When my brother Edward who is living in Canada last visited us in Lebanon he introduced hiking as a lifestyle to me and my family. My passion to hiking was there and then discovered. I remember well when a night before our first serious hike to Mount Moussa, I asked him what should I wear as socks. He told me then that socks are the most important piece of gear any hiker should invest in. Because obviously if you develop blisters in the trail, it will be hell on earth for the rest of the journey. When you are hiking, the most common way to get a blister is from your sock or shoe rubbing up against the skin of your feet for an extended period. The shoe may either be too loose or too tight, and it’s likely that sweaty or wet feet are the main cause of getting blisters on a hike. Whatever the reason, one thing is for sure, these hurt.
Although everyone has their own methods, good blister treatment boils down to one thing: prevention!
There is a lot of pressure on all parts of our feet from carrying our weight, shoe contact pressure and from toes close to each other. Add walking over challenging terrain, it’s inevitable to see blisters happening. Don’t ever think of padding and adding layers of cushioning like a donut pad or a modification to your footwear to reduce pressure and wearing more than one sock can even be the cause to your blisters. The best way to prevent blisters is to reduce the play between your feet flesh and the socks. This is why the hiking socks are made from material that sticks to the flesh in order to reduce friction.
Your feet will get warm and perspire when you’re walking all day, no matter what the weather. Moisture-sucking socks will help at the start, but along the way they become the root cause of the issue creating oily layers that increases friction.
The shoe may either be too loose or too tight, and it’s likely that sweaty or wet feet are the main cause of getting blisters on a hike. Whatever the reason, one thing is for sure, these suckers hurt.
To keep those feet happy and blister-free, here are 5 basic tips to always keep in mind before, during and after a hike.
1. Wear shoes that fit right
Invest time, money and effort for finding the shoes that fit correctly. Your toes should have just enough room while the heel is secure and fits tight, so it won’t lift up as you walk.
2. Buy Hiking Socks
As you hike, feet are likely to get sweaty and rub against the shoe. Invest in a good pair of merino wool socks to allow your foot breathe and stay dry but warm at the same time. Slipping and squeezing in your socks are no good either, but whether or not you prefer thick or thin socks is up to you.
3. Wear your New Shoes Before You Head Out
This is key to blister prevention. Super stiff shoes will rub and quickly cause blisters and foot pain, so take a few walks and short hikes in them to soften the material before you hit the trail.
4. Keep your Feet Dry
In most cases, wet feet come from a normal and healthy amount of perspiration while hiking, so socks with good breathability can certainly help, or you can try foot powder to absorb moisture. In all cases (summer or winter) bring one or two extra pair of socks to change during the hike.
Drying out your boots or shoes by a campfire at night can help, and if you have them, stuffing towels or paper inside overnight will absorb moisture. Since feet tend to swell and get sweaty on hikes, it’s helpful to take off your shoes during a break and allow your feet to breathe.
5. Give Your Toenails Some Trimming
Giving your feet a little extra attention never hurts! Trim your toenails, give yourself a foot massage and keep your boots free of rocks and debris from the trail.
In the next post I will write some tips about how to treat blisters while hiking. Till then, remember; he better you take care of your feet, socks and shoes, the better time you’ll have outdoors.
Gaby W. Awad