Trail Life 101: Blister Prevention and Care

Blisters are a pain, literally. As biped adventurers our feet take a lot of abuse from repetitive impact across miles of uneven terrain, scaling large rock walls, scrambling up peaks, so on and so forth.

While our tired “dogs” often become achy and sore, the most common foot problem in the backcountry is a blister. Often created by friction, pressure, ill-fitting boots and wet socks, there are a few steps we can take to not only treat a newly formed blister but possibly prevent them as well.

Prevention

  • The best prevention for blisters is to wear boots that fit with room to wiggle your toes and without slippage in the heel box.
  • Just like your clothing, avoid cotton! Wear wool or synthetic socks that will wick away moisture.
  • Take the extra time to break-in your new boots. Wearing your new kicks around the house and on day hikes before hitting the trail for a multi-day excursion will save your feet from unnecessary pain.
  • As soon as you feel a burning sensation, or hot spot, cover the spot with moleskin or duct tape.

Blister

Treatment

  • If you have to pop a blister to relieve pressure do with a sterilized needle or razor blade. The best method is to clean the area then pierce the top or roof of the blister with a sterile needle and gently massage out the fluid. Be sure to keep the roof intact as a protective layer to the skin beneath the now dead layer.
  • Create a donut out of a piece of moleskin or foam that is just larger than the blister then apply antibiotic ointment and dry the skin around the blister. Once the area is prepared, affix the moleskin donut so that the hole creates a pressure free pocket around the blister. You may then apply a second donut as needed to help take away any direct pressure. Seal this second layer with yet another layer of moleskin and cover with duct or athletic tape.
  • Keep a bandage in place for up to 3 days, then wash and re-tape. If the area is red, swollen, or leaking pus, it’s infected. Keep it dressed and if the infection persists for more than a few days, see a doctor.

What special methods for prevention and treatment have you learned from your time on the trail?

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