Tell me about moleskin for feet
May 5, 2024 12:48 AM   Subscribe

A nice low-stakes question for a Sunday evening. I'm going travelling soon to destinations that will require a tonne of walking. I am a bit blister prone sadly, so trying to be prepared. I have seen lots of people online recommend moleskin bandages for blister prevention when touristing so I thought I'd check it out. I have discovered it's about 4 times the price of the regular fabric style bandaids that you cut to length that won't move for love nor money (like this).

I feel like I must be missing something though. What do moleskin products offer that regular fabric bandaids don't? I have seen people suggest moleskin is cushioned but I am not sure if this matters if you are just looking to protect skin from developing blisters rather than protect tender feet. Or is this like everything else in life where it depends on the person as to what works best? My feet aren't particularly sweaty but given I will be meandering over dusty cobblestones in humid Italy, then following that up with galavanting all over Glastonbury Festival, I am very open to my typical solutions not being suitable. If it matters, I'll be wearing suede sneakers and leather sandals for the cities, then proper hiking shoes for Glasto.

posted by BeeJiddy to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The real advantage of moleskin is if you actually develop a blister, it can protect the blister, which regular fabric bandages can’t. I haven’t seen it used for prevention as much but would thoroughly recommend it for if you develop them.
posted by corb at 1:04 AM on May 5

What do moleskin products offer that regular fabric bandaids don't?

Less resistance to internal shearing.

Fabrics don't slide super easily over other fabrics if they're pressed at all tightly to them, so although a fabric bandaid stuck to your skin will protect it from friction, it won't protect it from being hauled back and forth by the adhesive to the same extent as moleskin will.
posted by flabdablet at 1:24 AM on May 5 [4 favorites]

I carry a packet of these Compeed blister-specific plasters in my pack when I’m out walking - no moles were harmed during their manufacture afaik.

They work pretty well, but prevention >> cure. Close-fitting socks that don’t slide around on your foot are a big help - a little bit of movement & friction between the sock & your shoe is fine (until the sock wears out) but the layer that’s directly against your skin needs to not move at all.

(I just discovered Merino toe socks, and I’m liking them so far - but I’m not & never will be a sandle-wearer so I apologise for the derail if socks are not part of your ensemble)
posted by rd45 at 1:47 AM on May 5 [2 favorites]

Do you plan to wear socks? If so, get thin hiking socks and rub Vaseline on your feet before you put them on.
posted by Elsie at 4:11 AM on May 5 [2 favorites]

I am a huge fan of those Compeed (or similar) colloid bandages. Moleskin, as I think of it, is expressly something that comes in sheets or rolls that you cut to size. I prefer hydrocolloid bandages to moleskin because they protect you throughout the blister process - if you put one on the second you feel a hotspot regular moleskin may be able to ward it off, but if you already have a blister the hydrocolloid bandage will actually be able to allow fluid to escape from the blister without necessarily popping the blister. (Pimple patches are another type of hydrocolloid treatment, if you've ever used those.)

Honestly hydrocolloid bandages are fairly magical, even for non-blister injuries. They keep your wound clean (they are impermeable to bacteria) and help maintain a good moisture level for healing. They stay on better than cloth bandages because they are sticky the whole way around. They protect your skin/wound from friction.

It sounds like you have a really cool trip planned. If you are 100% sure of your shoes (you have worn the same shoes for similar distances in similar conditions and the shoes themselves are in good condition and unlikely to fail on you), you're probably going to be fine without any bandages at all. But if you have any doubts, $10-20 worth of hydrocolloid blister bandages could save you from days of discomfort on your trip (they've saved me more than once!).
posted by mskyle at 4:58 AM on May 5 [5 favorites]

The advantage of moleskin is that you can cut a hole in it to accommodate an existing blister, then add layers to keep the sock/shoe away from the wound. But if you’re just looking to prevent blisters in the first place, it sounds like you already have a solution.
posted by corey flood at 7:13 AM on May 5 [1 favorite]

I found moleskin to be fairly apt to wrinkle if placed in the position where I usually get blisters, at the heel of my foot where the shoe rubs when I flex the shoe. Also, moleskin is thicker than the edges of a commercial band-aid, so prone to have the edges slide or lift where there is flex and rubbing of the shoe against the bandage.

I have tried preventive fabric bandages that straddle the area of rubbing, bandage edges well above and below the back of my shoe, and that usually works well. And if you do get a blister, or feel one coming on, the colloid bandages meant for blisters work beautifully. You put them on and can wear them for several days through showers and sleep. I, personally, would carry a small box of colloid bandages with me just in case.

