Backcountry foot care has been a topic that's been covered extensively from the "thru-hike" backpacking world to ultra-marathoning world to backcountry hunting. The resources available on the subject are vast and numerous so we should have this thing figured out. Right?? Not really. Before we get into how to prevent blisters let's talk about what causes them.
The main causes of blisters are fairly simple but are not limited to friction, heat, moisture, and debris. Eliminating these might seem simple but they just aren't as our skin can be compromised easily if the proper steps aren't taken to eliminate or limit these blister-causing environments.
What are blisters?
Blisters occur when the tough outer layer of skin are moved (usually by friction) more than the sensitive inner layer of skin which causes them to begin to separate. Once they separate, fluid fills the area and a blister is formed.
- Boots- Make sure you have boots or shoes that properly fit. They should never be too tight or too loose of a fit. They should fit snug. Your toes should be slightly loose in the toe box and not jammed up in there. You need to have about a thumb's width at the end of the boot ideally. They should also be made to keep out water. Gore-Tex boots not only keep out water but pull moisture away from your socks. Try lots of different ones before making a selection.
- Socks- I recommend good pair of Merino Wool socks because they are lightweight, maintain warmth when wet, and they wick moisture away from your skin. These socks should be reinforced in the heel and toe areas and often have extra padding in there as well. Make sure the socks don't have inner seams that may rub your feet in any spot. NEVER wear cotton socks!!!
- Carry an extra pair of socks.
- Lace your boots up properly. There are dozens of ways to do this, but the key to it all is to snugly secure your boots to your feet therefore eliminating or preventing friction which causes blisters. In the video below, Joe demonstrates the way he likes to do it in this video on the Initial Ascent YouTube Channel.
- Let Your Feet Breathe- When you stop for more than 15 minutes, take your boots off, pull your socks off turning them inside out, and hang them up to dry out. This also will help dry out your feet as well. Whether you're sitting down to glass, eat lunch, or simply take a break, these all present great opportunities to remove moisture from your footwear and feet. Here is another video explaining this concept.
- Hike regularly in training to "toughen up" your feet before long hikes or grueling hunts.
- Using sock liners also work well in helping to eliminate friction.
- Wear gaiters to keep out debris and extra moisture from the environments.
- Utilize Leuko Tape if you do develop a hotspot. It will act as a second skin and help prevent the hotspot from turning into something worse.
- Switch your socks every day.
We hope this helps you during this next hunting season!