How to Prevent Blisters When Hiking

How to avoid blisters when hiking: Close-up of a hiker with trail runners on a trail

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You’re halfway through your hike, and your feet start to ache. Looking down, you notice the beginnings of a blister forming on your heel. Ouch.

If this isn’t your first time, you might be wondering how to prevent blisters when hiking. The good news is that you can enjoy blister-free hiking adventures with a few simple tips and tricks.

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or new to the trails, this guide is here to help you prevent those pesky blisters from ruining your adventure. Let’s get started.

Why Do Hiking Blisters Occur?

Blisters are those annoying, painful bumps that can ruin a good hike. But before we learn how to avoid them, it’s crucial to understand why they happen in the first place.

Imagine this: You’re out on a hike, and you’re moving your feet a lot. The insides of your shoes rub against your skin because of all the walking. That rubbing creates heat and sometimes sweat. And when heat, sweat, and rubbing come together, it’s like a recipe for blisters.

So, three things need to happen for blisters to show up:

  • Heat: Your feet heat up from all that activity.
  • Moisture: Sweat or dampness can build up inside your shoes.
  • Friction: This is the rubbing action between your skin and your shoe.

How to Avoid Blisters When Hiking (Step-by-Step)

Hiking Blisters: Close-up of a hiker wearing trail runners, resting their legs on a forest ledge

Your hiking adventure starts with your feet. Picking the perfect footwear is the key to preventing blisters. Here’s what you need to know:

Step 1: Get the Right Footwear

  • Hiking Boots vs. Trail Runners: You’ve got two main footwear choices for hiking. Traditional boots provide great ankle support and protection but may need a break-in period. Trail runners are lighter, comfy from day one, and loved by many hikers. For a deeper dive, check our dedicated insight here.
  • Proper Fit is Key: No matter your choice, the fit is crucial. When trying on hiking boots or trail runners, wiggle your toes and make sure there’s enough room in the toe box. Your feet can swell during a hike, so a little extra space is good. Make sure you are happy with the padding. Also, if you have wide feet, consider getting good hiking insoles that will alter the shoe to your liking.
  • Waterproof and Breathable: Look for footwear that’s somewhat waterproof or weatherproof yet breathable. Weatherproof shoes keep your feet dry in wet conditions, while breathability helps prevent moisture buildup that can lead to blisters. However, don’t go too extreme with the waterproofing if you are thinking of mainly hiking in dry conditions, as these kinds of shoes can make your feet sweat.

Here is a selection of popular trail runners that offer breathability and are loved by many hikers:

Brand / ModelMen / Women
Saucony Ride 15 TRMen
Salomon Ultra Glide 2Men
Nike Pegasus Trail 4Men
Salomon Ultra Glide 2Women
Adidas Terrex Agravic UltraWomen
Asics Gel Excite Trail 2Women

Step 2: Get the Right Socks and Bring an Extra Pair

Your choice of socks matters too. High-quality hiking socks made from moisture-wicking materials like merino wool, reducing friction and hot spots. If you want to learn more about sock selection, be sure to check out our post here.

To simplify your selection, we’ve compiled a list of high-quality hiking socks suitable with trail runners:

Brand / ModelMaterial
Darn Tough Element 1/4 Length Light Cushion Socks55% Merino Wool , 42% Nylon , 3% Elastane
Bridgedale Trail Run Ultra Light T2 Coolmax Sport37% Polyester / CoolMax , 60 % Nylon / Polyamide , 3% Elastane
CEP Hiking Light Merino Low Cut Socks79% Polyamide , 10% Merino Wool , 11% Elastane
Injinji Run Lightweight No-Show Socks35% CoolMax EcoMade, 63% Nylon, 2% Elastane

For good foot hygiene, also, carrying an extra pair of socks enhances foot comfort and prevents blisters. If your feet feel sweaty, take a moment to swap your damp socks for clean, dry ones during your break.

Step 3: Keep Your Feet Dry During Hikes

When you’re hiking, your feet can get sweaty and damp, especially on a hot day or during a challenging hike. Moisture is one of the things that can lead to blisters, but don’t worry; there are ways to manage it:

  • Take Breaks to Let Your Feet Breathe: During your hike, it’s essential to take short breaks. During these breaks, remove your boots and socks. This might seem a little strange, but it’s a great way to let your feet cool down and dry out.
  • Use the “Chimney Effect“: Here’s a cool trick: Roll the tops of your socks down over the collar of your shoes. This creates a kind of “chimney” that allows air to flow into your boots. It helps release heat and moisture from your feet, keeping them drier and more comfortable.

