Sorry for the photo if you were eating! Better to see it, than experience it, and with that in mind, and the summer Alpine climbing season around the corner, here’s our top 10 tips on avoiding blisters.
- Dry feet 👣 If your feet are dry, they can’t blister. Sources of wetness are snow getting into the tops of your boots, non-waterproof boots, or sweating. The first two have simple solutions; gaiters and waterproof boots. The third cause being sweating is harder to control. There’s no ‘OFF’ button to sweating, but you can reduce it. Wear fresh socks every day, even when going to huts. Clean socks are dry and will wick moisture better away from your feet. Also wearing thinner socks to the hut, and thicker socks above, will better regulate your feet temperatures.
- Double / single 🧦 Some people swear by wearing double layered socks to avoid blisters. This works for some people and their foot shape, but in our experience this systems often creates more problems than it sorts. The theory is that one sock will slide against the other sock, rather than the sock against the skin. In practise this system often makes the feet too hot, and then causes issues due to a sweaty sock rucking up under a drier sock, creating bigger blister issues.
- Boot fitting 👞 Never suffer in silence! If a pair of boots you’ve bought (or hired) starts to give you any cause for concern, speak up. On our courses in the Alps, we have a vast range of boots, so if there’s any sizing or boot shaping issue, we can generally help. The same goes for those who’ve bought their own boots, in that most reputable retailers have a scheme where you can wear the boots in your home for a few days / weeks, to see how they fit. Of course this doesn’t replicate real mountain conditions, but if you’ve bought some second hand boots, get out and put them through their paces before you get to the Alps!
- Prophylactic plasters ⛑ If you find that you often get blisters in the same place, then stick on a Compeed (second skin) / plasters / tape, before you set off. Using any taping prophylactically may seem a little over the top, but if you’ve bought a day of comfort, it’s worth the time and effort. If you have real issues, look into using athletes finger tape, or even good old fashioned duct tape as it has a slimy surface, and the reduction in friction can avoid a blister occurring.
- Royal feet 👑 Treat your feet like royalty, as they are your most important piece of equipment. When you get back from a climb, take your boots off and dry them out in fresh air. This will allow any condensation accumulation in the insulation to evaporate, or any snow melt absorbed by the outer to dry. Treat your feet in the same way. Wash them well, then allow them to dry out fully. Ideally wear some sandals or Crocs (we’re not going to make any fashion commentary here), or at least some light socks and breathable trainers. This will allow your feet to fully dry out, before they go back in the boots.
- Powder room 👟 Some people find that using foot powder is good for blister avoidance, as it dries out the skin, reducing sweating. If the by-product of this is that your feet smell better, it’s a win-win situation for all nearby! If it helps, on some routes you can walk in on the lower sections in trainers, and carry your mountain boots. This can keep you feet cooler and comfy for longer.
- Spare socks 🧦 Your luxury item in the Alps is to carry a spare pair of socks. The minute that your feet feel at all ‘bothered’ in a boot, it can be a huge relief to simply change socks. Your feet will be dried out, and there’s better cushioning and comfort in fresh dry socks. For the mountain survivalist types out there, a spare pair of socks can also be used as mitts or a glove liner if your hands get cold too.
- Calling time 🛑 The moment that you feel even the slightest ‘hot spot’, it’s time to stop and sort it. Don’t believe for a minute that you need to ‘man up’ (girls, we know you are wiser). You know there’s an issue starting, so why ignore it, even if the hut or cable car is only a few minutes away. Any guide worth their salt will respect you for making this decision, and it shows them that you are experienced and switched on. The only proviso is that you don’t stop every five minutes to faff with something else, but with bad feet the day soon becomes an accordion stretching and stretching ever onwards into a world of pain. Stop and sort it.
- Prick it? 💉 Ask your guide for advice if you are unfortunate enough to get a blister in the mountains. Depending on the size of it, they can best advise how it is best to treat it. In some cases it’s best to drain it and dress it, whilst in some cases it can be allowed to dry out naturally. Each case is different.
- Bear Grylls 🐻 We’ve heard many an idea from people over the years on how to prepare their feet, from peeing on them in the shower, to treating them with turps. Don’t! One of those ideas is very wrong from every perspective. The best way to prepare your feet is, you guessed it – wearing your mountain boots before the trip. That’s hard if not impossible if you are hiring them, but you can prepare by wearing good walking boots during your mountain training days, to help your feet get accustomed to being in harder and heavier footwear.
As with most things, there’s unfortunately not one solution that works for everyone, and even the most boot hardened feet can sometimes get a bluster seemingly out of the blue. If you’d like further boot and Alpine kit advice, click here.