How to Prevent & Treat Blisters When Hiking (9 Helpful Tips)

Nothing is worse than foot pain out on the trails. If you’ve hiked in any capacity, no doubt you’ve had some painful blisters ruin your adventure.

I’ve completed hundreds of hikes, and even when I think I’ve done everything possible to prevent blisters, I still occasionally get them. 

Luckily, because I’ve had this painful experience numerous times, I ensure I’m well-prepared to deal with blisters from hiking while on a backpacking trip.

However, if you’re new to hiking or haven’t experienced blisters, they may catch you off guard and thoroughly ruin your day on the trails. 

Here’s everything you need to know about how to prevent blisters when hiking and treat them while you’re out on the trail so that you can keep your feet happy and thoroughly enjoy your adventure. 

Quick Summary 

  • Whenever you go on a hike, you should take steps ahead to prevent hiking blisters so that you don’t end up with sore feet. 
  • Wearing proper fitting footwear and the correct type of sock will assist with keeping your feet dry and hiking blister prevention. 
  • If you notice a hot spot or blister while on the trail, address it immediately to promote healing and prevent further damage. 

What Are Blisters And What Causes Them? 

Blisters are parts of damaged skin on your foot that most often form when your feet rub against your footwear while walking for an extended period or if you have hot spots caused by pressure from your hiking shoes.

However, sometimes blisters can also form when you’re feet are exposed to excessive cold or heat. Having hiking boots that are too large or too small will also cause blisters.  

If you have wet socks because of stepping in water or excessive sweat, you will also be more vulnerable to blisters. I’ve learned my lesson too many times and now always make sure I have an extra pair of dry hiking socks in my backpack if I need to change them. 

9 Ways To Prevent Hiking Blisters

The best way to avoid the foot pain that comes from blisters is to avoid getting blisters on your feet right from the start.

By taking blister prevention steps before your hike, you can maximize the chance of remaining blister-free during your adventure. Of course, there’s no 100% foolproof method to avoid blisters, but taking these precautions will help. 

1. Make Sure Your Hiking Boots Or Shoes Fit Properly On Your Feet 

Improperly fitting shoes will likely always cause blisters, especially if your shoes are too small or you haven’t broken them incorrectly.

I quickly learned my lesson about this rule early on in my hiking career, when I was so eager to try my new pair of hiking boots that I didn’t break them in properly first.

A few miles into the hike, I had so many blisters form that I had to turn around and head back to the car without finishing. 

As far as the fit goes, ensure that your men’s and women’s hiking boots fit snugly but aren’t too tight. Your toes should have enough room to spread out.

When your toes squish together inside the boot, blisters will likely form. Also, if your toes bump the front of the boot when you walk downhill, they are too small. 

Hiking boots that are oversized also pose a problem. If your foot keeps sliding in the shoe while you walk, it also causes rubbing that can lead to hiking blisters, which means your shoes don’t fit properly. 

Finally, remember that your feet will swell when you hike, so if your hiking boots fit too snugly, you will have a problem with them hurting further down the trail because of this swelling. 

2. Break In Your Hiking Boots 

As mentioned, one of my biggest mistakes as a novice hiker was not properly breaking in my hiking boots before wearing them out on the trail. Now, whenever I get a new pair, I make sure I go through the complete process, and my feet definitely thank me. 

Some lightweight trail runners may not require an entire break-in procedure before being comfortable enough to wear.

However, any pair of stiffer hiking boots, especially leather ones, will require you to help them mold properly to your feet before wearing them for the long haul.  

3. Use Good Hiking Socks And Bring An Extra Pair 

wearing hiking socks plus an extra one

My regular hiking socks are quality socks made of merino wool. Since I know that my feet get sweaty during hikes, the wool helps to wick away the moisture before it can cause problems and helps me to prevent hiking blisters. 

Many people I’ve talked to seem to think cotton socks work best for hiking, but that’s simply not true. Cotton absorbs moisture and leaves you with wet feet. When wet socks rub against your boots, it causes friction, which leads to blisters. 

