On his latest walking preparation post, health and fitness specialist Peter Duffy from Dublin, shares useful tips on how to avoid them, a very common problem among walkers. Very handy advice whether you are getting ready for your walking holiday in Ireland.
By Peter Duffy.
Your best defence against blisters is understanding what causes them, how to treatment them, and just as importantly, how to condition them in preparation for your hike! How to avoid blisters:
What are Blisters?
Blisters are small pockets of liquid that form on the outer layer of the skin after the skin becomes damaged (usually caused by forceful rubbing or burning)
1. Heat: this is generated from your foot rubbing against your sock which Is been pressed by your boot.
2. Moisture: Sweat produced by the feet will soften the skin resulting in less protection and more friction.
3. Grit/sand/ gravel: this will increase friction along particular areas of the foot which will generate more friction and heat.
– If the blister has not torn and is full of liquid, pierce it from the side with a sterile needle at its base and allow all the fluid to run out.
– If the blister has torn already, carefully cut away the loose skin of the blister and treat the area with antiseptic.
– Allow the blister to dry and harden in the open air for as long as you can.
– When you need to resume hiking, put a plaster over the torn blister.
– Put a layer of moleskin over the blister area. You may cut a doughnut shaped piece of moleskin that fits around the blister rather than putting it directly on the torn site.
– Check the blister at each stop and give it as much time to dry off as you can whenever you can. Keep it clean and sterilized to prevent infection.
How to condition your feet?
Walk regularly: this will improve your breathing, muscle strength and endurance but just as importantly it conditions your feet. Below are a few tips for you:
1. Use benzoin on the bottoms of your feet to toughen the skin.
2. Walk barefoot at home and outside whenever you can, this will also toughen the skin but be careful where you walk.
3. Break in your new boots: do roughly ten 5-mile hikes before going on a long all day hike especially when preparing for your walking trip.
– Ensure that they are water tight and breathable to allow the sweat from the feet to escape. You can also find boots that have a scree collar that will keep out dirt/ debris.
– Use thick impact-absorbing insoles.
– Wear socks that DO NOT have seems as this will rub against the feet and irritate them. DO NOT wear cotton socks as they soak up and retain moisture – wear polypropylene socks instead.
4. Keep toe nails trimmed and ensure there are no sharp edges that may cause irritation to the skin and wear out your expensive hiking socks.
1. When your feet become damp dry your feet well and replace your socks. This prevents the build-up of fungus.
2. Air out your feet – especially when on your lunch break, but do this often throughout your hike to keep them cool and dry.
3. Remove dirt: Always remove dirt and sand from your boots.
4. Soak feet: Soak your feet in a stream if possible and make sure to dry them well before hiking again. This will again keep your feet cool and dry.
5. Stop and rest your feet when they feel hot, tired or sore.
6. If hot spots along the feet persist, cover them with moleskin before they become blisters.
7. Do not pierce intact blisters that are deep, rather than just the top few layers of skin. Just apply a moleskin doughnut to relieve the friction and monitor the blister.
Read more hiking tips and walking preparation articles by Pete.