How to Prevent Blisters
Q. I have heard that rubbing surgical spirits into you feet will help to toughen them up for long distance walking. Is this true, does is actually help?
Where can I buy surgical spirits and how often should I use it?
Jamie Evans, Loughborough
A. One point that many people miss is the fact that there are more ways to lace a boot than is realised. Lacing so that the heal is fully locked back in is place so to speak is important also you can relieve pressure on the top of the foot by creating a "window" to allow easier flexing without moving about. I'm no expert by the way but you can find videos regarding this topic. Keep on hiking.
Philip Miners, Ulverston
A. I met a seasoned long distance Spanish walker on the Camino who insisted he never got any blisters by rubbing Vick vapour rub into the fabric all round the inside of his socks up to the ankle each morning before setting off. I don't know personally whether it works but I intend to try it myself on my next long walk.
John Merrell, Haywards Heath
A. Think prevention not treat use surgical spirit to harden the skin over time.... Think a person that does Manuel work does not get blisters because their hands become hard apply this same principle to foot skin here I have used LOGIC
El Ja, Cleckheaton West Yorks
A. I've tried all the ideas, surgical spirits etc and they didn't work until a chiropodist explained how blister form that I found what works for me. I only buy good quality walking socks, they are not cheap but they last for ages, I have some that are 10 years old. Under those I wear liner socks. On top of that good boots that are worn in. I always carry spare socks too. Blisters form from heat being generated, when we feel a rub coming we all normally carry on walking until we get somewhere convenient or the next stop.
As soon as you feel a rub in your boots stop and take them off and let you feet cool, change your socks, if you have spare socks then swap left to right. I can't recommend carrying spare socks strongly enough though, the feeling that new socks have after 15 miles is a fantastic feeling.
Since I've followed this I have never had a blister again, even after walking the Lyke Wake Walk non stop (42miles) and many other 25 mile walks and mountains climbed.
Mike Ford, Rotherham
A. Blisters are caused by prolonged friction and shearing forces on and between the layers of skin. As the layers of skin separate they fill with blood or fluid causing a painful blister. Almost half of marathon runners will suffer from blisters, with the heels, toes and balls of the feet being the most commonly affected areas.
Treatment: Special blister plasters are designed to absorb a wound's fluids and keep the area moist to promote and speed up healing and prevent the blister from drying into a scab. They will also reduce further friction and pressure on the area.
Prevention is always better than a cure, but sometimes a blister will need lancing with a sterile implement by a qualified professional to relieve the pressure and pain. Once a blister has been drained it is most important to keep the area meticulously clean to prevent infection.
How to prevent Blisters: Wear properly fitting walking boots and break these in gradually, starting with short walks. Never wear brand new walking boots for a long walk without wearing them in first.
Special blister socks that have two layers are excellent at preventing blisters. The inner layer stays with the foot whilst the outer layer moves with the shoe to reduce friction on the skin. The mixture of fibres helps to keep the foot dry by wicking away the moisture and preventing blisters.
Anti Blister Sticks reduce friction by adding a lubricant to the skin so that the sock doesn't rub on the skin causing blisters.
Martyn Sherman, Sheffield
A. Hello there, As an ex-nurse & walker, I advocate Tea Tree Oil as invaluable to prevent hot spots or deal with blisters. Also what a lot of people seem to be unaware about is that if you have aching feet or muscles, rubbing in Olbas Oil is marvellous. Many times I have felt so creaky after a long day's walk that I couldn't contemplate getting back downstairs to enjoy a good drink, but after a hot shower and rubbing in Olbas Oil I have sprung back into life with great gusto. I always carry both in my backpack as both oils can address several issues - Olbas Oil is also for catarrh which is a nasty thing to walk with!
Deborah Barham Smith, Buxton
A. I do the Keswick to Barrow walk every year (40 miles) and I do the following: 1. Make sure I'm wearing good, well fitting shoes. 2. Wear a thin sock near the skin then a thicker one on the outside. Doing this means if there is rubbing it's normally between these 2 layers and not your skin! 3. Vaseline - rub loads of the stuff all around the usual places wear hotspots appear. This has made a big difference to me. Excellent for other areas that may chafe as well. 4. Use moleskin as soon as hotspots appear. It's no good applying it once the blister has formed fully. It acts as a second skin and prevents the blister from every appearing. They're my tips and from experience they really work :-)
Glenn Chapman, Grange
A. I don't think this works as a permanent solution. Walking around barefoot as often as possible is a good way to develop a nice, natural leathery sole. Just walking barefoot around the house will go a long way to the objective. Long shoreline paddles on sandy beaches, if you can do it, are perfect for this purpose.
Having said that, if the intention is to avoid blisters, then the trick is to keep the feet dry, the boots tight and the pack weight as low as possible.
And just simply to do a lot of walking. But even the most hardened walkers can get some really nasty blisters, though.
Do what you can but limp with pride if it happens.
Mike Knipe, Crook
A. Blisters are caused by movement within the boot so do make sure that your boots fit well.
It is worth paying money and attention to ensure good fit - 'snug' but not too tight or you will compromise your circulation.
Try a thin sock next to the skin and cushion with a good quality thicker sock.
Alan Barlow, Loughborough
A. Having just completed Wainwright's Coast 2 Coast walk in appalling conditions last week, I can tell you that surgical spirit definitly helped applied last thing before bed and first thing in the morning.
It can be obtained from Boots or any good pharmacy. I also used Compeed on hot spots and used clean coolmax socks for each days walk, even if it meant washing with travel wash each evening.
For really nasty blisters try moleskin, also from Boots, with an overlay of athletic adhesive tape.
David Grandage, Altrincham