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Will Hiking Blisters Spoil Your Next Adventure?

Will Hiking Blisters Spoil Your Next Adventure?

Hiking is fun! From day trips to thru-hiking, it’s great to get outdoors and surround yourself in nature. But things get less fun, quickly, when hiking blisters plague your feet. They’re the likely injury you’ll have to contend with.

More than an insignificant annoyance, here’s why it’s important to prevent blisters hiking.

hiking blisters
Unlike activities such as running, you can’t just pull out. And unlike sports like basketball and 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 hiking blisters anyway?

Let’s take a look at some 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!

Hiking 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.

Why you need to prevent blisters hiking

Foot blisters actually 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.

Wrapping up

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, hikers should be especially prepared! But they’re often not. In fact, an alarming number accept blisters as an inevitable part of their hike.

If you get a blister out hiking, do you know how to treat it… properly?

Check you know how to treat your blisters correctly on your next hike

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

Rebecca Rushton

Podiatrist, blister prone ex-hockey player, foot blister thought-leader, author and educator. Can’t cook. Loves test cricket.

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