How to prevent and treat blisters
Blisters could prematurely end your enjoyable ramble. But you can avoid sore feet with a few key pieces of kit and our simple steps to pain-free walking.
Blisters can begin as a minor annoyance to become incredibly painful if left untreated and can stop you in your tracks. Fortunately, blisters can be prevented by wearing good quality footwear, including quality walking shoes or walking boots plus hiking socks, and it is essential to look after your feet particularly if you're planning a long or multi-day hike.
Should a blister strike by taking action to treat it early the damage caused to the skin by the blister can be reduced and quicker healing promoted. Blisters tend to be more common in the warmer months as our feet can swell in the heat, however if you're wearing will-fitting walking shoes or boots they can appear at any time.
Learn how to prevent and treat blisters while out walking with our essential guide to blisters.
Blisters are friction burns caused when your feet are chafed within footwear. Reduce that friction by smearing your feet with Vaseline or a specific anti-blister lubricant such as Mueller Lube.
Find your perfect fit
Wear broken-in footwear that fits well, especially around the toes and heel. Too roomy and your feet will shift excessively, too tight and they’ll suffer constant pressure – both cause blisters.
Stay dry at all times
Keep your feet dry – soft, damp skin is much more prone to chafing. Change out of damp socks and, if possible, allow footwear to dry after getting wet.
Take action early
Stop as soon as you feel a hotspot or sore area on your feet and apply a blister dressing such as Compeed. Don’t wait until a painful blister has formed.
Empty your shoes
Pause to remove any debris such as heather stalks, sand or small stones – even ash from a moorland blaze – from your shoes before it irritates your skin and causes blisters.
Prepare your feet
Some walkers gently rub white spirit into potential blister points for weeks before their walk. This hardens the skin but can also dry it, leading to even more painful cracking.
How to treat your blisters
Hotspots and blisters need fast treatment to prevent them worsening. Compeed’s hydrocolloid patches work like a second skin, protecting sensitive areas and forming a recovery-aiding cushioning gel over existing blisters. Apply the waterproof dressings with care, as any friction-causing wrinkles could create blisters on your blisters. The patches detach over time but take care removing them – they may take some skin with them. Submersing your feet in cold water can help.
Choose good socks
Just as ill-fitting footwear can contribute to blistering, so can the environment within that footwear. Feet produce up to a pint of sweat every day; unmanaged, it lingers within footwear, softening feet and encouraging blisters. Socks containing merino wool draw moisture away, helping to keep feet dry. Thorlo’s Experia Ultra Light merino/silk socks (£14, 01539 740840, www.thorlo.com) feature mesh panels to aid breathability and loop-stitched pads in the ball and heel to absorb impacts and reduce friction. Tiny amounts of elastic ensure a perfect fit.
If, despite all your best efforts, you continue to suffer from blisters, a specific sports lubricant applied to your feet,
such as Mueller Lube should help reduce friction. The product was designed for long-distance runners and triathletes, whose physically punishing sports involve plenty of chafing. The lube should be applied before you start walking to be effective and can be used on other areas that might be susceptible to rubbing –
use your imagination!