Will foot blisters spoil your next hike?

What you need to know

Getting outdoors and being active is one of the best things about living in Australia. Indeed, hiking is a favourite pursuit of many people all over the world. 

Hiking foot blisters

One thing every hiker should be prepared for is foot blisters.

Why? Because they're the most common injury you'll suffer.

A single small foot blister can take a wonderful experience and turn it into a nightmare.

Unlike activities such as running, you can't just pull out. And unlike sports like netball, you can't just come off the court and be replaced by a team mate while you get medical attention - unless you're hiking with a podiatrist, in which case, lucky you! 

How common are foot blisters in hiking?

Let's take a look at the research:

  • 29% of long distance hikers in Vermont¹
  • 48% during a 21km cross-country hike²
  • 73% of Oxfam Trailwalker 100km participants in Sydney 2011³
  • 95% of college students on a 580km road hike⁴

Wow, they're some pretty scary numbers!

BLISTER INCIDENCE ON THE 580KM ROAD HIKE⁴

BLISTER INCIDENCE ON THE 580KM ROAD HIKE⁴

Let’s put this into perspective …

Researchers⁵ have found that foot blisters were: 

  • Twice as common as acute joint pain.
  • 3 times as common as back pain, Achilles tendon pain and cramps.
  • 4 times as common as tendinitis.
  • 6 times more common than ankle sprains. 

And the most damning stat so far …

Blisters make you 50% more likely to experience an additional training-related injury!⁶ They make you change your walking style - because they're painful and because you're trying to make them not get worse.

Foot blisters are so common they tend to not be taken seriously, even when they’re exceptionally painful and limiting. And from what these statistics show us, hikers should be especially prepared! But they're often not. In fact, an alarming number accept blisters as an inevitable part of their hike.

I understand why. But to watch people accept blisters as inevitable is frustrating. 

The good news is ... there is a way to beat the blister odds.

It starts with understanding how prepared you are now ...

 

Take the Hiking Blister Quiz

Do you know your stuff? Or is there a little room for improvement?


References

  1. Gardner TB and Hill DR. 2002. Illness and injury among long-distance hikers on the long trail, Vermont. Wilderness and Environmental Medicine. 13: 131-134.
  2. Knapik JJ, Reynolds K and Barson J.  1998. Influence of an antiperspirant on foot blister incidence during cross-country hiking. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 39(2): 202-206.
  3. Oxfam Trailwalker, Sydney 2011
  4. Choi S-C, Min Y-G, Lee I-S, Youn G-H, Kang B-R, Jung Y-S, Cho J-P and Kim G-W. 2013. Injuries associated with the 580km university student grand voluntary road march: focus on foot injuries. Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine. Journal of Korean Medical Science. 28: 1814-1821.
  5. Boulware DR, Forgey WW, Martin WJ. 2013. Medical risks of wilderness hiking. American Journal of Medicine. 114(4): 288-293.
  6. Bush RA, Brodine SK and Shaffer RA. 2000. The association of blisters with musculoskeletal injuries in male marine recruits. Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association. Vol 90 No 4: 194-198
Comment

Rebecca Rushton

Rebecca is an Australian podiatrist with over 20 years experience. She has spent a lifetime dealing with her own blister prone feet in her sporting and everyday life. Rebecca specialises in helping athletes and sports medicine professionals figure out how to manage foot blisters with ease. And for kicks, she enjoys providing blister care at multiday ultramarathon events. Rebecca is the founder of Blister Prevention and author of both "The Blister Prone Athlete's Guide To Preventing Foot Blisters" and "The Advanced Guide to Blister Prevention".