Preventing Hiking Blisters: Tips and Tricks

Hiking Blisters: Close-up of a hiker with trail runners on a trail

In this post, we'll take a look at:

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

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 go.

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 (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 breaking in. 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.
  • Waterproof and Breathable: Look for footwear that’s both waterproof and breathable. Waterproof boots keep your feet dry in wet conditions, while breathability helps prevent moisture buildup that can lead to blisters.
  • Sock Compatibility: Your choice of socks matters too. High-quality hiking socks made from materials like merino wool are designed to wick moisture away, reducing friction and hot spots.

Step 2: 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 3: Bring Extra Socks

Carrying spare socks enhances foot comfort and prevents blisters:

  • Change into Fresh, Dry Socks: During your breaks, take a moment to swap your sweaty socks for clean, dry ones.
  • Choose Moisture-Wicking Socks: Not all socks are created equal. Look for socks made of materials like wool or moisture-wicking blends.

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.

For complete confidence in taping your feet, you can watch the 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 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.

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


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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