Eight foot care tips to avoid blisters
Sometimes the best way to see the untamed, rugged and raw landscapes of a destination is to see it on your own two feet. Trekking is all about embracing unique moments in some of the most isolated parts of the Australia, and immersing yourself in the incredible landscapes this country has to offer.
The Larapinta Trail is an exceptional trek that takes you deep into the West MacDonnell Ranges in the Northern Territory, and while you may have already planned your trip, booked your spot, packed your bag and informed all your friends about your upcoming trek, one of the most crucial parts of preparation is one that some people often take for granted: preparing your feet for the long journey ahead.
Being your most important means of transportation, it is important to condition your feet for your upcoming trek along the Larapinta Trail. Foot woes can either make or break your trip, so it is essential to keep your feet in prime condition before and during your trek.
We’ve listed our top foot care tips to help you ensure your trek is unforgettable for all the right reasons!
Wear well-fitted trekking boots
Well-fitting trekking boots are one of the best ways to take care of your feet even before you start your trek along the Larapinta trail. The discomfort caused by poorly-fitting shoes can stop you in your steps; whether it’s a blister forming on the heel of your shoe, corns, calluses or injuries that arise from adjusting your stride to alleviate the pain.
With ill-fitting shows, your focus shifts from completing the trek, to the blisters, and every step you take makes it worse. However, the right pair of shoes can be the difference between completing your trek with a grim or a grimace.
How do you choose the right trekking boots?
One of the first things to consider is that you ensure that your heel sits tightly on the rear of the show and has a little wiggle room for your toes. This doesn’t mean that you should pick a bigger size, as your feet will slide too much front to back, which can cause friction and can lead to blisters.
- Don’t choose trekking boots according to what they look like, or how much they are going to cost. The best looking shoes and the most expensive ones are not an indicator of fit, and can be an expensive mistake if you buy without trying them on! Your shoes should fit with one thumbs width from your longest toe at the end of the shoes when the knees are bent. If your foot fits too snugly in your shoes, you may find that there is not enough room for your toes, and they will naturally curl up and cause you pain.
- When choosing your trekking boots we recommend speaking to your local gear provider on what shoes are best for your needs. Try not to buy the boots online as it is difficult to guarantee the fit is correct. We recommend you buy from a reputable store that offers a proper measuring and fitting service, with a wide selection of boots to fit all foot shapes and sizes.
- When shopping for trekking boots, remember to try on your boots in the afternoon, as at that time of day your feet are slightly more swollen than at the start of the day. This mimics the swell your feet may feel while on a trek, so if the shoes aren’t comfortable in your afternoon swell, they definitely won’t be comfortable after 2 hours of walking. Remember to wear the socks that you would wear during the hike when you try on the boots.
- Don’t wait until your first day of trekking to try your new boots out for the first time; this will just lead to misery! Ensure you break in your shoes beforehand, doing some practice hikes as part of your trek training. If they begin to hurt, take them off and let your feet rest. Then, wait a day and wear the your boots again until your feet start to hurt. After a while, you’ll notice that you can wear them all day without experiencing any pain – when this happens, your boots will be broken in and ready for your trek. During the trek ensure that you always carry an extra pair of boots to give your feet a deserved break from your heavy trekking boots. It’s also good practice to get into the habit of airing your boots during the evenings, as proper aeration can make your feet stay dry for longer.
Lace your boots properly
You may have bought the right trekking boots but if you don’t lace them properly, it’s likely you’ll experience discomfort on the trail.
The “dual lacing system” is one of the most popular ways to lace your trekking boots, and most hikers use it as it is effective in keeping your heel firmly at the back of the heel- tight enough but not so tight that you cut off circulation from the toes. Then, tie the ankle loosely or as tight as you want. If you don’t want to cut the laces, you can skip the midsection and then go ahead and tighten at the calf area using the same laces.
Cut your toe nails correctly
Another important foot care tip is to clip your toenails a week before the trek. If they are too long they can push against the top of the shoe and cause discomfort...this can make your toenails bleed – or even fall off!
Although most people cut toenails slightly curved, it is recommended to get a straight cut. That reduces the chance of having in-grown toenails and reduces the friction between the nail and the skin. But avoid cutting them too short- ensure that you keep about 2mm of the white nail. If you cut too deep into the skin, this can increase the chances of ingrown nails and infections.
Try to use a nail clipper specifically made for cutting toenails and not fingernails. After clipping the toenails, file them to reduce the friction against socks and shoes.