Most helpful of all is to wear comfortable well broken-in walking shoes with merino wool socks. Have a great time!
posted by citygirl at 7:13 AM on May 5 [1 favorite]

Moleskin is invaluable to treat blisters. Keep in mind that the adhesive isn’t always the best depending one where on your foot you need to protect. Leukotape is popular as well. The most important time to treat a blister is before you get one. If you start feeling a hotspot on your foot, stop as soon as possible and put some moleskin/duct tape/bandage/whatever on the hotspot. Don’t wait a couple of miles, do it right away. If you get it treated before it becomes a blister you’ll be much better off. Also, merino wool socks can help keep your feet drier since they wick moisture away.
posted by azpenguin at 7:46 AM on May 5 [1 favorite]

I have had success in preventing blisters with Wrightsock's Double Layer socks. They have inner and outer layers that rub against each other to prevent any rubbing directly on your feet.
posted by ShooBoo at 9:47 AM on May 5 [3 favorites]

I have had success in preventing blisters with Wrightsock's Double Layer socks. They have inner and outer layers that rub against each other to prevent any rubbing directly on your feet.

Old skool hiker standard practice is to actually wear two pairs of socks, a thin (silk or synthetic) wicking liner layer plus a heavier cushioned layer (usually wool), but if those Wrightsock things work, one pair costs about as much as either of the typical layered socks, so basically half price for the same thing. The idea is that the liner stays closer to your foot and if there's any movement it's between the liner and outer sock and relatively frictionless, so, fewer blisters.
posted by LionIndex at 10:02 AM on May 5 [1 favorite]

To prevent blisters I use a liner sock, like this one
They are very thin and a regular sock goes over top.
They act like a second skin, preventing bliusters.
posted by yyz at 10:05 AM on May 5

I was always taught that when you start to feel something might become a blister, that is when you stop, and cut out the moleskin. And you place it around the effected are, (like those corn pads with the hole in them), and not directly over the spot, as you would a band-aid.
posted by Windopaene at 10:34 AM on May 5 [1 favorite]

I may not be using moleskin as the technically correct way, but I've found it to be very helpful to put a small square or rectangle over a spot that's starting to rub. What it does is decrease the friction from the sock and shoe with that part of my foot, both lessoning the pain and making it less likely I'll get a full blister. While it does help somewhat with pain to put it on a blister just by decreasing additional rubbing, it's in that window before that I find it most effective.

If I know I'm going to be walking an excessive amount, I'll buy a pack or two with large squares like this (not an endorsement of this particular brand or source, just an example of the style). Then before leaving, I'll cut them into a bunch of rectangles, maybe 6-8 per sheet, and toss those in a small plastic baggy. Then as I need them, I can peel off the backing and stick the piece to my foot.

As for whether it's worth it--when traveling with groups, I'll buy a second package and offer squares as people's feet start to hurt. Folks are skeptical at first, but once they try it, I start getting requests.
posted by past unusual at 11:06 AM on May 5

It may depend on the person. I buy store brand moleskin in sheets at someplace like a big grocery store or pharmacy/chemist. I prefer the very thin sheets to the thicker sheets. I think I just paid about $2.50 USD for a package of three thin sheets of moleskin. Each sheet is about 6 x 4 inches. They have peel-off adhesive on the back.

I know where I tend to get blisters, so I pre cut some vaguely oval shapes of moleskin, leaving the adhesive backing on. These go in the tiny plastic bag that also has a couple of Tylenol/paracetamol and ibuprofen/nurofen in my purse. This way, if I feel a hot spot coming on, I can apply moleskin on the go. I may or may not throw an intact sheet in my luggage.

For blisters that have already developed I also use the Compeed or similar. Those things are magic. I leave them on until they fall off, by which time the blister has usually healed.

I hope you have a great time with no blisters so you can gallivant your heart out at Glastonbury!!
posted by kyraU2 at 11:06 AM on May 5

I think it’s useful having different tools in the toolbox. Try reacclimatizing your feet to the shoes in question well before the trip. Try different things at home. Don’t pack anything that wasn’t helpful to you.

If you are prone to getting blisters on the soles of your feet… get the moleskin with extra padding. Cut out a piece a bit bigger than the blister. In the middle of the moleskin cut out a blister sized hole. Apply the moleskin to the affected area. This extra padding takes pressure off the blister.

I would also recommend wearing shoes that are compatible with wearing wool socks whenever possible. Specifically padded wool socks worn inside out… swap them midday.

