Prevent And Treat Blisters

Getting blisters while doing activities is not unusual. It required so little for them to form, yet they can cause tremendous pain and destroy or even cancel a hike. In this guide, we’ll teach you how to prevent blisters from forming and how to treat them properly if you are one of the unlucky ones.

First; what are blisters, and why do we get them? Blisters often form because of friction against the skin, heat, cold, or chemicals. However, while performing activities such as hiking and kayaking, it’s usually the friction that causes their reaction. The blister itself isn’t bad, it’s your body’s way to protect itself. Imagine the blister being an improvised pillow your body creates to take some load of what’s beneath the outer layer of skin.

Sometimes blisters break before even forming properly. This leaves you with some hanging outer skin and an exposed and sensitive area that you want to treat. But it gets even more complicated. There are blood blisters (blood-filled blisters) that indicated that a blood vessel has been damaged. Those means you should be extra careful.

We all know that blisters can make it harder to stay active. Some pop them using needles, while others leave them be. What and how you should handle your blisters will be talked through below. But let’s start at the beginning.

Feet with multiple blisters formed underneath
French, Andy. 2009.

How To Prevent Blisters While Hiking

Preventing – or at least decreasing the risk of – blisters forming is quite easy, but some blisters are almost impossible to avoid. There are many factors that can cause them, but since this is an outdoor-related text,  we’re going to focus on what you can do as a hiker. Please note that these tricks also apply to blister prevention on other body parts, such as hands which are risk zone during paddling.

Footwear To Prevent Blisters

Wearing improper footwear, such as incorrectly strung boots, bad socks, or even new shoes can quickly cause blisters. It’s therefore important that you wear proper socks (preferably two layers) and make sure to use the shoes/boots before going on a proper hike to soften them up. Leather boots, for instance, tend to be very stiff when bought new, this leads to more friction and later on blisters.

The boots and socks must also have high-quality damping and breathing properties. This excludes cheap socks from any grocery shop. Go for synthetic or wool socks. An inner thin layer (liner) and an outer thicker layer. When choosing boots, make sure to do research so you can be sure they breathe well, and that they can keep your feet dry in rainy weather.

Good socks + Good shoes = Fewer blisters

Sports tape being used to prevent blisters
Fridh, William. 2022.
Sports tape is a versatile tool for preventing blisters.

Prevent Blisters With Sports Tape

Tape can be used to add protection from friction on any body part and can be done using real sports tape or even duct tape. Some people go as far as taping their whole feet before even starting their hikes. This is an easy, versatile and cheap method. But unfortunately ineffective if your feet get wet since this makes the tape come loose.

We recommend that you buy proper sports tape for this and try out this technique a couple of times at home. It can make a big difference and last longer if you keep your feet dry enough for the tape to stay on.

This technique can actually be applied later on during the hike as late as easily stakes of blisters. If you notice that the skin’s starting to become red, don’t hesitate on adding some tape to the area. The skin might get more irritated, but it can prevent the blister from forming.

Take Breaks To Minimize Blisters

Something as simple as regular breaks can help you prevent blisters. By removing your footwear every now and then, your feet, socks, and hiking boots get the chance to dry. This is important cause dry feet increases the risk of blisters. Plus this gives you the opportunity to check your feet for early signs of blisters which you might want to treat early with tape or a change of socks (to a thicker pair perhaps).

Something we don’t recommend while hiking is going barefoot due to blisters. It’s better to make up camp and give your feet a proper break, than risk fractures and getting your perhaps open blister infected.

Hydro Seal Bandages For Hiking

Hydro seal bandages are an incredible invention for fighting blisters. However, they aren’t made for preventing blisters, but rather for treating them. Though when there’s no other option, applying some hydro seal bandages is okay. For now, try to avoid these for prevention. We’ll talk more about how to use them for treating blisters later on in this text.

Pressure Protection Rings

Pressure protection rings are small rubber rings that you put onto the feet to protect them from pressure and friction. The concept is the same as with taping, just more discrete and custom-made for this sole purpose. This is however not a method we’ve tried ourselves, but it’s said to prevent blisters well.

Moisturizer During Hike

By keeping your feet moisturized they’ll remain smooth and thus be affected less by friction. Moisturizing your feet before starting the hike is a great idea. And carrying some extra for later applying is recommended. But don’t overdo it. Bring enough to apply new moisturizer maybe after two or three days.

Note that the moisturizer must contain a high amount of fat.

Compeed Hydro Seal Bandages And Wound Cleaning Wipes
Fridh, William. 2022.
It's recommended to clean your feet with wipes before applying a band-aid.

How To Treat Blisters

Treating blisters can be done in many different ways depending on the stage. We’re going to focus on the method that we recommend and use ourselves. It’s not the cheapest one, but it is effective. And we’ll guide you through it step by step.

But before handling your blister, clean your hand properly! This is one of the reasons you should carry at least some hand sanitizer on any adventure.

1. Assess The Blister

When a blister is left untreated it can break and end up as an infected wound. When this happened, it can often be a better idea to abort the undoing adventure. An infected wound can lead to serious problems if you have bad luck. Don’t hesitate on contacting your local health center if you need help doing this assessment.

If the blister is a wound but looks good, treat it as you would with any other wound, but add extra tape to make sure the band-aid doesn’t come loose if it’s on the foot.

2. Clean The Blister

Before adding anything to the blister, make sure to clean it properly with wound cleansing wipes or water combined with mild soap. Also, make sure to clean the skin around it to help the upcoming steps, but make sure to let it dry in the air. Feel free to carefully remove dead freely hanging skin using a scissor.

3. Emptying The Blister

Sometimes emptying the blister might be the best thing to do. But this should be avoided if possible since it acts as a protection, and must be avoided if the blister contains blood. Poping a blood-filled blister can cause a bigger risk due to a more severe wound underneath.

To pop a blister, use a sterile needle or scissor. Make a hole as small as possible so the skin can remain and continue acting as protection, but big enough for you to drain the blister properly.

4. Apply A Band-Aid To The Blister

There are many types of band-aids you can use, but our go-to is hydro seal bandages. They are specially made for blisters and have properties such as softening, rapid pain relief, and bacterial protection. All great properties when it comes to treating blisters.

Simply apply the hydro seal bandage to the blister and add a layer of extra tape (we recommend sports tape) if you’re afraid it might come off due to friction or socks.


Now that you know how to prevent and treat blisters, make sure to check that you have all the required gear in your first-aid bag. And never hesitate on calling health centers if you have any questions.

Just to recap. Care for your feet. Use proper footwear, both socks, and boots. Clean your blisters and apply quality hydro seal bandages for the best healing and pain relief.

Learn More

We strongly recommend that you read our article on how to keep one’s feet dry during hikes. It’s an important part of preventing blisters from forming, yet complicated.

Another recommendation is our text on the layer-on-layer principle since it also goes for footwear.


Table of Contents


Dry Feet During Hikes

Did you know that wet feet can actually become more problematic than you might think? Hiking with wet feet can cause lots of problems, but fortunately, there are ways to

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Camp Skills

Laundry While Hiking

Doing laundry outdoors during a long trip is as important as doping them while at home. It might seem like an impossible task, but it can be easily done with

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Camp Skills

Water Purification/Cleaning

Water is a necessity for us to function properly. When the fluid level becomes lower in the body, both physical and mental performance deteriorate. But how much water do you

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