Wear proper socks
Socks are a very important factor in foot care. Most seasoned hikers and trekkers recommend a two sock system for feet protection during hiking. The first sock prevents excess moisture by removing it away from your feet to the outer sock. The second sock, made of wool or wool mix, reduces friction by cushioning your foot and the trekking boot, and reduces moisture by absorbing it from the inner sock. This two-sock system reduces friction from your toenails - instead the friction is between your foot and the sock.
- Wear the socks inside out since the stitching can rub against the toenails and cause discomfort, pain and even the loss of your toenails when you walk for a long distance. In lieu of the two sock system, you can also find socks that have double layers and boots that are well padded and made from soft material. However, if you don’t get those, ensure that you use the double the sock system and select socks that have good cushioning to protect the feet.
- Avoid socks made from 100% cotton or wool and select synthetic brands with good moisture wicking capabilities. Cotton or wool socks are not only expensive but also absorb all the sweat and dry very slowly. Cotton also has no insulation so the socks aren’t breathing, which means that your feet won’t breathe and will be moist while you walk, creating a perfect environment for blisters to develop.
- We recommend that you carry an extra pair of socks during your Larapinta trek. Keep them in your backpack and change them when they are wet or whenever blisters develop. If you have trouble with blisters and moist feet, you could also consider changing the socks every 6-10 kilometres and clipping the sweaty socks to your backpack so that they can dry.
- If you have particularly sweaty feet, there are a couple of items that can help reduce the amount of moisture that reaches your socks, including an antiperspirant spray or foot powders that reduce friction by coating your feet and toes. These powders help to keep the feet dry and keep fungal skin issues at bay.
- Moisturizing creams on your feet can prevents rubbing and eliminates friction if you apply before you start the trek, reducing the likelihood of hot spots.
Tape your feet
Sometimes even after if you are wearing well-fitted trekking boots and using the best socks, your feet still hurt when you walk long distances. This is because despite the best preventative gear, sometimes your feet can still get hot spots. If you are prone to blisters despite wearing worn-in shoes and quality socks, some hikers also tape their feet before the hike (or during the hike when a hot spot occurs) to prevent blisters.
To do this, tape the locations on your foot where you feel your trekking boots rubbing against. The night before the trek, prepare your feet for taping by shaving off any hairs to avoid feeling them pull when you eventually remove the tape. For added comfort, you can apply baby powder underneath the tape in case you have sensitive skin. We recommend applying the tape the previous night to ensure the tape adheres properly on the skin.
Other tips for blister prevention
- To help boost endurance and condition your feet to walking, ensure that you walk regularly before the trek to prepare your body for long hikes.
- Air your feet during your rest breaks to dry them out and give them a break from your trekking boots. If you have the time, you can also wash your feet and dry them and put on a fresh pair of socks before trekking the next leg.
- If any dirt or sand enters your boots, stop and remove it immediately before it creates friction, which can lead to blisters.
- There is no shame in stopping when you feel tired. A quick couple of minutes of rest along the trail can do wonders for your mindset, your body and also your feet. Use these rest breaks to review your shoelaces, and adjust the tightness of your shoe laces.
- Feeling a hot spot in the middle of a trek? Apply powders to reduce friction or tape up the feet. Don’t forget to remove any debris that may have made its way into your shoe.
- Use walking poles. These can reduce the load on the feet and increase stability on rocky or uneven surfaces.
How to treat blisters
Blisters can be cause by a number of factors, however during treks are commonly caused by moisture, heat or friction from sand or stones in the boots. While you may have tried all the listed blister prevention methods listed above, you may find that you still get hot spots that turn into blisters. One of the suggested ways to treat a painful blister is to clean the area, sterilize a needle, pierce the blister and cover it with band aid and then a tape. While the below guidance explains how to treat blisters yourself, we recommend enlisting the help of one of our guides who have experience in treating blisters on the trail.
- Don’t pierce the blisters that are intact. Instead, apply a callous doughnut or Vaseline to relieve friction. Then, if the blister is still intact, pierce it with a sterile needle at the base of the blister and let the fluids run out.
- If the blister is already torn, carefully cut the loose skin and treat the area with an antiseptic. Allow it to dry by exposing it to the air for as long as you can. Put a band aid over the torn blister and tape the area before you resume walking.
- Keep checking the blister at each stop and give it enough time to dry. Ensure that you keep it dry and clean to prevent infection. Remove the dressing at night to clean the blister, and re-dress it the next day.
- If the hike is complete and your blister is still intact, you don’t need to pierce it. Just keep it clean and let it heal on its own.
In order to get the best experience when trekking along Larapinta trail, ensure that you incorporate these feet conditioning, feet protection and blister prevention tips before and during your trip.