Blistery Birkenstocks
February 8, 2005 7:27 PM   Subscribe

PodiaFilter: I am off to SE Asia for extended holiday in less than a week. I bought some birkenstock sandals for the journey as recommended. However, being spoilt rotten by sneaker snugness, I am getting some serious blistering across the tops of the inner sides of my feet after but one day in the saddle. Any tips to toughen my feet up before departure, or have i left it too late? Any lateral band-aid solutions?
posted by elphTeq to Health & Fitness (16 answers total)
I don't have any suggestions about making Birkenstocks comfier, but I'm not clear on why they were recommended in the first place. Sports sandals (Chacos in particular) will work much better for hiking, tromping through mud or water, etc. They take a little getting used to, but I got mine right before heading to Vietnam and Cambodia and my feet adjusted to them pretty quickly.

Oh, and those "tattoo" bandaids that have pictures on them tend to hang on much better than the regular kind--they even last through multiple showers. But maybe nothing will stand up to shoe friction.
posted by equipoise at 7:35 PM on February 8, 2005

I've always used Teva sandals when travelling in tropical countries. Still have the same pair that have been around the world with me twice. If those Birkenstocks are leather, I'd strongly recommend ditching them, and going with some sort of sports sandal.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:38 PM on February 8, 2005

I'd just recommend getting some smooth cloth material and putting it between your foot and the sandal. You could even cut pieces, of something fluffy preferably. If you don't mind the look, you can simply tell people your feet hurt, it'd be like seeing a band-aid on someone.

Usually, though I just reposition my foot in the sandal and walk like that for a while.

You might want to look into something like Dr Scholl's, too.
posted by Lockeownzj00 at 7:41 PM on February 8, 2005

Wear some other shoes until your feet heal, then go back to the birkies. Only wear them until your feet start to hurt, then put on other shoes. I once went to a square dance in Birkinstocks and ended up with colossal blisters on the bottoms of my feet. Once they healed up, I kept on wearing 'em and never had a problem again.

I agree with equipoise, though, that Birkenstocks aren't very well-suited to hiking or adventure travel. Chacos are the best sandal for that, as far as I'm concerned. If you've already got hiking boots that fit you, wear those. Or just wear your sneakers.
posted by bonheur at 7:41 PM on February 8, 2005

No real advice on the sandals that's different from above, but one cheap solution to blisters (if you do get them) that I use all the time is duct tape.You look silly, but it sticks and the shiny side is usually slippery enough that the shoe (or sandal) doesn't pull it off.
posted by sauril at 7:50 PM on February 8, 2005

It took me about three days of wearing birkenstocks before the leather lost its abrasiveness on my feet. But I'd suggest tevas for travel.
posted by mathowie at 7:56 PM on February 8, 2005

Birkenstocks take awhile to break in, it may be too late.

I ADORE MY CHACOS, wore them through Calcutta monsoons in 1999 and am still wearing the same pair for as many months as possible during the year. They are the best shoes ever. When I went to Calcutta, I initially wore my old Birks since I was too cheap to buy the Chacos I tried on in the US. After my Birks completely fell apart in the rough conditions, I had my Dad buy and send Chacos to me in Calcutta. The straps are very snug as well.
posted by scazza at 8:17 PM on February 8, 2005

A lateral bit of advice: Take a second pair of shoes. I wore a pair of Birkenstocks to Indonesia. After a raft I was on tipped over in some rapids, I had one shoe. No spares. Trust me: size 10 1/2 (metric 45) is enormous and impossible to purchase in Indonesia. Gave me a week of pain.
posted by argybarg at 8:32 PM on February 8, 2005

Ditto to the second pair of shoes. It totally depends on your trip, but a sturdy pair of sneakers + my Chacos were perfect for my month in Southeast Asia. YMMV, especially if you're doing really serious hiking or want to be prepared for formal occasions.
posted by equipoise at 9:32 PM on February 8, 2005

I used to be a rower in highschool. Blisters were a constant problem, and our preventative (and highly effective) solution was to daub the area where blisters were expected to develop with methylated spirits. Doing this daily a few times toughens up (kills? heh) the epidermis making the skin noticably rougher and tougher.

Worked for us... Give it a try.
posted by Thoth at 1:02 AM on February 9, 2005

Thoth, that's exactly the kind of advice I was looking for!

