Blisters and What Causes Them

As so many have, I have had to deal with blisters on this journey I have taken myself.  I was pleased that with the right shoes, blisters are not common.  However, there are a few other things that will cause blisters.  There are many blogs about how to avoid blisters, but knowing what causes them is often a good lesson.  For me I had to learn what my personal causes were.

The cause of blisters is friction.  But where does that friction come from?  Mis-fitting shoes is the obvious conclusion, but it can also be socks, perspiration, wet shoes, and the terrain.  My first blisters came from hiking the Echo Lakes trail. There are a lot of rocks, and my feet were often at angles when I stepped down instead on level ground.  Imagine that.  This is something that many trails are consisted of – uneven rocky terrain.  From being pressed up against the outside edges of the shoes, I got off the trail many hours later with tiny blisters on my pinky toes and on the outside of the foot right under the pinky toes.  This happened on another trail, so I tried wool socks.  I came back with many more blisters than I had on other trips.  I tried bamboo socks with the same outcome.  So, I have come to the conclusion that even though wool and bamboo socks help many people stay blister free, I am not one of them.  I do much better with synthetic or cotton socks with the nap on the inside to pad my feet.

I still get blisters occasionally, but another thing I have found is to keep my feet dry.  A waterproof shoe seems to work for me.  Maybe between the socks and keeping the water out, my feet stay drier.  I have had problems with moist feet with other types of shoes, but not with my waterproof hiking shoes.

There are other tricks that I have read I will try if I continue to get blisters.  But the biggest lesson I have learned is not to put an extra pair of insoles into your shoe.  Though, it feels comfy when setting out on the trip, the blisters will occur.  Hiking shoes and some of the other outdoor shoes come with a removable insole, and if it is compromised, the best thing to do is to remove the old ones and replace them with a good athletic pair.  The first time I tried insoles, I didn’t know that the old ones were removable.  So, I stacked the insoles.  That is when I came home from a six mile hike with seven blisters on my feet.  Since then I have resurrected my old shoes by removing the old insoles and replacing them.  Now I have two good pairs of hiking shoes to alternate between.  It was all about the friction that the insoles caused.  They took away the extra space in the toe box and exaggerated the compressed shape of the old insoles.

So, the real answer is, find what keeps the friction to a minimum for you.