Blisters on the feet are not only a side effect of hiking, but can also mean the painful end of a beautiful MammothMarch adventure.
How do blisters develop, how can they be treated, and ultimately be prevented? Go through the questions with us and you will find the answers.
How do the unpleasant blisters arise?
Shear forces act on the skin by friction or pressure in certain areas of the skin. This means that the individual skin layers shift and the connections between the skin layers dissolve. Tissue fluid leaks out, which flows into the newly formed cavities to protect irritated skin. By detaching deeper layers of skin, such as the so called subcutaneous tissue, lymph fluid or blood can also enter the cavity and dangerous blood blisters can occur.
The formation of a blister is a protective function of the body. The liquid that forms in the blister protects the underlying skin layers from more pressure and friction. However, this also increases the pressure in the tissue with pain being the result.
What are the causes of blisters?
Blisters develop in places that are exposed to particularly severe friction. These areas on your foot are rarely protected by enough cornea. Therefore, the heels, toes and ankles are the most common places. The reason in most cases is too tight or poorly fitting hiking boots. In addition, insufficiently shrinking shoes are a common cause of blisters. But even poorly processed materials or too large hiking socks can create chafing spots on the feet and promote the formation of blisters. The moist and warm climate also increases blisters, because the skin swells up and thus becomes soft and sensitive.
The cornea generally protects the skin from excessive friction and forms a natural protection against blisters, but if the cornea is too thick in some places, it becomes brittle under stress and detaches from the top layer of the skin.
The right treatment of blisters
At the first signs of redness and pain, you should start treating the blister. Blister patches can help you out until you get home. Because a bladder patch forms a cushion over the irritated area and can thus relieve the skin and even prevent the blister from forming. Therefore, you should always have a box of blister plasters in your backpack for any MammothMarch event. Our aid stations are also equipped with blister bandages. Dry hiking socks are also important in preventing blisters.
Usually, you shouldn't pop an already formed and filled blister. Because blisters heal on their own in most cases. Try to keep pressure away from the blister by, for example, cushioning the areas around the blister with a bandage or plaster. Only when the blister has no improvement after 24 hours of rest and filled with liquid should it be opened.
How do you open a blister correctly?
Stand out the blister at two points with a sterilized needle. The needle must be sterilized beforehand. If not, severe infections can occur. After piercing into the blister, you should gently squeeze it with an equally sterile swab until it is empty. Under no circumstances should you peel off the skin on the bladder because then an open wound arises, which can quickly become inflamed and infected. After emptying the bladder, you should treat it with an antibacterial cream then cover it with a blister patch. The patch should be applied as wrinkle-free as possible.
What to do if the blister is already open?
If the blister is already open and thus unprotected from infections, a plaster that does not stick to the wound or a special bladder patch can be glued on. You can also apply a wound healing ointment that is suitable for such.
The right shoes and socks are the alpha and omega!
To prevent pressure marks, you should always buy your running or hiking boots at least half a size larger. Of course, the design is also crucial for comfortable wearing. Therefore, a high-quality shoe may sometimes be costly but it's worth it. Always make sure that the shoe is perfect for your foot and adapts optimally. Individually adapted soles strengthen the comfort in the shoe and prevent slipping around in the shoe.
You should have used your boots/shoes sufficiently and under no circumstances use a brand-new pair of hiking boots on the day of your next MammothMarch event.
It depends on the hiking socks
Hiking socks have an important function in the prevention of blisters. They form an extra protective layer between the foot and shoes. A sock should fulfill several functions: it must fit perfectly, shouldn't fold and must not slip on the foot. In addition, the material should be able to absorb moisture well, because your feet often tend to sweat - especially in closed shoes. But not all socks are suitable for this heavy load. Cotton socks protect the foot from moisture for a short period but stick to the foot once they're wet and lose their shape.
Wool socks can absorb a lot of moisture instead but lead to friction and thus unpleasant blisters if the material is too coarse.
Socks made of synthetic fibres are best suited, prevent the formation of blisters due to their double-layer structure. The inner and outer position moves oppositely to each other and thus neutralizes friction. In addition, the special fibre of the inner sock layer ensures dry feet.
Prevention by blister patches or tape
Before your long-distance hike, areas of the foot that you know are prone to blisters could be strapped with tape (always to be glued to clean and dry skin and wrinkle formation should be avoided). Blister patches for your hiking shoes/boots are another great way to tackle blisters by their source as these reduce blister-causing friction between your skin and your footwear. Feel free to take a look at what our partner ENGO has to offer right here: www.goengo.com
Now that you should have learned everything about blisters and hopefully got some insights on how to prevent them, there's nothing that can stop your feet from racking up those miles at your next MammothMarch.