It’s well known that one of the hikers’ greatest fears is seeing their day’s walk cut short by a blister on their foot. Because of its variable size, it nevertheless does terrible harm each time you put your foot on the ground. Sometimes, the pain is so strong that one is obliged to abandon the path of a long trail.
That’s why it’s so important to know what you’re dealing with and how to prevent them from happening. We will also see what are the simple solutions to put into practice so that you can treat them with kindness!
Ready to know everything about how to treat foot blisters while hiking? It’s this way!
Formation of the blister while hiking
In the context of hiking more specifically, friction is very present at the level of the feet. It is therefore on the part of the body that you are likely to see it developing during your walks.
It can be created because of the friction exerted by your sock or by the insole of your shoes. A new pair of shoes and socks that are too loose or your feet floating too much in your shoes are all factors in the development of foot blisters.
Areas of the foot where they are created
There are many parts of the foot to watch out for, especially in the context of long-distance hiking. Many people develop it just before the beginning of the big toe because our foot presses there a lot. The curve of the foot as a whole is prone to the appearance of blisters. But it is also the case of the underside of the heel for those who adopt a very upright posture when they walk.
Finally, the back of the heel is a potential problem area, especially when walking with low shoes that are not suitable for long hikes.
Blister prevention when hiking
To know in detail the techniques for preventing the appearance of blisters on the foot, I refer you to the dedicated article. However, we will briefly see here some tips to drastically reduce their potential appearance.
Here are some basic tips that are easy to put into practice:
- Give your feet time to adapt to your new shoes: in practice, do not go on a 5-day trek with a pair of shoes you have just bought.
- Go up a size: When buying a new pair of shoes, go one size up from your actual size. While your foot swells when you walk, it would promote friction and therefore the appearance of blisters.
- Bandage any areas of the foot at risk: hiking bandages protect the curve of the foot, the heel or the beginning of the big toe. When in place, they act as a “buffer zone” between your sensitive area and the shoe and greatly reduce friction.
- The application of a preventive ointment: certain ointments, such as the famous Band-Aid, intend to reduce the probability of the appearance of blisters on the foot. Before going for a hike, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor for advice who will be able to guide you!
Some tips on how to treat foot blisters while hiking
Depending on the type of blister you have on your foot and its size, there are different effective treatment methods. We will see the care to be taken with small closed blisters, large closed blisters and open blisters (also called “slammed” or “raw”).
Treating a small closed blister
The small blister on the foot, which has remained closed, is the one that most often develops after a day’s walk. It is painful but does not prevent walking either. To treat it, you don’t have to slap it yourself because it poses no particular risk.
On the other hand, you must apply a special bandage or a bandage on it in order to limit friction if you wish to continue walking. Finally, if it is possible for you to take a pair of shoes better suited to your feet, then do not hesitate to change them!
Care for a large closed blister
The large closed blister is several centimeters in diameter and can sometimes be very painful when walking. Often the epidermis is very detached and the serous fluid that makes up the blister can be abundant. In this case, care will need to vary from small blisters.
First, you must pierce it in one or two places with a needle sterilized by fire or 70° alcohol. Come and exert light pressure on the top of the blister to help the serous fluid to come out.
Above all, take great care not to remove the peeling skin because it serves as the last defense against bacteria. Without it, the bulb could become infected and it would then become dangerous. When the blister is rid of the serous fluid, come and disinfect the bulb with an antiseptic product that you will find in your first aid kit!
For small blisters, apply a strip or a specific dressing to the blister to remove the friction. Remember to change your bandages morning and evening in order to disinfect frequently. Repeat this operation until the foot is completely healed.
How do you treat a blister on your foot that has burst?
Sometimes the blister formed by the blister pops off on its own during the hike. In this case, you should feel a sharp pain that will probably force you to stop. When the blister is “raw”, you must not remove the epidermis even if it holds badly. As with closed blisters, it comes to protect you against bacteria.
To treat this last type of blister on the foot, here are the operations to be carried out:
- Clean the blister with soap and water: this will sting but will prevent the superinfection of the blister. When the skin has pulled back, the blister has turned into an open wound and your foot becomes a risk area that you must protect. Cleaning must be done every 4 hours in order to kill any bacteria and other dirt that may be deposited there.
- Apply a sterile strip to protect the wound after cleaning it. As with cleaning, remember to change this sterile strip every 4 hours.
- Put on a second skin dressing the next day to remove the friction that caused this blister. This will also allow your epidermis to recover safely.
Why do I get blisters when hiking?
When hiking or traveling with a backpack, the most common way to get a blister is the prolonged friction of the sock or shoe against the skin of the foot. The shoe may be too loose or too tight, and it’s likely that sweaty or wet feet are the main cause of blisters on a hike.
Should the blisters be popped?
If you had the chance to go on adventures as a child, you may have learned not to touch your blisters in order to avoid infection. This is in principle true, but the benefits may outweigh the possible risks. If you’re out in the wilderness and aren’t willing to give up on your trip, the only solution may be to thoroughly clean your bulb to set off again.
How long does it take for blisters to heal?
Most blisters heal naturally in three to seven days and do not require medical attention. It is important to avoid popping the blister as this could lead to infection or slow the healing process. If the blister bursts, do not peel off the dead skin.
How to prevent foot blisters when hiking?
A few minutes of preparation at home can make you feel good over very long distances. Before leaving the house.
- Buy shoes that really fit you. Not the first discounted pair you see at your favorite outdoor store that you won’t try on before you go.
- If you wear leather shoes, try them on before you go hiking. Wear them around the house, to the grocery store or when you take your dog out in the morning. Then, wear them on short hikes before putting them to the test during bivouacs with a heavy pack. Use tape for rough seams to reduce friction against your foot.
- Choose your socks wisely. Never wear cotton. It locks in moisture on contact with your skin, speeding up the blistering process. As with your shoes, choose socks that fit well, without wrinkles or annoying seams. Then find what works best for you in terms of thickness and try wearing a thin, sweat-wicking synthetic sock under a thicker wool layer. You can also try socks that protect against blisters.
- Buy supportive insoles to prevent your foot from slipping inside your shoe.
- Trim your toenails to avoid pressure on the front of your shoes.
- Put a band-aid on your feet as a preventive measure if you’ve done all of the above and are still suffering from burns just a few miles into a big trip.
During the trip:
Keep your feet dry. Bring extra socks to change into mid-day. Then hang the pair of wet socks outside your backpack, so they’re dry and ready to wear in the evening.
Rinse your feet as much as possible. Not only do dirty feet cause blisters more quickly, but they also increase the likelihood of infection. Even better, dipping your tired, sore feet into the river water is a great habit. Just be sure to let them dry completely before putting them back in your shoes.
Whether beginner or experienced, the foot blister is certainly one of the worst enemies of the hiker. It is the consequence of repeated friction between an “at risk” area of your foot and the shoe, most of the time. The blister then usually forms towards the heel, the arch of the foot, and near the big toe. But we can prevent their appearance by putting on suitable hiking shoes, specific socks or even by applying a bandage to the sensitive areas of the foot.
Both closed and open, the blisters must be cleaned with soap or disinfectant and then protected with a sterile strip or second skin dressings. In all cases, they should be monitored as soon as they appear and, if you can, take steps to prevent them from becoming infected.
Ready to hit the road with your feet in great shape?