Blisters are the most common problem for hikers, and the most restrictive! Sometimes they can force us to turn back or even cancel the next day's hike. Discover why blisters develop and how to prevent them!
Blisters generally appear when our skin is weakened by friction, whether caused by our socks, footwear or foreign bodies. Humidity (caused by perspiration or external factors) may also play a role because it weakens our skin, making it more vulnerable to friction.
1. Try on your shoes carefully before buying them, or at the very least before you go walking
Whether in a store or at home when receiving an internet order, make sure you try out your shoes.
Put them to the test in a variety of situations: on the flat, climbing, descending (stores often have slopes or mini-routes which simulate different types of terrain).
If ordering online, give yourself a safety margin in terms of a potential time period for exchanging them. Do not get them delivered at the last minute to your holiday destination!
2. Avoid wearing your new shoes or boots for the first time on a long walk
New footwear needs to soften (especially leather) and mould to the shape of your feet. If some areas are still stiff, this could lead to localised friction on your feet and cause blisters.
The best thing to do is to increase the length of your walks little by little. You should also make sure that your insole (also known as the innersole) does not slip. This is especially relevant if you have had to add an insole to adjust the size of your footwear or an orthopaedic insole. Some are designed more for city life and are a little shiny, which can make your feet slip inside your footwear and cause blisters.
3. Choose socks suitable for the morphology of your feet
Check the location of the seams, even if they seem very fine, to ensure they do not rub against your bones, or cause discomfort.
Do not wear socks with holes or too much wear and tear, because they will no longer protect your feet. And above all wear the right size socks! These details are easy to overlook, but a poorly adjusted sock will crease, leading to blisters.
It is also important to position your sock correctly on your foot when you pull it on (ensure the heel of the sock is placed on your heel etc.).
4. Test your footwear and socks together
Socks that are comfortable in one pair of footwear may prove uncomfortable in another. Not all footwear is designed in the same way: whether in terms of components, assembly, support zones... And depending on the shape of your socks, some will cause blisters.
Pay attention to the weather conditions: choose your combination according to the season. Lastly, remember that lacing also has a role to play to ensure your foot is properly supported without discomfort.
Do not hesitate to adjust the tightness depending on your sensations during your walk, especially on descents.
5. Keep your feet warm and dry.
If you feel the slightest discomfort caused by the presence of a foreign body (stones, sand, bark etc.), stop and take off your footwear to get rid of it. If you are walking for several days in a row with the same socks, rinse them thoroughly every evening to remove any dust. Ideally take 2 pairs of socks, even for short walks, so that you can change your socks if your feet become too damp.
And above all consider removing the insoles (innersoles) of your footwear to let them dry during the night.
6. Look after yourself!
It is easy to forget, but our level of tiredness affects our body. Our skin is more sensitive when we are tired. It is possible for a walker with the same socks and footwear, who is not usually prone to blisters, to suffer a different reaction.
For example, on holiday, when your body releases the pressure built up on a daily basis.
Our food also plays a role; alcohol, for example, makes our perspiration more acidic and therefore more aggressive for our skin. If, despite all these tips, you continue to suffer from blisters, you can also try anti-blister creams, which reduce the irritation caused by friction.
But always remember to test whether they are suitable for you before heading out on a long walk!
Foot baths containing lemon juice will also help you to thicken your skin so that it does not weaken as quickly.
So, your new pair of shoes looks great however, it was not a good idea to put them on without running them in beforehand (whether it is for running a marathon, a 6-hour hike or just going to a wedding).