Hiking without Blisters Is Amazing – and Maybe This Is What I Did Right

One of the most common things which can ruin a hike is getting blisters on the feet. In the past, I’ve generally gotten blisters by my third day of a multi-day hike. But during my hike in San Diego, I went hiking for eight days in a row (even during my ‘rest’ day I did a couple of hours of hiking) without getting any blisters. Which was amazing. And many of the other hikers were getting blisters, some of them terrible blisters, so clearly it was the kind of hike which could promote blisters.

I cannot be 100% certain why I managed to avoid blisters during this recent hike when I’ve had blister problems before and other hikers were getting blisters. But I think there are three things which I had never used before which made the difference.

1) Trail runners

Trail-runners are a type of shoe which are designed for long-distance hiking which are lighter and dry quicker than hiking shoes/boots at the cost of offering less protection and durability. I had never used trail runners before because, well, trail-runners are freaking expensive. However, I went ahead and used Brooks Cascadia 11 GTX – and now I’m sold that trail runners really are the right kind of shoe for a Pacific Crest Trail hike (though, obviously, not the right kind of shoe for every kind of hike). I think switching from hiking shoes to trail runners made it a lot easier to avoid blisters (and the fact that they dry quickly was helpful when I had to ford a creek).

Now, a lot of people have complained that the toe box of the Brooks Cascadia 11 tends to cut into the toes and cause blisters. The thing is, it is so hard for me to find a shoe which fits my feet that I’ve spent my whole life making compromises when it comes to shoes, so if the worst thing about a shoe is that it has a toe box which cuts into my toes, that seems acceptable, especially since I did not get blisters on my toes after all. And I think I did not get blisters on my toes in spite of this flaw in the Brooks Cascadia 11 is…

2) Leukotape

As soon as I figured out that the toe box of the shoes was causing hot spots on my toes (hot spots precede blisters) I slapped Leukotape on my toes. This was the first hike where I ever used Leukotape, and given that I did not get blisters on my toes, I suspect it really works. It’s comfortable enough that I do not feel it on my feet when I’m hiking, and it does last a few days. It’s certainly better than the sports tape I had used before.

And finally…

3) Gaiters

Last year, when I was hiking through the Russian Wilderness and Trinity Alps Wilderness, my feet, shoes, and socks got incredibly dirty. My feet were washable, but I was never able to get those socks or the insides of those shoes completely clean again. I decided I did not want that to have that happen again, so I decided to buy some light gaiters.

The gaiters definitely work. My feet, socks, and the insides of my shoes came out of the 101 mile hike remarkably clean. While I do not think my most recent hike was quite as dusty as the Russian Wilderness, I am fairly certain that it would have been much harder to keep my feet/socks clean without the gaiters – especially since the gaiters themselves got pretty dirty.

What does this have to do with blisters? Well, during my hike, someone told me that one reason why people get such awful blisters on this particular trail is that there is lots of fine sand which easily gets into shoes/socks and irritates the skin of the feet, promoting blisters. I did not get the gaiters for blister prevention, but maybe they also helped prevent blisters.

This seems to work for me. I do not know if it will work for you, but if you are concerned about getting blisters during a hike, especially on the Pacific Crest Trail or a similar trail, these may be things to consider.

SPECIAL UPDATE: During my 2-day hike from Samuel P. Taylor Park to my home in San Francisco, I did wear trail runners, but I did not wear gaiters or bring Leukotape. Not bringing the gaiters was a mistake. I did, in fact, develop blisters on the first day, though the blisters did not cause any pain (which was weird, but painless blisters are way better than painful blisters). This implies that trail runners are not enough to prevent blisters, and that gaiters and Leukotape also play an important role.