Consider soaking your feet in tea to help toughen up the skin.
posted by oceano at 11:28 AM on May 5

Hello! My feet (heels in particular) blister faster than anyone else I’ve ever met, and my go-to solution for *preventing* blisters is 3M paper tape/micropore tape under socks. Paper tape can wear through, but it holds up better to heat and damp, and can be applied in multiple layers over itself. Hydrocolloid dressings can be helpful once I have a blister and have switched to footwear that don’t touch the dressing, but in my experience both they and Moleskin peel right off my skin under the friction from hiking/walking shoes, especially in heat.

I apply when skin is *totally* dry, overlapping strips to cover the area I’m worried about plus a lot of extra cover to ensure a large surface area for the adhesive to grip to. For example, on my heels, I use 2 strips, long enough for about 1.5-2 inches to extend on either side. Overlapping the top strip over the bottom also helps keep the edge of my shoe from working the edge of the tape off my foot.

Other tactics: taking off shoes and socks when stopping for tests or snacks, to let everything dry out a bit; cooling feet in a stream if available; alternating shoes with supportive sandals like Birkenstocks (having a pair of sandals that I can switch to is *invaluble* if I get a blister - not necessarily on a hike, but Birkenstocks for a city stroll, then hiking books for a dusty climb, then back to Birkenstocks for evening, for example).

I hope you have a fantastic vacation!
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 12:23 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]

I hiked a bit of el Camino last year and while I tried all the recommendations above and more, the number one tip that I found helpful for preventing/dealing with blisters was just to stop every hour, at most hour and a half and give your feet 15 min rest to air out (and address any hot spots if needed). Moleskin is helpful when cutting out the center, like a thick O, to create distance from the shoe to the blister.

Try to shower in the evening rather than the morning. Damp feet also lead to quicker blisters

Despite everyone else’s love of compeed, they turned out to be expensive and somehow would NOT, not matter what stay on my smaller toes and would end up kind of mashed up in to my socks which was annoying on top of the blistered I was dealing with.
posted by raccoon409 at 1:51 PM on May 5

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone, for your input, I really appreciate it (especially all the other tips about keeping your feet in top shape). I do feel like I understand more about how moleskin is used now, and I might consider picking some up. I live in NZ where everything is stupidly expensive and there is just not the range you get in places like North America. I found some in a chemist chain the other day which was maaaaybe like 10 cm square for $5, then a slightly larger sheet in the travel shop down the road for $20 which is what inspired this question. Super keen on some of the leukotape now though! I always prep my feet before I even leave the house so something like this sounds perfect.
posted by BeeJiddy at 5:13 PM on May 5

Feeling a little like I use moleskin wrong after reading everyone else's answers, but I have had great success sticking it on my shoe instead of my foot. If there's a part of the shoe that chafes uncomfortably or has a harder/sharper edge than other parts, you can cut some moleskin to cushion that part. It sticks forever and makes the shoe comfortable every day, instead of requiring daily reapplication to your foot. I honestly think of it as a tool for permanently adjusting a shoe that fits a little strangely instead of something to apply only when a blister/hot spot appears. I've made many a slightly uncomfortable shoe into a totally wearable every day without problems shoe.
posted by luzdeluna at 8:37 AM on May 6 [1 favorite]

Moleskin was great before we had Leukotape, but I regard using it on skin as malpractice now. It's so hard to remove. Leukotape is a super blister preventer and will stay on until you choose to remove it, even in wet conditions. I do use moleskin on shoes, as described above. But the key is prevention, which it sounds like you are onboard with. I would set an alarm to go off after 20 minutes of hiking and take off your shoes and socks. Let them cool and dry a bit and feel around with your hands. If anywhere feels hot or sore already, hit it with some Leukotape. If your whole foot feels hot, you're probably just hiking in the heat. :) Also of course check that your shoes have proper fit, for hiking you want a wider foot box than normal, so you might be getting away with regular width for casual wear, but actually have wide feet.

Not sure what you have in NZ, but for most hiking I use trail runners instead of boots. Dries much more quickly from foot sweat as long as you have wicking socks, and obviously less effort due to lighter weight. Just cooler and more pleasant overall, even before you account for reduced blistering.
posted by wnissen at 11:14 AM on May 6

I have used moleskin for sore feet and to deal with blisters twice.

The first time was when I got a job delivering mail in a three-story law firm. We went around all three floors every 15 minutes, so I did a ton of walking. Sticking moleskin directly to my feet - even over existing blisters - worked beautifully and lasted all day.

The second time was when I stupidly wore new shoes to Disney World. I found moleskin in their gift shop after our first day, when blisters had already formed, and wore it for the remainder of our trip. It didn't completely fix things, but it made them much more bearable.
posted by tacodave at 2:26 PM on May 7

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