selecting the right footwear is crucial. Consider what activity you're doing. Are you hiking, running, or walking? Research the appropriate shoe for your sport. Watch review videos, try them on in-store, and ask for assistance.

Pay attention to shoe materials, moisture-wicking properties, and cushioning. Make an informed decision based on quality and fit rather than opting for the cheapest option. Remember to research sizing for each brand and type of shoe.

"When you’re trying on footwear, make sure to wear the kind of sock you plan to wear for the activity. If you don’t have them with you, use try-on socks, or invest in a new pair as part of the process. As you try on the footwear, make sure you walk up and down the stairs, or use a ramp where possible. Key things to look out for are heel lift – especially noticeable when going uphill – and toe bang, if your foot moves forward and toes bump into the front of the boot. These are both signs of excessive movement inside the boot and can cause a lot of discomfort.

We’ve seen a shift towards lighter weight footwear, often inspired by trail running shoes. Many hikers have adopted trail shoes as their footwear of choice and it certainly ticks a lot of boxes – you get comfort, cushioning, lightness and agility without the break-in time you might associate with leather boots. But lighter footwear isn’t always the best choice for everyone; especially if you’re regularly on rocky or very boggy terrain, where a more supportive and higher-ankled product may give you better protection from the terrain and the elements.

Speak to one of our expert staff if you’re unsure, and they’ll guide you towards the most appropriate kind of footwear for your chosen activity, as well as highlighting which may be the best fit for your feet." - Jeremy Stevens, Footwear Buyer. 

Break In Your Shoes

"Breaking in" your new shoes is essential. Wear them for shorter distances before embarking on longer adventures, such as dog walks or quick trips to the shops. This helps the shoes adapt to your foot shape and prevents discomfort on the trail.

Moisture Management

Do you suffer from sweaty feet? Even if you don’t usually, long hikes can make your feet perspire a bit more than usual, leaving you with a soggy environment where skin rubs - the perfect environment for blisters to form.

Invest in moisture-wicking socks made from materials like merino wool or polyamide. Keep your feet dry and comfortable, and carry spare pairs to swap when needed. Keeping feet as dry as possible is crucial in blister prevention. 

Check out our Sock Buying Guide for some advice on choosing the right sock for you. 

You can also spray anti-perspirant or apply talcum powder as a temporary measure to help keep your feet dry. 

Lace Techniques

Do your shoes feel loose? Is your foot rubbing inside your shoe? 

Look at different lacing techniques to create a snug fit without causing pressure points. If your shoes are laced correctly, they'll prevent excessive movement and rubbing inside the shoe that can cause blisters and sore spots.

Foot Care

Regular foot care is good practice for preventing painful blisters and skin problems. Soak your feet, exfoliate with a pumice stone, trim your toenails, and apply foot lotion regularly to maintain soft and healthy feet.

Use Anti-Friction Products

Invest in anti-friction products, including anti-friction cream and a footcare kit, to prepare your feet before heading out. Apply the cream generously half an hour before. Keep blister plasters on hand for emergencies. If you haven't got any anti-friction cream to hand, petroleum jelly (Vaseline) can act as a substitute. 

Experiment with insoles and footbeds for a tighter fit and added cushioning to help in the fight against foot friction. Check out our Insole Buying Guide for some useful tips on what insoles will be best for your foot shape. 

"Insoles can make the difference between a good fit and a great fit. The right insole will cradle your foot and support your natural gait cycle, reducing fatigue and helping to keep the foot correctly positioned inside the footwear. " - says Jeremy. 

Hydration and Nutrition

We all know we need to stay hydrated. But did you know that it’s also an essential part of skincare and protection?

Dehydration can affect your skin's elasticity and general foot health, making skin prone to blisters (especially over greater distances).

Stay hydrated with a water reservoir pack, which gives you the ability to carry more water using your body weight for support.

Also, remember to pack nutrition bars and easy-to-carry snacks to keep your energy up along the way.

Regular Breaks

Don’t push yourself too hard. It’s important to let your feet (and the rest of your body) rest at regular intervals.

If your feet are feeling sore, wet, or just a bit cramped, then stop. Sit down, get your feet out in the air, and change your socks over. It will help reduce the likelihood of friction and pressure points building up which lead to blisters.

Jeremy says "If you feel a hot spot developing, early treatment is the key. Don’t ignore it – it will only get worse. Applying a specialised blister plaster (Compeed) over the hot spot can be effective before it turns into a blister.

You might want to swap into dry socks, if you have them. And when you re-lace, make sure you have the most secure fit possible to minimise movement and friction."

Before heading out for a long walk in the hills, ensure you've taken steps to prevent blisters. Pack an emergency medical and foot care kit and be ready to treat potential sores on the trail. Take care, and remember, there's no need to rush.

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