Dealing with a blister on your foot while hiking is an agonising affair. Understanding how blisters occur and taking steps of early prevention will save you pain and misery.
“Blister – a small bubble on the skin filled with serum and caused by friction, burning, or other damage.”
Causes Of Blister
In short, blisters are caused by friction, heat and sweating. The two main ways hikers get blisters are from:
- New shoes –Materials on new shoes are hard and rough. When it consistently rubs against your skin, it causes blisters.
- Friction from walking – While walking, friction is created from your feet rubbing against the socks, in turn rubbing against the shoe. Repeating the process for prolonged hours causes blisters.
Prevention is better than cure. The key is to avoid a blister being formed. Therefore, pay close attention to how you feel at your feet. Stop and inspect when you feel like a hotspot is forming. The first sign of a blister forming is redness over the skin, especially at the back of your heels or toes. Although it only feels a tiny bit of discomfort now, do not overlook it. Treat it right away by putting a layer of tape or plaster over it to reduce friction. This will save you the agony of dealing with a full blister later on.
If you have recently bought a new shoe, it is advisable to wear it a few times to ensure fitting before going on longer hikes. The shoe should fit your feet perfectly letting in a finger as room for allowance. A shoe too tight or loose will give you problems. The hard and rough edges of the new shoe will soften after you wear them.
Wet socks creates more friction then dry socks, overtime, it is more likely to causes blister. Avoid cotton socks as it is moisture absorbent and choose socks which are nylon or quick dry. An alternative is to wear double socks (literally wearing two layers of socks or special socks with two layers at certain location) to reduce friction. Consider bringing two pair of socks and alternate wearing them, leaving one out to dry while wearing the other. Applying pricky heat power on your feet helps to keep skin dry and sweat free. If condition permits, change into sandals while doing river crossing.
There is not much one can do after a blister has been formed. That why we mention earlier that prevention is key. To relief some pain, one can try reducing friction by making the area around the blister more slippery. You can do this by applying lubricants, powder, deodorant or blister patch. These products makes the blister area more slippery, thereby creating less friction and reduces pain.
- For blister which are still intact (semi-transparent skin still containing blister liquid) – Dress the blister to reduce pressure and friction. Use a gauze or pad which will not stick directly onto the blister.
- For blister which are torn (semi-transparent skin torn off) – The bare skin is now exposed. Apply antiseptic to prevent infection. Dress the blister with sterile dressing and monitor for infections, which are signs of puss, swelling, redness and increasing pain.