How to prevent and treat foot blisters


March 28, 2024


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How to prevent and treat foot blisters

You’re a fan of hiking, backpacking or trail running – maybe even all three? If so, chances are you have already experienced that pesky inconvenience known all too well by outdoor enthusiasts: blisters. To avoid them in the future, let’s stick to the old adage: it’s better to be safe than sorry. Bianca Petri, specialized nurse and founder of Peak Secourisme, shares her top tips on how to avoid these infamous blisters – and how to treat the ones that do appear despite our best efforts. Let’s find out how we can prevent this small injury that can so easily spoil our hiking adventures.

In this article, you will learn more about blisters:

  1. How to avoid blisters
  2. Risk factors and possible complications
  3. How to treat blisters
  4. The lifespan of a foot blister

How to avoid blisters 

Even better than learning how to (properly) treat blisters is taking all possible measures to prevent them in the first place. Whether you’re walking or running, getting a blister is never pleasant, especially if you still have kilometres ahead. 

A blister is the result of repeated friction, and it doesn’t take ten hours of walking for it to appear. It can happen so much faster! 

Protect your hands and feet from blisters

Good prevention minimizes the risk of blisters. A few precautions are all it takes to avoid this unpleasant “friction effect.” Here are Bianca’s top tips: 

  • Treat yourself to high-quality hiking boots or shoes (with a good sole) that fit properly, meaning they are the right size. 
  • Lace them well: you don’t want too much of a gap between your foot and the shoe, 
  • When you do get a new pair of hiking boots or shoes, make sure to break them in. Wear them at home for a while first, take short walks around the neighbourhood… The goal is to gradually stretch out the shoes to fit the shape of your feet,
  • When hiking, try to avoid paved surfaces as much as possible (walk on the grass beside them if you can)
  • Do not carry too much weight in your hiking backpack, as this can put excessive pressure on your feet and lead to blisters, 
  • Wear bandages to protect areas that are prone to blisters (rubbing points from new hiking footwear, sensitive areas where you’ve had blisters before, and so on). 

Friction increases with humidity. To stay away from foot blisters and the treatment they require, it’s best to pay extra attention in wet conditions: 

  • Apply powder to your feet to prevent moisture, 

Change your socks if they get wet (even if they’re made of Gore-Tex).

What are the risk factors and possible complications?

Blisters form when there is frequent and excessive rubbing on a specific area (the “friction” mentioned by Bianca). 

Without proper treatment, a blister can become infected, especially if you puncture it and don’t protect it properly afterwards. If the infection is not treated, or not quickly enough, the consequences for the body can be serious and go far beyond mere pain. 

An untreated blister can also cause the body to compensate. Compensation may not be intentional, but it could lead to knee pain, back pain, or other issues. And that’s precisely what you want to avoid. 

According to Bianca, if the area is red, painful, swollen, or has pus, it’s best to consult a specialist as soon as possible. If a blister is infected, it will have to be treated by a doctor. To prevent this inconvenience in the future, remember to invest in a good pair of hiking shoes or boots, along with a set of poles to reduce the strain on your muscles, especially if you’re carrying a backpack.

How to treat foot blisters

How to treat foot blisters

Should you pop a blister?

A foot blister forms a sort of soft bubble on the surface of the skin. It requires prompt treatment, even if the skin around the blister is not very sensitive. So, should we puncture it if it’s bothering us? 

Bianca points out that blisters often burst on their own. As for whether you should pop it yourself, it all depends on the situation: 

  • If you’re still a long way from the end of your hike or trail run, pop it,
  • If you’re heading home, you can leave it be until it pops on its own. 

Foot blisters: the right treatment

A blister requires treatment; you do not want it to get worse. Even if you don’t immediately realize that a blister has formed, and regardless of how well-made the human body is, it should be treated like an open wound because that’s exactly what it is. This is particularly true when you’re in the woods, dealing with mud, rocks, insects… Hence the importance of always carrying a first aid kit with you, as Bianca from Peak Secourisme reminds us, 

Before popping a blister, disinfect thoroughly. Use salt water (not an alcohol pad). If you don’t have any at hand, use clean water. Apply antiseptic cream if you have it.

Puncture it with a clean, sterile needle. Make a small hole and press out the fluid produced by the body. Do not remove the “loose” skin (epidermis). If the skin doesn’t come off by itself, don’t pull on it. Bianca suggests using gloves for this operation, or at least making sure your hands are clean.

Once that’s done, apply a clean, sterile bandage, preferably a large one, after using antiseptic cream if available. 

Keep a close eye on the bandage over the following days, and change it regularly. If there’s any pain or if the bandage becomes dirty, repeat the treatment immediately to clean it all up!

How long does a foot blister last?

A foot blister has a life of approximately 72 to 120 hours. This is the time it takes for a second layer to form. The blister may remain somewhat sensitive, but it should logically be less painful than it was initially. 

Bianca adds that applying a bandage does not hinder regeneration at all. It merely acts as a barrier to bacteria and sweat. Hence the importance of changing your dressing every day. 


Thanks to Bianca, we now know how to properly treat blisters that might appear after long hours of walking or running. We also know exactly what to do to try and prevent them. Let’s make the most of this knowledge and explore a little further. Take another step or two. Climb up to the next viewpoint. Who knows how far our feet will take us?


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