For such a minor seeming injury, it’s amazing how painful blisters can be and it’s no exaggeration to say that they can really ruin your trekking holiday! Fortunately, there are some simple ways to prevent blisters and some effective ways to treat them to minimise how painful they are. Here are our top tips!
Make sure your walking boots fit
The biggest cause of blisters is badly fitting or uncomfortable walking boots. If your boots are too small then they will press too tightly on your skin, too loose and they will rub repeatedly up and down with each step. When you go to a shop to try on boots, take the socks you will be wearing on the trail with you and try on as many pairs as your sanity allows. Walk around the shop and pay close attention to any places where it feels like the boot is pushing into your foot. As long as the boot doesn’t move when you walk, it can be worth going up half a size for walking boots to allow your foot room to swell in warm weather and also to prevent your toes being pushed right into the front of the boot on long descents.
Don’t scrimp on socks
People will often spend money on expensive walking boots and then negate their comfort by buying cheap walking socks. To prevent blisters, a good walking sock needs to be long enough that it covers your foot and leg up to and above you boot (and not fall down) and it needs to fit well so that it doesn’t scrunch up inside your boot.
Blisters form more easily if your feet are sweaty and so if you are going trekking in the Alps in summer then it can be very hot so a thin sock is best. Cotton socks are a bad idea as they retain moisture, whereas synthetic/wool socks have excellent wicking properties which take the moisture away from your skin, decreasing the likelihood of blisters.
If you are limited on baggage, it’s worth the extra investment to buy wool socks, rather than synthetic ones. Wool socks have natural antibacterial properties meaning that it smells less so you can wear them a few days in a row. Smart Wool make some incredibly comfortable walking and running socks.
Dry your shoes and socks out at the end of each day
As mentioned above, blisters are more likely if your feet are wet. To prevent blisters it’s incredibly important to try and keep your shoes and socks as dry as possible. As soon as you’ve finished on the trail, be disciplined and change into flip flops to let your feet breath. To dry your boots, take the insole out and place them somewhere warm to dry. If your walking boots have gotten soaked from the rain, then stuffing newspaper into them and placing them near a radiator is the best way to dry them out.
Stop as soon as you feel a hot spot
If you are trekking with a group, it may feel awkward asking everyone to stop so you can sort out your feet. However, it’s much less annoying for everyone to stop for 5 minutes while you put some tape on your feet, than it is to listen to you complain about blisters for the rest of the trip! If you feel a hot spot developing, stop as soon as you can and put some mole skin tape over the area to prevent blisters forming.
If you do get blisters…
If you do get a blister, then it’s not the end of the world if you look after it properly! If possible, it’s best not to burst a blister as the fluid is there to protect the sore skin underneath. If the blister is particularly large, then you will need to burst it to be able to keep trekking the next day. To burst a blister, make sure you disinfect the area first by washing your foot and wiping the area with antiseptic. Using a sharp sterile needle, pierce the blister near the edge and allow the fluid to drain out. Then wipe the area clean and apply a protective gauze or some compeed to prevent infection. Compeed is an excellent blister plaster that you can buy in Europe which acts as a second skin; although it’s expensive – it can stay on your foot for several days.