On the other hand, wool socks keep your feet dry and help prevent this friction. However, because there’s no guarantee that I won’t step into a big muddy puddle or get caught in a downpour, I always pack some extra hiking socks with me as well.

If I find myself with extremely soggy socks, I can take a dry pair of quality hiking socks out of my backpack, change them, and be on my way.

I always ensure that I don’t put the wet socks back into my pack but rather hang them on the outside so they will dry quickly in case I need to use them again. 

4. Keep Your Feet Dry 

As I just mentioned, dry feet greatly help with blister prevention. One product that many hikers I know to use and that I’ve even tried is sock liners.

Sock liners are thin socks that you wear underneath your hiking socks. They wick sweat away and help prevent hiking blisters. 

Some of these liners have the style of toe socks to keep the skin between your toes protected as well. When wearing liners, it is essential to ensure they are very thin and fit tightly against your foot. 

Another way I keep my feet dry while hiking is to make sure that I pack some water shoes with me if I know that I’ll have to cross a stream.

Swapping out my shoes only takes a few minutes, making a big difference in keeping my boots, feet, and socks dry. Of course, good waterproof boots can also help in this area. 

Finally, whenever I take a quick break from hiking, such as taking a lunch break, I remove my hiking boots and socks and let them air out a bit.

Even a short amount of time in the sun will help dry out my boots and sweaty socks and help prevent blisters when I continue the remainder of the hike. When I set up camp for the night, I’ll lie my pair of socks (not my boots) out by the fire to help them dry out. 

5. Trim Your Toenails 

Before I start a hike, I always check the length of my toenails. Although this step may not seem critical, it’s important for blister prevention.

Long toenails can dig into your skin and cause blisters. If I know I’m going on a multi-day trek, I pack the toenail clippers in my bag. Proper foot care is vital to preventing blisters when hiking. 

6. Lace Your Hiking Shoes Properly 

lacing hiking boots to prevent blisters

Various lacing techniques will help your shoes to fit so that you avoid having the laces over pressure points or hot spots.

Many hikers don’t think of their laces as a way to prevent blisters. However, different ways to tie your laces can help prevent hiking blisters. 

Also, if you take the time to adjust the laces according to the terrain you walk, you’ll find it worth it in the long run.

Tightening your laces at the instep before a long or steep descent will help keep your foot more secure and prevent your toes from hitting the fronts of your shoes. 

7. Use Hiking Insoles 

I’ve mentioned in other articles how I like to use my own insoles in my hiking boots to get the best fit and provide the support I need.

I find that the brand Superfeet Insoles provides excellent options. They not only support my feet to cut down on fatigue, aches, and pains but also position my feet optimally in my boots so that I don’t have to deal with the friction that causes blisters. 

Superfeet insoles also make a good option if you’re dealing with hiking shoes that are a little bit too big, as they help take up some of the extra space in the boots. 

Here is our guide where we review and compare the most comfortable hiking insoles on the market.

8. Use Foot Powder And/Or Anti-Blister Balm 

foot powder to prevent blisters

I never go on any hike without using foot powder. Some other hikers I know prefer using an anti-blister balm like Vaseline or Hike Goo. Both are good options.

The main point is to keep your feet lubricated, so there isn’t an opportunity for chafing.

Chafing occurs when your feet sweat; if you can prevent that from happening, you can often prevent hiking blisters.

Find the anti-chafing product that you like best and use it every time you hike. 

10. Identify And Treat Hot Spots And Blisters ASAP

During your hike, take some time to address any hot spots that you notice along the way. A hot spot is any twinge of discomfort, a part of your foot that burns, or any other type of irritation.

If you feel these things, do not try to push through them thinking it’s just a hot spot. Instead, stop and take action to prevent it from getting worse.

Hot spots are precursors to hiking blisters and signify that one will develop soon if you do not take appropriate steps to prevent it, as I’ll discuss in the next section. 

