Dealing with blisters: A cry for help

My feet hate me

I have my dad’s feet: not exactly narrow, not exactly wide and flat with no arch. My pinky toes are like little nubbins that have turned inward from being shoved into climbing shoes. The toenail of my second toe my right foot has fallen off twice. None of these things bothered me until I started frequently hiking because my crappy feet are also prone to blisters.

In the spring semester of my junior year of college at Marquette University I studied abroad in Galway, Ireland. Eager to spend time alone after months of sharing a sleeping space I decided to go on a solo backpacking trip on the Connemara Western Way. My attempt to hike more than 50 kilometers in two days with boots a half-size too small resulted in eight painful, infected blisters on my feet.

It was a short trip, but it taught me a good deal about my limits and made me realize that it is okay to stop and rest. This, I think, is a crucial thing to be aware of before embarking on an intense, half-year hike.

What’s the worry?

There are few things that reduce me to a limping, sniveling mess on a hike, but multiple blisters in painful spots do me in. Blisters are among the top four things I am worried about destroying my hike. Mental obstacles, getting injured and uncontrollable circumstances are up there as well.

I am in no rush to finish this hike, but having to take multiple days off in a row because of my feet revolting against me would just suck. Frankly, I would rather that not happen.

My foot-care practices, now

Before a longer trip, I try to wear my boots in daily life and get my feet used to walking around in them. For a long time I walked in Chaco hiking boots but, after my solo hiking trip in Ireland, got rid of those when I realized they were half a size too small.

After doing some research I came across the Merrell Capra Mid hiking boots. The reviews were glowing and insisted there would be no “break-in period” with these boots. Sure enough, I made it through five days of backpacking on the Corfu Island Trail in Greece with these boots and not one blister. Then, my hiking partner and I walked 33 kilometers in one day. I woke up with five blisters.

I use moleskin or duct tape when I get a blister and pop it in as sterile an environment I can find. As a last resort, I use band-aids. I try to hike in nice, wool hiking socks, but have not found a pair that really makes a difference. I have not tried to hike with sock liners.

What’s next

I would like to collect any and all advice available for preventing blisters while hiking long distances with a full pack. Go a tip? Please comment and share.  

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