Camino preparation: how to avoid blisters

On his latest Camino preparation post, Peter Duffy from D-Pete Health and Fitness in Dublin, shares useful tips to help walkers understand and how to avoid blisters. Very handy advice whether you are getting ready for your Camino de Santiago adventure or simply enjoy hiking and hillwalking.

By Peter Duffy.

You have invested a lot of time and effort into preparing for your Camino trip this year….DO NOT let blisters ruin it for you! Your best defence against blisters is understanding what causes them, how to treatment them, and just as most importantly, how to condition them in preparation for your hike! How to avoid blisters:

What are Blisters?
Blisters are small pockets of liquid that form on the outer layer of the skin after the skin becomes damaged (usually caused by forceful rubbing or burning)

1. Heat: this is generated from your foot rubbing against your sock which Is been pressed by your boot.
2. Moisture: Sweat produced by the feet will soften the skin resulting in less protection and more friction.
3. Grit/sand/ gravel: this will increase friction along particular areas of the foot which will generate more friction and heat.

– If the blister has not torn and is full of liquid, pierce it from the side with a sterile needle at its base and allow all the fluid to run out.
– If the blister has torn already, carefully cut away the loose skin of the blister and treat the area with antiseptic.
– Allow the blister to dry and harden in the open air for as long as you can.
– When you need to resume hiking, put a plaster over the torn blister.
– Put a layer of moleskin over the blister area. You may cut a doughnut shaped piece of moleskin that fits around the blister rather than putting it directly on the torn site.
– Check the blister at each stop and give it as much time to dry off as you can whenever you can. Keep it clean and sterilized to prevent infection.

How to condition your feet?
Walk regularly: this will improve your breathing, muscle strength and endurance but just as importantly it conditions your feet. Below are a few tips for you:

1. Use benzoin on the bottoms of your feet to toughen the skin.
2. Walk barefoot at home and outside whenever you can, this will also toughen the skin but be careful where you walk.
3. Break in your new boots: do roughly ten 5-mile hikes before going on a long all day hike especially when preparing for your Camino trip.
– Ensure that they are water tight and breathable to allow the sweat from the feet to escape. You can also find boots that have a scree collar that will keep out dirt/ debris.
– Use thick impact-absorbing insoles.
– Wear socks that DO NOT have seems as this will rub against the feet and irritate them. DO NOT wear cotton socks as they soak up and retain moisture – wear polypropylene socks instead.
4. Keep toe nails trimmed and ensure there are no sharp edges that may cause irritation to the skin and wear out your expensive hiking socks.

Useful Tips:
1. When your feet become damp dry your feet well and replace your socks. This prevents the build-up of fungus.
2. Air out your feet – especially when on your lunch break, but do this often throughout your hike to keep them cool and dry.
3. Remove dirt: Always remove dirt and sand from your boots.
4. Soak feet: Soak your feet in a stream if possible and make sure to dry them well before hiking again. This will again keep your feet cool and dry.
5. Stop and rest your feet when they feel hot, tired or sore.
6. If hot spots along the feet persist, cover them with moleskin before they become blisters.
7. Do not pierce intact blisters that are deep, rather than just the top few layers of skin. Just apply a moleskin doughnut to relieve the friction and monitor the blister.

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  1. By Lucie

    Hi Harriet. Thanks for your advice. Would you still recommend Merino wool socks as well?

  2. By Cuhullan

    Definitely change socks every two hours take a 10min break every hour wether needed or not. Dont use compeed blistar patch after blister has risen with fluid. If blister evident thread with sterile needle and thread keeps the blister weeping, use socks suitable for you i used merino wool socks with a liner and my feet were burning due to the humidity and 50km pounding every day. i changed to angora socks purchased in Leon these were lighter and single skin suited my purpose but find out what works for you. Oh if youre queezie dont puncture the blister on your own. I covered mine with cotton pads and wrapped a bandage around them but this can contribute to heat build up i finally used moleskin which is excellent and as another poster stated plaster first to cover open blister and the moleskin over it to protect and prevent infection. Buen Camino

  3. By Maria

    Thanks for your tips, Harriet.

  4. By Maria

    Thanks for your advice, Antoinette!

  5. By Maria

    Thanks for sharing your tips, Arie!

  6. By Arie

    Personally I found that wearing Merino Wool socks prevented blisters from forming. After proper fitting hiking boots this is for me the single most important article to take on extended hikes. ( in warm or humid climate I change to fresh socks during lunch break)

  7. By Antoinette Gregan

    Every one has their own recipe for success
    Mine was a rub of Vaseline and liner socks inside good quality hiking socks.

  8. By Harriet

    I know there are lots of debates on this, but I am currently training as a podiatrist and have checked with my lecturers – current advice is NEVER to pop blisters. Opening / draining them creates a risk of introducing infection and slowing the rate of healing. If the blister hasn’t popped, it’s best to dress it with some padding to relieve the direct pressure on the blister (i.e. with a hole cut out the same size as the blister) and leave it to heal in it’s own time.

    I would be extremely concerned about leaving thread in a blister, as this would have even more liklihood of introducing infection.

  9. By Maria

    Thanks, Larry!

  10. By Larry

    Piercing the blister with a needle is good, but it will reseal quickly and then refill with fluid. Enter it with a needle with thread and pierce it a second time leaving a thread at opposite ends of the blister. Trim the ends off leaving 3-4 mm of thread to allow pulling out the thread in a day or so. Leave the thread in the blister. This will allow the blister to vent the serum and then after 12 or so hours it stops forming serum and the skin will stick back on the deeper wound and it won’t hurt. This works great.

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