Blisters usually appear when our skin is weakened by friction, whether caused by our socks, boots or foreign objects.
Moisture (related to perspiration or outside elements) can also play a role because it weakens our skin, which then becomes more vulnerable to such friction.
So how do you avoid blisters?
To answer this question, we gave the floor to our experts, who are passionate about hiking: Claire Sens, field test engineer and former podiatrist, Edward Roberts, product manager for hiking boots, and Julien Ettel, product manager for hiking socks and insoles at Quechua.
1 - What's the First Thing You Should Do to Avoid Blisters?
Claire: “The first thing to do is choose the right sized boots. After that, we often say you have to be careful when you first head out in new boots. But by conducting a study, we realized that 70% of blisters appear before 5 hours of hiking. So the main thing is simply to have a well supported foot, the right size and the right insole to minimize the risk of blisters.”
2 - We Often Hear People Say You Should Choose Boots One Size Above Your Usual Size - Is That Correct?
Edward: “There’s no rule. Some hikers will tell you they always take the next size up, and that works great for them. For others, it doesn’t work. Trying them on is what really points you towards the right boot.”
Claire: “Yes, it depends on each person’s habits. We also hear about feet swelling up during exertion. But today, we have no scientific proof of that. Ultimately, it's down to each person, depending on their sensitivity. Some have feet that warm up faster, others have one foot bigger than the other. So the best advice to give is: try on your hiking boots first!”
3 - Does Lacing Up Properly Prevent Blisters From Appearing?
Claire: “Yes, it’s essential! When out hiking, your foot must be well supported. With some boots, the lacing will be different if you’re going uphill or down. When going downhill, feel free to tighten your boots more firmly.”
4 - Is It Important to Choose a Hiking Sock Rather Than a Regular Sports Sock?
Julien: “What differentiates a hiking sock from another type of sport is foot protection.
Hiking boots are more rigid than for other sports, so it’s important to protect the foot from rubbing in particular.
Support is also required to avoid creases or your sock falling down. This is why we use elastane support bands until we have 100% elastic, morphological structures (right foot / left foot).
Finally, and this is perhaps the most important thing, the materials are changing as well. A sports sock should allow moisture to escape from the foot. Moisture on the foot increases the risk of blisters. We questioned hikers and the study showed that in 30% of blister cases, the problem was caused by an unsuitable sock.”
Claire: “What you need to remember is that a blister is like a 3rd degree burn. It will appear more rapidly if there is wet ground. Hiking socks are made with materials that prevent this.”
5 - What About The Hiking Insole?
Edward: “Changing the insole lets you regain a feeling of softness, of internal cushioning. It also helps stabilize the foot, which is very important to avoid friction and blisters.”
Julien: “In fact, if you have too much freedom of movement inside your boot, your foot will move. And yes, that will cause discomfort and friction. The insole will ensure good support.”
Claire: “Be careful with the material of your insole. If you use a smooth leather city insole rather than a specific technical hiking product, you’re bound to experience rubbing. Our hiking insoles, like our boots and socks, are designed specifically for this type of use, and they help prevent the risks associated with hiking, such as the appearance of blisters.”
6 - So to Sum Up, to Avoid Blisters, You Need Either a Good Boot, a Good Sock or a Good Hiking Insole?
Julien: “No, what it takes is a combination of all three. You can have the best boot in the world, but if your sock isn’t suitable for hiking and doesn’t wick moisture properly, you’ll end up with blisters. If you put in an insole that doesn’t support the foot properly, even in the best boot in the world, there will be play inside the boot that will cause rubbing, and therefore the appearance of blisters.”
Edward: “These are three complementary products, a triptych that maximizes your chances of staying comfortable while hiking.”
Claire: “And these are three products which are tested together, in the laboratory, and then validated in the field adapted to their design, by practitioners. For example, a boot designed to do 8 km, we test for 8 km, with the appropriate socks and insoles.”
7 - One Last Tip, a Final Piece of Expert Advice?
Julien: "If you feel the slightest discomfort due to the presence of a foreign body (stones, sand, bark etc), stop and take off your boots to get rid of it. In fact, a blister is a hard spot, with repetitive rubbing against it. And behind that, we have aggravating factors: a grain of sand, humidity, heat. So keep your feet clean and dry, and kit yourself out with technical products suitable for hiking. And finally, look after yourself. We sometimes underestimate our state of fatigue, our food level. All this plays a role in perspiration, and therefore in the appearance of blisters.”
Claire: “And dry your boots between use. It’s essential to deal with humidity!”
8 - What if Despite All That, You Still Get Blisters?
Claire: “Some hikers may have the best boots, socks and insoles in the world, but they still get blisters. That's how it is, we’re not all the same when it comes to blisters... If, despite all these tips, you’re still prone to blisters, you can try anti-blister creams that limit irritation due to rubbing. But always remember to test if they’re right for you before setting off on a long outing! ”
Julien: “Lemon juice foot baths are quite common among hikers and they work well, too. They help thicken your skin so that it weakens less quickly.”