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i have been thinking about this topic because i spent some time late this summer dealing with blisters from a well-worn pair of leather boots. i spent a lot of time this summer in trail runners and fivefingers, so my feet just weren't used to the stiffer boots. even though they fit me like a glove.
1. even if you have owned a pair of hiking shoes for a while, wear them a few times in advance of a trip....if you haven't been wearing them already.
2. liner socks don't necessarily help. for a long time, i wore a thin wicking sock under the merino wool socks i normally use. but, i still blistered in them this summer. i think having two layers can help with friction sometimes, but it's no panacea. merino wool socks are enough, it seems. having good merino blend socks helps a lot; changing socks out if your feet sweat a lot, halfway through the day, can also help.
3. pre-treating your feet is crucial, and by that i mean smearing something on your toes before a hike. i tried glide, basic vaseline, and bag balm, which is a combination of lanolin and petrolatum (vaseline). hands down, bag balm won. i have used lanolin for years to deal with raw skin because it promotes healing, but i had not thought of using it in advance. it works, and it comes in small tins that you could take on a trip.
4. dealing with hot spots early is also crucial. moleskin, an old standby, is pretty effective. stop, take off your socks, and put a piece of moleskin over any hot spots. don't wait. another option, which actually works better for me in terms of staying on and not falling off, is Dr. Scholls blister treatment. they are clear plasticky oval bandages with a small pad in the center. i think they are better for blisters on toes because they stay on better.
5. puncturing blisters - usually a bad idea when they are fresh, because the skin underneath is raw and likely to get irritated or even infected. better off dealing with the short-term agony. eventually, the dead skin will wear off on its own. this is where lanolin ointment really helps. smear it on at night, wear a pair of old cotton athletic socks overnight. works tremendously well.
one person's views. others welcome.