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How to Prevent Blisters

Blisters are not something we always prepare for before heading out on a day walk or extended trip.  But when they happen, they can be almost debilitating.  Blisters can cause a great trip to turn bad in minutes.

The best way to deal with a blister is to not get one in the first place.   Often easier said than done, there are ways to help reduce the chance of getting blisters right from the start.

Blisters are caused by a few adverse circumstances working against you.  Temperature is probably the most detrimental, in combination with wet socks, wet shoes, loose or tight fitting footwear and footwear that has not been properly broken in.

In warm temperatures, your feet tend to swell and also more blood rushes to that area.  The more you walk, the hotter your feet get and sometimes even without awkward fitting footwear, you can get hotspots.  Hotspots are the first stage of a blister.  As soon as you notice a hotspot appearing, the thing to do is stop and treat it immediately.  You can do this with a variety of items you should be taking with you already, such as moleskin, tape, dry socks, a bandage, and anticeptic ointment.

First dry the skin, clean it if you can, and apply anticeptic ointment.   Then cover with a gauss bandage or plaster if you have one, and apply moleskin or tape.  In some cases you can even apply moleskin directly on the hotspot or freshly formed blister, as long as it doesn't seem infected or bloody already.  If taping a bandage or plaster, try to make the tape join edges around your ankle or foot to reduce the risk that it will fall off, hours or minutes later.   At this point, change to a new, dry pair of socks and leave your other socks hanging on your pack while you walk (if not raining).  This is good practice for when the new socks also become wet, because you can change them out again and again as you walk through the day.

If you don't have first aid supplies with you, consider stopping for an extended time and maybe even camping where you are at the moment.   If that's not an option, use the dry socks method as stated above and tighten your laces to keep your footwear fitting as tight as possible.

Footwear that does not fit well might also be to blame for the onset of a blister.  Although it sounds obvious, it's not always obvious from the start of your journey when your footwear is not fitting your feet.   Before you start any kind of walk, be sure your footwear is tight and comfortable but not too tight so that you can't move your toes.   Also check to make sure there is no small debris hanging about in your footwear.   The cause of a blister can be a simple seed from a plant, or a tiny pebble you might not even feel until it's too late.

Always break in your footwear well before a trip.  You should wear your new footwear for at least 24 - 48hrs in total (or more) and make a few signifigant journy's around your local area.   At the very least, this can help you to identify areas that might affect your foot and you can plan in advance with mole skin, plasters, tape or bandages by wearing them straight away or at least knowing you might need them at some point during your trek.

Wicking socks!!  These are great for keeping your feet dry as they pull moisture from your skin and release it to the surface of the sock. If you have normal, breathable footwear (not wellies), these work great for blister prevention (providing all the other details are fine tuned).

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