Step 4: Lace Your Shoes Right

Did you know that how you lace your hiking shoes can make a big difference in preventing blisters and ensuring a comfortable hike? Let’s explore the art of lacing your shoes the right way:

  • Snug but Not Too Tight: Start with this rule in mind: Your shoes should be snug but not painfully tight.Your foot should also not slide forward or backward.
  • Adjust as You Go: Your feet aren’t static; they move differently on different terrains, slopes, and as you go up or down hills. So, here’s a helpful tip: Re-tie or adjust your laces during your hike if you feel any rubbing or discomfort.
  • For Downhill Descents: When you’re about to tackle a steep downhill section, lace your shoes snugly. This prevents your toes from banging against the front of your shoes, which can cause discomfort and blisters.

Step 5: Tape for Prevention

Taping might not sound like a glamorous part of hiking, but it’s an effective technique for preventing those pesky blisters. Here’s how to tape up your feet for a blister-free hike:

  • Athletic Tape or Leukotape: You don’t need fancy equipment for this. All you need is some athletic tape or Leukotape. These types of tape stick well, even if your skin is a bit damp from sweat.
  • Identifying Hot Spots: Before you start hiking, take a moment to identify any areas on your feet that tend to rub or feel uncomfortable in your shoes. These are your “hot spots.” They’re the places where blisters are more likely to form.

To be extra cautious, you can apply a thin layer of lubricant such as petroleum jelly or anti-chafe balm over the tape. This will reduce friction against the tape, preventing it from rubbing your skin raw.

For complete confidence in taping your feet, you can watch this instructional video:

Handling Blisters While Hiking

Hiking Blisters: Hiker on a log with their boots off, checking for blisters

Despite your best efforts, blisters can still sneak up on you during a hike. It’s essential to know how to deal with them on the trail so they don’t ruin your adventure.

Take Immediate Action

If you start feeling a blister forming during your hike, don’t ignore it. Stop right away and assess the situation. If you have blister treatment products like Moleskin, bandages, or athletic tape, use them to cover and protect the blister.

At times, blisters may require draining. Use a sterile needle to release fluid, relieving pressure. Keep it clean.

Once you’ve treated the blister, it’s best to leave it uncovered if possible. When you’re in camp or at home, take off your hiking boots and let the blister breathe.

Final Thoughts

Hiking is an incredible outdoor adventure, but the sheer joy of it can be quickly overshadowed by the discomfort of blisters.

To prevent blisters, choose the right footwear, keep your feet dry, and use proper lacing techniques. Carrying extra socks and taping your feet can help too.

In some cases, despite your best efforts, blisters might start forming during your hike. If you notice this, don’t ignore it. Take immediate action to address the issue.

We hope that with these tips, you can hike blister-free and enjoy nature’s beauty. Happy hiking!


Looking for ultralight trail runners? Check out our TOP 5 guides to find the best options for men and women.

FAQ

How to prevent blisters when hiking?

To prevent painful blisters while hiking, wear properly fitted, broken-in hiking shoes or shoes with good merino wool hiking socks to wick moisture and provide cushioning – be sure to pack extra pairs. Keep your feet dry by airing them out on breaks, using foot powder, and changing damp socks. Tape hot spots or blister-prone areas before hitting the trail. Adjust your laces throughout the hike to account for swelling feet and downhill sections. Take regular breaks to let your feet rest and switch to camp shoes. Stay hydrated to avoid dehydration which can increase blister risk. Manage friction, moisture, and heat on your feet with preparation and preventative care so you can hike blister-free.

Do hiking insoles help prevent blisters?

Using quality hiking insoles can be an effective way to help prevent painful blisters when hitting the trail. They provide extra cushioning and support, absorbing shock and reducing friction that causes blisters. Look for insoles with moisture-wicking and antimicrobial properties to keep your feet drier. Properly fitted insoles that don’t allow your feet to slide will limit shear friction. Break them in before longer hikes to maximize comfort. Combine insoles with proper hiking socks and shoes to manage moisture, friction, and impact for blister-free hiking.

Can I still hike with a blister?

If you develop a blister while hiking, you can often keep going if you take immediate action. Stop and assess the blister, cover it with a bandage, change socks if they’re damp, and monitor it. If it worsens or becomes painful, it’s best to halt your hike and seek medical attention. Prevention is crucial, so take steps to avoid blisters before hitting the trail.

How long until you can walk on a blister?

The time it takes for a blister to heal and for you to comfortably walk on it can vary based on factors like its size, type, and severity. Generally, smaller blisters may take a few days to a week to heal, while larger or more painful ones can take longer. Proper care and treatment can help speed up the healing process, but it’s crucial to listen to your body and avoid walking on a blister until it’s comfortable to do so.

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