Hiking with blisters suggestions?
September 1, 2004 6:30 AM   Subscribe

Hiking with blisters. Beyond Moleskin, does anyone have any advice regarding cutting edge solutions which enable hikers to protect blisters that have developed into full-out open sores ?
posted by troutfishing to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's not cutting edge, but ye olde thruhiker solution is duct tape. After awhile, all of that moleskin and second skin stuff starts to look like BS, so we just slap on some duct tape, maybe putting some padding between the tape and the sore. It hurts like a bastard to take off, but it does the trick.
posted by waldo at 6:42 AM on September 1, 2004

I've seen some really terrible blisters - they can ruin a trip, and are sometimes serious health threats if infection sets in. I believe there are some topical anesthetics that can ease the pain and enable walking, but they don't solve the problem, obviously. The old moleskin/molefoam "ring around the blister" technique is the best one can do. That, and allow your feet to breathe when you're not actively hiking. Open air and sunshine can do wonders.

As for cutting edge, I've read about some new bandages developed by the army that stop bleeding fast and aid clotting - essentially bonding with a wound and creating a tight seal. Sounds like just the thing for an open sore. Gonna be a while before they're available to us ordinary folk though.
posted by aladfar at 6:48 AM on September 1, 2004

The second skin stuff / moleskin whatever worked well for me. I made the mistake of starting a very long walking filled vacation with rather new shoes a long time ago. Also, in my case at least, the blisters were caused by shoes that were perhaps a little too large, thus the rubbing. Wearing two pairs of thick socks helped "fill the shoes" a bit more.

Duct tape would probably work as well with something under it for padding. But yeah sounds like it'd hurt to take off.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:06 AM on September 1, 2004

Blister band-aids (Pepsi Blue link)* are the shit. They distribute pressure over the whole blister like new, padded skin. I've put them on completely open blisters and have been able to walk and run without pain, though I haven't hiked great distances in them. The band-aids cost about $1 each, but this is a bargain for the pain relief of a nasty blister.

*I've seen generic versions that look similar but haven't tried them yet and so can only give my hearty endorsement to the brand name.
posted by cardboard at 7:28 AM on September 1, 2004

Well, this low tech technique was gleaned during my pointe shoe years, but it did enable me to continue rehearsals/performances with ripped blisters on top of ripped blisters, if not altogether comfortably, then with a lesser degree of pain.

- (optional*) Put Ambesol on the blister and surrounding areas. It's going to sting like a muther for a few minutes, but will help numb the area.

- Put a Bandaid/plaster over the blister. Make sure you get a large enough size so that the protective pad amply covers the blister and surrounding area; depending on where the blister is located this might involve cutting up a few plasters for a custom fit. I went through a truckload of plasters so I always bought the cheapest kind, but you may prefer the fabric kind.

- Cut up some of those corn cushions or callus cushions. For smaller blisters you can cut one in half; larger ones you'll want fourths. Put them in a circle around the area of the blister on top of the plaster so that it forms a sort of morris code dounut.

- Cut the thin end off a makeup sponge or use some other foamy type material and place it in the center of the corn cushion dounut.

- Get tape happy. Once again it depends on where the blister is, but your first layer of tape should cover the donut, then the plaster (if not already covering it) and then enlarging to the surrounding area. Once again, I went through truckloads of tape and eventually gave up costly medical tape in liue of masking tape, though I would imagine masking tape wouldn't work too well if you went hiking through any streams. When in doubt, add more tape; you want the plaster and foamy padding layers moving as little as possible.

The above technique is best on toe, bunion or heel blisters. If the blister is on the ball or sole of your foot, it will work with limited success.

I also had limited success with a type of self adhesive gel/ clear plastic corn or callus cushions that completely covered the blister (can't find them on the Dr. Scholl's site, though) but even taping over the top of them didn't necessarily keep them in place. Peeling adhesive off a raw blister is a nasty affair. And the size of the protective non-adhesive pocket was usually too small.

Makeup sponges can also be used to keep apart toes that are rubbing together. Stick it between the two toes and tape around them.