(also, thanks all for the brand tips, i was a bit naive going about proper research for this purchase.)
posted by elphTeq at 2:05 AM on February 9, 2005

Past AskMe blister adivice
posted by romakimmy at 4:59 AM on February 9, 2005

Coming from a family of long-time Birkenstock wearers, I'd suggest submerging the cork sole of your Birks in water for ten seconds and wearing them around for ten minutes at a time (longer if you can but you've already got blistered feet). It'll feel squishy and a bit slippery but it will soften the cork to make it easier to mold the cork sole to the shape of your foot and break them in. Dab off the excess moisture and repeat again the next day. After the second day, you'll notice that the cork will get smoother, shinier and darker where your footprint is - that's good. After that, your feet won't blister and you'll have a great pair of sandals.
posted by KathyK at 6:34 AM on February 9, 2005

I'm a rower and also, on occasion, a victim of "I've-gotta-have-these-on-sale-Choos-even-though-they're-a-half-size-too-small syndrome, so I know blisters. Pad the sore spots -- Band-aid makes a good blister patch, and Nexcare waterproof bandages are excellent. After a day, put the birkies back on with the blisters still protected. After two more days, you can get rid of the padding/protection -- the birkies will have given a bit to accomodate. In two more wearings you'll be good to go.

But these are the way to go.
posted by thinkpiece at 6:44 AM on February 9, 2005

General note. When travelling (or running a marathon, riding a century, or hiking a long trail -- in general, when you are going to do something active for a long time) there's a simple rule of gear.

New. Gear. Is. Bad.

A trip is not the place to be gambling on new shoes or a new pack. The right time to buy shoes for a trip is three to six months out. Then, you'll know if there is any problems with wearing them, or if there's something odd about the pack that is going to drive you nuts. Finding this out at home is vastly prefereable to finding this out in a strange country, leaving you with blisters and bruises, and knowing that better shoes are, oh, several thousand miles away.

So. To be honest, given the time constraints, I'd bring the sneakers, not the birks. Yeah, you'll look like a tourist (as if Birks would change that.) But if it's ugly sneakers or a sandal that you can't trust, go with the sneakers.

Massive blisters will ruin your trip.
posted by eriko at 7:58 AM on February 9, 2005

I just went on a 12 mile 'nature hike' today with 60 lbs strapped to my back. Took me a little under 3 hours. The boots I wore I'd never worn before. I have a small blister on the ball of my right foot. What really bugs is I have what we endearingly refer to as 'monkey butt' - heat rash in an uncomfortable place. (Cocoa butter lotion to the rescue.) How'd I do it? I sized my boots right, wore hiking socks, and made sure my boots were tightened down enough so my foot couldn't slide at all - the blister's from walking a mile down a 30 degree decline.

I second the advice to bring another pair of foot gear. If you wear socks (but with sandals that's a questionable fashion statement, right?), make sure you have dry pairs with you so you can change them when they get wet. If your feet get sweaty easily, you can use baby or foot powder. Duct tape also helps prevent blisters and hot spots, but will look a little silly in sandals. That's okay, you're a tourist and are already going to do that.

As far as sandal recommendations go, I, too, stand by Tevas. Six years ago I hiked Half Dome at Yosemite - 17 miles in a day - on brand new Teva sandals with about 40 lbs on my back. I think the model was 'Spider' or 'Spyder'. They had a grippy sole and fastex fasteners intead of just velcro. I didn't have a single blister or hot spot. Absolutely amazing.

I've also owned one pair of Birkenstocks that I bought maybe six years ago, and I still wear them. They're the kind with just the two straps over the arch, no ankle strap. They were amazingly uncomfortable the first week I wore them. After that - best. sandals. ever. Just not for hikes due to them not having an ankle strap.

One last tip - when you're sizing sandals or any other shoe, make sure you wear the same socks that you're going to be wearing when you wear those shoes. If you have big thick hiking socks (I usually wear thorlos), but are sizing dress shoes, you're going to end up with shoes a size too big when you slip those sexy argyles over your dogs.

Okay, one more tip. If you're the pedicure kind of person, keep in mind that when they scrub those calluses off, you're probably going to get blisters there again.

Have fun on your trip!
posted by cactus at 8:40 AM on February 9, 2005

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