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How to Prevent Blisters
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Blisters are truly the curse of any hiking trip. Even a small, tiny blister can grow into a painful thing that can cause a miserable hiking trip and force you to walk and/or limp awkwardly home. So here's some guidelines on how to prevent blisters on a hiking trip.
The crucial thing to remember about preventing blisters is that it requires a good pair of hiking boots and hiking socks. If one of those ingredients is missing, well, you might as well invite blisters to come inside your boot!
Break in the Boot - Be sure to break in new hiking boots before heading off on a long trip. Even the fabric day hiking boots, which really almost come fully broken in, still need to be stretched out and broken in a bit before they become really comfortable. This is especially true for heavier, leather backpacking boots. So, take the time to walk around in your new hiking boots around home before heading out to the mountains.
Good Fitting Boot - Preventing blisters really does start with the boot. A poor fitting boot is a recipe for blisters. However, if your hiking boot fits almost fine but causes some hot spots (where the skin gets hot due to the boot rubbing on it) on uphill climbs, a cure for this is to use hiking boot inserts. These inserts are inserted into the bottom of the boot, taking up some of the dead space. I did this with my favorite hiking boots and it worked remarkably well. On uphill climbs, particularly steep ones, I felt hot spots on the back of my ankles, leading to small blisters over the course of long walks. Inserting the inserts completely got rid of this. Thus, if you have a boot that fits perfectly in most situations, don't throw them away. Instead, customize them with an insert. In many instances, it will be just the ticket to a comfortable pair of boots that don't cause blisters.
Hiking Socks - A Must! - Always hike in hiking socks. Never use cotton socks. Cotton socks quickly get wet, bunch up and begin to rub against your skin - causing blisters. Hiking socks, such as the Smartwool Hiking Socks which I use and highly recommend, are designed to not only provide additional padding for your feet, but to not bunch up and be more of a hindrance than help. Good pair of hiking socks are not cheap (cost about $15 per pair), but you don't need many of them either, so consider hiking socks an investment in happy hikes on the trail. My recommended socks for hiking are Smartwool Socks.
Don't Forget About Liner Socks - Liner socks should also always be worn when hiking. Liner socks, which are made of polypropylene, remove perspiration off your foot and transfer it to your hiking sock. Liner socks are a crucial piece of equipment for preventing blisters on longer hikes, as by keeping your foot dry half the battle is won in the war against blisters.
Lace the Boots Properly - Make sure your hiking boot is properly laced. A hiking boot that is not laced tight enough can cause your foot to move around quite a bit. On the other hand, don't lace your boots too tight, as this will cause your feet to swell, which becomes very painful indeed! Try playing around with various degrees of lace tightening/loosening to find the "sweet spot" that keeps the boot from moving around but yet keeps your feet comfortable. And be prepared to adjust the tightness while out on the trail, too, as once you begin hiking you may need to tighten/loosen the boots a bit to get just the right "fit."
Don't Forget the Moleskins - Use moleskins to cover up "hot spots" that can turn into blisters. Moleskins are like a bandage that goes over the blister, preventing the boot/sock from rubbing against it. Even if your hiking boots fit perfectly, always carry moleskins with you. They are dirt-cheap and can make the difference between a happy hiking trip and miserable hiking trip. Another thing which may also be easier to get is to invest in a Blister First Aid Kit. These handy first aid kits have the moleskins, creams, scissors and other helpful things to prevent small blisters from becoming big ones. These kits are generally less than $10, too.