Post-hike soak your feet in hot water and epsom salts to dry out the blisters.

* I'm sure someone could tell me that this is a Really Bad Idea and to be honest I'm not entirely sure that it's not just a placebo effect. Or maybe just that the pain of the blister seemed less after searing it with Ambesol. But it was one of the many weird tricks of the trade one picks up in the tutu set
posted by romakimmy at 7:28 AM on September 1, 2004

In a pinch I've used salt to deaden the open sore. It hurts like Hell for a minute but after that you don't notice any pain for some time.
posted by substrate at 7:50 AM on September 1, 2004

I third the heavy tape notion. I just used it last week to help my feet along as I broke in a new pair of shoes. I used this very sturdy black cloth tape with a strong glue bond, the kind artists use. It stayed on my feet all day, even with sweaty feet, and after a week, the blister has healed into a hard shiny mass that requires no protection.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:56 AM on September 1, 2004

The tape that Mo Nickels references is called Gaffer(')s Tape. (I've seen it spelled both with and without the apostrophe.) The shit is the bomb. It's what grown-ups use instead of duct tape. I can't vouch for its health effectiveness, but in general use, the shit's amazing.
posted by zpousman at 8:36 AM on September 1, 2004

you know there are ways to avoid getting blisters altogether...buy shoes that fit well to begin with! at least for hikers, go to a local shop, ask if they do Phil Oren fittings, and be prepared to have someone handle your feet for at least the next 1 1/2 hours. your feet will definitely thank you for it.
posted by ShawnString at 8:50 AM on September 1, 2004

I agree, 'don't get blisters'. Good shoes and thick socks (or two pairs), will accomplish this. I don't know about getting custom-fitted shoes; for me, getting sturdy footgear and taking the time to break them in before a hike does the trick. Also, lace them as tight as is practical.
posted by Mark Doner at 12:01 PM on September 1, 2004

I second Shawn's and Mark's advice. I worked at REI for a year selling outerwear and footwear, and I found 90 percent of people's blister problems could be solved with good shoes, an insole and decent hiking socks.

I know this won't help you now with the blisters, but for future reference: Try SuperFeet. They're a $30 insole that comes in several different flavors; the best one is the hiking one. They have great arch support and help stabalize the foot, which is really important because lots of blisters are caused by your foot sliding around in your boot. Many times, I found I could solve a customer's foot problems just by selling them the insole and letting them keep their formerly uncomfortable boot.

For socks, I swear by Smartwools. They're comfy, don't get too hot, don't make me itch (and I'm allergic to most wools), and do a good job minimizing blisters. For what it's worth, I don't think the double socks theory is particularly effective. But if you're going to do it, buy a superthin liner sock and then put the hiking sock over it.
posted by Happydaz at 1:04 PM on September 1, 2004

I'll join in on the two-sock jihad: blisters form when the skin is repeatedly frictively irritated. Soggy, soft feet will blister up a -lot- faster than dry, happy feet. Foot powder, a thin, water-wicking inner sock (polypropolene or even polyester) and an outer absorbant sock (woolies) combined with proper fit and laced (no sliding) footwear will keep your tootsies proper. You can do the one-socksies, but having a little extra distance between you and your sweat makes for a more comfortable day.

Proper, snug lacing of your normal street-kicks will do a lot if you find yourself in an urban walking environment. Its the slip-slip-slip thats going to kill you.

One you've got a blister, you're kind of screwed, especially if it tears or ruptures. When you're walking, take time to notice any "hot spots" you feel on your feet and get proactive with moleskin before you get into problem land.

Molefoam, while not much above moleskin is a far better option. It gives you upwards of .5 cm of padding with an adhesive backing. Pack the padding -around- the blister (either donut-cut or in strips) and not on it. You're trying to leave the damned thing alone as much as possible to allow it to heal.

Air circulation helps, as always.

I can't say why one would -need- or even possibly want to use duct tape from a simple hygiene perspective if nothing else. Done right, I've rarely had moleskin/foam breakdowns over a 24-hour period and its really not good to leave them on much longer than that.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:26 PM on September 1, 2004

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