Blisters are extremely common, especially for those who spend time recreating in the outdoors. A blister develops for a number of reasons, but the primary causes are pressure, heat, and moisture—or any combination of the three. Friction is the catalyst, usually, for a common hiking blister injury. Improperly fitting shoes or boots can cause friction, because the foot slides around inside, rubbing on the material. Most commonly the slippage of the foot and the eventual friction will occur in the heel area. The friction can eventually rub the skin open, allowing fluid to enter the beneath the skin. When skin is wet—sweaty or damp from dew on the grass, a river crossing, etc.—it becomes soft and more susceptible to damage from friction.

Blister prevention is simple. First, and most importantly, you should know the fit of your shoes and boots. When you purchase new shoes and boots for hiking, make sure that the pair you choose fits properly in the heel area—make sure that your heel stays locked in place as you walk—and that you still have ample room in the forefoot, room enough that you can wiggle your toes. Next, make sure that you wear the proper socks for your shoes/boots. If you plan to wear boots then wear socks that are not too big—too big and the socks could bunch and pinch—and not too small—pressure points and slippage—and avoid cotton and cotton blends. If you wear trail runners, then wear the type of socks that are suited for running/trail running.

The number one tip for any hiker/backpacker is to make sure that you bring along a second pair of dry socks. Dry socks are a backpacker’s best friend, and even the ultralight-obsessed should remember to pack an extra pair to keep their feet warm and dry at night.

Remember to stay safe when you are out on the trail. The Bitterroot Valley is an incredible place to spend time in the outdoors, hiking and backpacking, and remembering these simple tips about blister prevention will keep your feet healthy and happy.