How to prevent blisters when trekking

good walking boots prevent blisters

For such a minor seeming injury, it’s amazing how painful blisters can be and it’s no exaggeration to say that they can really ruin your trekking holiday! Fortunately, there are some simple ways to prevent blisters and some effective ways to treat them to minimise how painful they are. Here are our top tips!

Make sure your walking boots fit

The biggest cause of blisters is badly fitting or uncomfortable walking boots. If your boots are too small then they will press too tightly on your skin, too loose and they will rub repeatedly up and down with each step. When you go to a shop to try on boots, take the socks you will be wearing on the trail with you and try on as many pairs as your sanity allows. Walk around the shop and pay close attention to any places where it feels like the boot is pushing into your foot. As long as the boot doesn’t move when you walk, it can be worth going up half a size for walking boots to allow your foot room to swell in warm weather and also to prevent your toes being pushed right into the front of the boot on long descents.

Don’t scrimp on socks

People will often spend money on expensive walking boots and then negate their comfort by buying cheap walking socks. To prevent blisters, a good walking sock needs to be long enough that it covers your foot and leg up to and above you boot (and not fall down) and it needs to fit well so that it doesn’t scrunch up inside your boot.

Blisters form more easily if your feet are sweaty and so if you are going trekking in the Alps in summer then it can be very hot so a thin sock is best. Cotton socks are a bad idea as they retain moisture, whereas synthetic/wool socks have excellent wicking properties which take the moisture away from your skin, decreasing the likelihood of blisters.

If you are limited on baggage, it’s worth the extra investment to buy wool socks, rather than synthetic ones. Wool socks have natural antibacterial properties meaning that it smells less so you can wear them a few days in a row. Smart Wool make some incredibly comfortable walking and running socks.

good socks prevent blisters
If you’re heading out on a multi day trek then good socks are vital to prevent blisters!

Dry your shoes and socks out at the end of each day

As mentioned above, blisters are more likely if your feet are wet. To prevent blisters it’s incredibly important to try and keep your shoes and socks as dry as possible. As soon as you’ve finished on the trail, be disciplined and change into flip flops to let your feet breath. To dry your boots, take the insole out and place them somewhere warm to dry. If your walking boots have gotten soaked from the rain, then stuffing newspaper into them and placing them near a radiator is the best way to dry them out.

prevent blisters
Going barefoot after a day of trekking helps prevent blisters by letting your feet breath. If there’s a river nearby then soaking your feet for a few minutes will help reduce swelling and feels fantastic!

Stop as soon as you feel a hot spot

If you are trekking with a group, it may feel awkward asking everyone to stop so you can sort out your feet. However, it’s much less annoying for everyone to stop for 5 minutes while you put some tape on your feet, than it is to listen to you complain about blisters for the rest of the trip! If you feel a hot spot developing, stop as soon as you can and put some mole skin tape over the area to prevent blisters forming.

If you do get blisters…

If you do get a blister, then it’s not the end of the world if you look after it properly! If possible, it’s best not to burst a blister as the fluid is there to protect the sore skin underneath. If the blister is particularly large, then you will need to burst it to be able to keep trekking the next day. To burst a blister, make sure you disinfect the area first by washing your foot and wiping the area with antiseptic. Using a sharp sterile needle, pierce the blister near the edge and allow the fluid to drain out. Then wipe the area clean and apply a protective gauze or some compeed to prevent infection. Compeed is an excellent blister plaster that you can buy in Europe which acts as a second skin; although it’s expensive – it can stay on your foot for several days.

Jennifer Stretton

About Jennifer Stretton

Jen grew up about as far from the mountains and nature as you can get—in Birmingham, UK. When she first visited the Alps on a university climbing trip, she immediately fell in love with the place. After graduating with a degree in Geography, Jennifer spent the next few years travelling the world, volunteering with conservation charities and freelance marketing to fund her adventures. In 2015 she settled full time in the Chamonix Valley and began training to become an international mountain leader. An avid climber and environmentalist, Jen’s passion for the mountains and the natural world is contagious. When she’s not guiding, Jennifer spends her free time climbing, skiing, travelling and trying to keep up with her dog on trail runs. Sociable, caring and always smiling, Jen is the perfect guide to keep you laughing and motivated on your journey. She looks forward to meeting you next summer!

11 Replies to “How to prevent blisters when trekking”

  1. AvatarGina says:

    We will be hiking on an Alpenwild hike in September, and I’m unsure what socks to buy right now. I hike very minimally at the present moment, so any suggestions on brands would be greatly appreciated. I’m wearing an ankle boot. Thanks.

    • Jennifer StrettonJen says:

      Hi Gina! Lovely to hear you are joining us in September! I go for smart wool socks, they’re really comfortable and come in a range of thicknesses and length. I’ve never had any blisters with them and they are made of wool which means they dry quickly. If you don’t do much hiking at the moment I really recommend getting out on the trails as much as you can before September so you can enjoy the hike as much as possible when you come over here =)

      Jen

  2. AvatarJon Weinberg says:

    I’ve found wearing a thin, wicking liner sock between my feet and a thick wool outer sock is most efrfective at preventing blisters. The two socks rub against each other instead of your skin, so no blisters!

    I change into a fresh liner sock each day and can get 2 days (3 in a pinch) before I need to wash the wool outer sock. The liner socks are easy to wash and are so thin they dry pretty quickly.

    I usually carry 2 pairs of wool socks and 4-5 pairs of liner socks on a hike/trek. I also carry a small bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap (peppermint or eucalyptis) for sock and other washing.

    • Jennifer StrettonJen says:

      The liner sock is a great shout Jon! I know a lot of people find that really helpful. In winter I’ve used that system before and it was really comfy, I just find it slightly too hot in summer. I’ve never heard of the castille soap before but I’ll check it out – would be nice to have mint smelling socks!

  3. AvatarSue says:

    I started putting mole skin on every part of my foot where a blister might form; on my heels, on the top and side of my big toe, my small toe and on the side of the ball of my foot. I am very careful as to how I place them. I started doing this 3 years ago and it was absolutely the best thing I have ever done to protect my feet while hiking. It has to be done on the first day and each subsequent day. You don’t want to put it on after a blister has formed, as it will tear the skin off when you remove them each night.

    • Jennifer StrettonJennifer Stretton says:

      Hi Sue, thanks for your comment! That’s a great idea – prevention is definately better than dealing with a blister after it’s errupted! With moleskin and compeed, you can also keep the protection on for a few days, even in the shower. As you say, pulling moleskin off blistered feet can make the wound much worse.

  4. Jennifer StrettonJennifer Stretton says:

    Hi Stuart! Thanks for your message. I’ve used compeed a lot for myself and clients on trekking tours and have always found it really useful! As with most things though, a lot comes down to individual choice and what works best for you. What do you find works best? Jen

  5. AvatarStuart says:

    Skip the compeed. Google it and see how many hikers report bad
    experiences with it.

    • Avatarrick obryan says:

      Have used Compeed for twenty years for everything from the Raid Gauloises Adventure Race to mountaineering in the Himalayas and it has worked every time – even when crossing streams and getting soaked in rivers. Have applied it to many other fellow adventurers and teammates feet with equal success. It’s important to read and follow the directions on the box for the product to work as intended…….impatience and imprecision will bring spotty results, which leads to complaining on the internet!

      • Jennifer StrettonJennifer Stretton says:

        I agree – Compeed is a real life saver for on the trail! The best way to ensure it stays on well is to warm it up in your hands before placing it on your foot and then once it’s stuck on, give it a good rub to make sure it’s stuck on tightly and without and creases!

        Happy hiking!

        Jen

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