I suspect most of you have experienced the sometimes tiny, often large, foot blister at one time or another. Blisters can appear during hiking, running, Nordic skiing and even cycling. The smallest blister can make an enjoyable event turn into a death march—with a limp.
What Is a Blister?
Blisters are pockets of fluid within the upper layers of your skin and can be formed due to a number of issues.
Function and Fit
Before going into other causes for blisters, the very first thing you need to do is be sure your shoes are designed for your intended activity. Shoes designed for the basketball court are not good hiking shoes.
Secondly, be sure the shoes fit properly—not too big and not too small. In addition to proper sizing, the quality of your footwear is important. You want a shoe that holds up under conditions you will encounter during training and your event.
Know that everyone's feet tend to swell some as the day progresses and during physical activity. Keep this in mind when you try on new shoes.
Even with properly fitting, quality shoes, three major blister causes include heat, moisture and friction. Unfortunately, the best solution to eliminate blisters seems to vary between individuals. A cruel twist is that what worked for you on the last training session or race may or may not work for the next one.
Socks as Solutions
Choosing the right socks can make a big difference in foot care. Wearing moisture-wicking socks is one remedy that can reduce or eliminate blisters. Some athletes prefer single-layer, thin socks while others prefer the double-layer socks. Wearing double-layer socks keeps feet cool and dry by wicking moisture from the skin. They reduce friction on feet by transferring the friction from the foot-sock interface to the area between the two sock layers.
The socks don't have to come as a two-layer scheme; you can make your own as did one accomplished endurance athlete. His important goal was to train for, and complete, a Nepal trek. Neither his endurance sport training nor his training as an Air Force pilot could keep him from getting derailed by blisters.
We discussed several possible solutions for him. The magic-bullet tip for him was to wear knee-high nylons as his first layer of socks. He was thrilled that this simple solution cured all of his blister problems and he wasn't the least bit concerned about purchasing nylons for his personal use.
Now that's macho.