Tips to Prevent and Treat Blisters for Hikers, Bikers, and Runners

Tips to Prevent and Treat Blisters for Hikers, Bikers, and Runners

Anyone who exercises frequently knows foot blisters are an uncomfortable and unfortunate part of being active. If you bike, run, or even hike, you know a blister can literally stop you in your tracks. But thankfully, a blister doesn't mean the end of your fun. Thinking ahead can help prevent blisters and it's important to know how to treat them. Start with these tips.

You have a blister, now what?

Stop and adjust

When you get a blister it's important to stop whatever activity you're participating in and decide how to treat it. Powering through the pain can make your blister pop or even become infected. Readjusting your footwear can help prevent your blister from becoming larger. Straighten out bunched socks. Change your socks for a dry pair if they're sweaty or wet, and change your shoes if they're causing you discomfort.

Use padding

Blister pads, bandages, or moleskin are all great options for preventing blisters. Padding can also protect existing blisters. Keep in mind that not all pads stay in place effectively. You may need to try several options before finding one that works for you.

To pop or not to pop?

The best scenario for treating a blister is to keep it intact. Popping can increase the opportunity for infections to form. Most blisters will heal themselves if you give them a few days. If you have a large blister that's affecting your walking, it might be better to pop it. Follow these steps to safely pop a blister:

  • Check for signs of infection (pus that's green or yellow in color and swelling). If the blister is infected you should contact your doctor.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water, then clean the blister with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.
  • Sterilize a needle with rubbing alcohol.
  • Locate the blister's edge and poke it with the needle in several places. Use clean gauze to soak up the fluid that comes out.
  • Apply antibiotic ointment over the blister and cover with gauze and tape or a bandage.
  • After several days you can cut away the dead skin and apply more ointment, then bandage again until healed.
  • Throughout this process, keep your blister clean. This will prevent infection.

Tips for preventing blisters

If you're active and tend to get blisters often, here are tips to help prevent new blisters from forming.

  • Wear better shoes. Shoes are often the culprit when it comes to blisters forming on your feet. Avoid shoes that rub certain areas of your feet or that cramp or squeeze your feet. The right shoe can make all the difference. New shoes may give you a blister the first few times you wear them. Take it slow and easy as you break in a new pair of shoes.
  • Wear better socks. Choose non-cotton socks that wick away moisture. If you know you'll be doing blister-inducing activities, double up your socks. One layer will soak up moisture and the other layer will give extra padding. Double-layer socks are more expensive but may help you avoid blisters. If you're in for a long run or hike, change your socks partially through, or whenever they become moist. Good socks can be expensive, but they're worth the cost if they keeps you from getting blisters.
  • Lubricate your feet before you exercise. Friction causes blisters, so it stands to reason that reducing friction can help reduce blisters. Rub petroleum jelly or other lubricants designed for runners on problem spots on your feet. That way your feet will slide around rather than rub.
  • Keep the calluses. It's tempting to shave off or pumice down unsightly calluses, but they help protect your feet.
  • Keep your feet dry. Other than changing your socks regularly, you can add corn starch or talcum powder to your shoes and socks to help wick up moisture. If you're going a long distance, take a minute to add more powder partially through your event.
  • Cover areas that are prone to blister. Just like you'd cover up a blister after it formed, you'll want to pad areas that are prone to blistering. The extra layer of protection helps to prevent a blister from forming.