They say there are only two certainties in life – death and taxes. But I reckon there’s a third – blisters.
You see, every single one of us will experience blisters sometime in our lives, so what are they and what should we do about them?
A blister occurs when a layer of fluid forms between the upper layers of your skin to protect the skin below, cushioning it from whatever damage is occurring and allowing the lower area to heal. For bushwalkers the likely cause of a blister is friction. This can be exacerbated by dirt, which causes friction; moisture; which softens the skin and can make seams or socks swell and rub; and heat. Poor boot fit can also be a cause.
As usual, prevention is far better than any cure. The classic faux pas which will lead to blisters is not wearing in new hiking shoes or boots. Some shoe companies claim their shoes don’t need breaking in but to be on the safe side it pays to wear your new footwear at least a couple a weeks before you head of on a bushwalk
On the trail, if your feet get wet, try to clean and dry them as soon as practical, putting on a pair of dry socks if possible.
Wearing two pairs of socks can reduce the friction between sock and shoe, and wicking (quick drying) socks or foot powder will help reduce moisture for those with sweaty feet or in humid areas. If you can feel a hot spot on your feet, stop. Clean and dry the area, then apply anything which will reduce the heat and friction.
Sports strapping tape is cheap, lightweight and potentially useful for other things on the trail and so a good option. However, blister band aids or even duct tape can suffice.
Lubricants such as petroleum jelly will bring immediate relief but can lose their effectiveness as they melt.
If a blister has developed and is hurting, you might consider draining the blister (not to be mistaken with popping it which is a no-no). Apply a sterilised needle to the side and base of the blister and allow it to drain. This is something your guide can help you with.
Don’t remove the dead skin as it will continue to help protect the new skin underneath. Try to keep it clean, give it air and reduce the pressure on the area as much as possible.