How To Treat Hot Spots On The Trail 

treating hot spots on the trail

I always keep a blister kit with me and a few other supplies to ensure that I can immediately address any hot spots while I’m out on the trail as hiking with blisters is not fun at all. 

The main goal is to create an extra “layer of skin” over the area that hurts. This extra “skin” acts as a barrier between your foot and the shoe.

You can use many materials to accomplish this goal, and some popular ones include moleskin, band-aid bandages, and even duct tape. 

My favorite skin covering is moleskin because it’s soft and easy to apply. However, the goal is to reduce friction, so use what works best for you. 

Related Article: Hiking With Plantar Fasciitis

How To Treat Blisters While Hiking 

blister kit
Blister Kit

The best way to treat a blister while hiking is to ensure that you keep it clean and protected so that it does not worsen.

The simplest way is to cut a hole the size of the blister in moleskin and place it over the problem areas.

The moleskin should cushion it enough that the regular sock won’t rub it anymore and cause further skin irritations. 

I also like to apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment on the area to prevent infection and find that specially-made blister bandages do a great job as well.

These bandages include a unique gel inside them that helps cool and soothe the area while providing adequate cushioning. 

Usually, I recommend avoiding popping or draining the blister. However, sometimes, you must drain a blister if it’s too large and causing too much pain. Or, sometimes, a blister will pop on its own, and you need to treat it. 

If you have to drain the blister, make sure you clean it thoroughly first with soap. Use a sterilized needle (use heat or an alcohol wipe to sterilize), and insert it near the bottom of the blister.

Drain the liquid out of the blister and care for it like any other open wound. Make sure that you apply antibiotic ointment and cover it with a band-aid or gauze to assist with the healing process.

Finally, cover it with a blister pad, moleskin, or duct tape to prevent further rubbing. 

Tips And Recommendations 

If you know that certain areas of your feet are prone to hot spots or blister problems, you may want to cover those with padding or bandages before you start hiking to keep your feet happy.

I have one specific area by my small toe that always gets a blister no matter what I do. I’ve learned to cover it up and pad it before I put on my socks so that I start the trail with reduced friction in that area. 

More flexible hiking footwear also tends to be pretty good at preventing blisters. These quality trail runners are very flexible and comfortable for moderate hikers.

I hope you enjoyed our article and if you have any extra foot care tips let us know by commenting below.


Do Hiking Socks Prevent Blisters?

The right pair of socks can definitely help prevent blisters. Pick socks made of wool that wick away moisture from sweaty feet and dry quickly. Add a thin liner sock underneath them to further prevent your feet from getting wet. 

What Do Hikers Use for Blisters?

Most hikers will carry a blister first aid kit containing things to help prevent and treat blisters while out backpacking. The first aid kit should include moleskins, bandages, blister pads, antibiotic ointment, and a clean needle. 

Does Putting Vaseline on Your Feet Prevent Blisters?

Putting Vaseline on your feet helps to prevent blisters by acting as a lubricant for your foot and helping to prevent chafing caused by your foot rubbing against your sock as you walk. 

Why Do I Get Blisters Every Time I Hike?

If you get blisters every time you hike, you are likely wearing improperly fitting shoes. Make sure you always wear shoes that fit well when you hike or go on backpacking trips, as it’s the single most important thing you can do to prevent blisters. 

What Are Some Preventive Measures for Blisters on Long-Distance Hikes?

To prevent blisters on long-distance hikes, would be useful to apply duct tape or moleskin on hotspots, wear moisture-wicking liner socks with properly fitted hiking boots or opt for merino wool socks, and consider trail running shoes for their lightweight and breathable design.

Christina Utz

Christina Utz

Christina Utz is a professional writer, mountain addict, and hiking enthusiast. She successfully finished a rock climbing class and a wilderness survival course, and by the age of 24, she hiked more than 1800 miles and finished over 260 different trails! Her expertise in hiking and outdoors helped numerous people to fulfill their adventurous spirit!

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