Since the dawn of time, blisters have been a “hot spot” of a topic! My entire life I have been the reining "Blister Queen" and thought that there was no way around them. I always just expected to get blisters and just sucked it up and dealt with it. Until last year, I never had a “good” pair of hunting boots. In our family, you just got the hand-me-downs from mom or someone else, if you got a new pair they were your $100-150 dollar boots.
I’ve been laid up for weeks and had the meat rubbed off my feet more times than I can count and decided to really start looking at making a change. I kept seeing other hunters hunt for days on end and still walk upright, so I figured there had to be a way to stay comfortable and blister free.
First and foremost I think the most important pieces of equipment are your boots and pack. Everything else can be cheap or some oddball brand. When you don’t take care of your feet, it can throw EVERYTHING else off. Feet, knees, hips, back pain...you name it. If you take out your feet, then you’re out of the game!
When you have to keep going, it's important to know how to prevent blisters. And in the event you still get one (or two!), taking care of them the right way can mean the difference between heading up the mountain or heading out.
HOW TO PREVENT BLISTERS
Keep your feet dry
I’ve always struggled with cold feet in harsh conditions therefore I bought insulated boots. Unfortunately, that's not always the best solution. I realized that my feet actually sweat a lot more than I thought, even when it’s cold. And in cold temperatures, this will make your feet colder, quicker! At night or whenever you need to swap your socks out, be sure to let your boots dry before putting them back on. When I take a break for lunch during a day of hunting, I will usually remove my boots and let my feet air out. I always have at least one extra pair of socks in case of river and creek crossings and because of sweat. Even if they don’t feel “wet” it will help a lot to get some fresh air.
There are a lot of brands of socks out there, and they are not created equal. So far, the best ones I’ve come across are the “Darn Tough Wool Socks"; I typically wear their taller hiking socks with that have some cushioning. However, I prefer thinner socks for warmer temperatures. There are also several good synthetic brands available, so choose whatever works for you. I’ve also tried sock liners including higher-priced options, panty-hose liners, and even turned my socks inside out and but none of that prevented blisters for me. However, this has solved the blister problem for a lot of other people.
It's extremely hard to spend the money on a good pair of boots, only to find out they don’t work for you. You can always get a pair of boots and wear them around the house to see how they fit, and return them if they aren't comfortable. But unfortunately you can't really test out boots without getting outside. Once you do this, though, you can’t return them, which makes spending hundreds of dollars really hard. Check customer reviews and pay attention to what other customers say about how the boots hold up longterm. Typically, boots that run upwards of $500 will last for years, so look at is as an investment in your hunting arsenal. I'm currently wearing Hanwag boots, and love them so far...and NO blisters yet!
Proper Fitting Boot
If you want to buy online, try to find a retailer where you can go in and try them on. Remember that the fit will change based on the thickness of the socks you plan to wear. When trying them on, walk around and make sure you don't have any heel slip at all. Reviews can help you determine if you need to size up or down, and how the boot will fit, if they are heavy, light, stiff, whether the soles are hard or soft, how they mold over the terrain, and more. All of these impact comfort and wearability.
Moleskin or Duct Tape
If you aren't able to invest in a good pair of boots, don’t let that be an excuse to not go hunting or to hunt in pain. Until last year, I went my entire life without good boots. Moleskin is a great tool to help prevent blisters. *ONLY use moleskin as a preventative, DO NOT put it over an existing blister! I learned this the hard way and the result was more pain. It will not only stick to the skin around the blister, but will also stick to the blister and cause that skin to rip off. Ouch!
Duct tape is my FAVORITE blister preventative. It sounds crazy, but it really works! Before getting good boots, I would tape up my heels in the morning before a hunt and it would last about 2-3 days. I even started looking forward to choosing out my “themed” duct tape each year.
ALREADY HAVE A BLISTER, TAKE CARE OF IT!
Keep your blister clean
Hydrogen peroxide is fine but only for a couple of days. Otherwise, it will start eating away and the healing tissue and it will take longer to close up.
During the day, I put on a layer of duct tape and keep going. The duct tape only attaches to the skin around the blister; the moisture of the blister prevents it from sticking to the blister itself. Duct tape allows your sock to slide over the blister rather than sticking to it and rubbing on it even more. If it’s a really bad one I will get the round cushion blister stick-on bandaids to go over the duct tape right on top of the blister. This helps pad things a bit if it’s really bad.
As a paramedic and having experience in the ranching world, I have used Vetrycine on myself as well as on animals. I'm not a doctor and can't provide any medical advice, but I call it "miracle water!" I’ve seen Vetrycine work miracles on everything from severe burns, infections from surgical incisions, sun burns and more. I keep it around and use it any time I get a blister to speed up the healing process. Please note, it is technically made for animals so use it at your own discretion and risk.
If you can, let the blister air out as much as possible and have a chance to dry. I usually do this at night or every other day when I remove the duct tape. As soon as the skin is dry, I’ll put on a spray or two of Vetrycine and keep it exposed for the night.
Suck it up
At the end of the day, a blister is still probably going to hurt. This is where your mental toughness comes into play and you have to push through it. If you want to hunt badly enough, you won’t let a blister (or a few) stop you! I’ve had blisters start on my heel at the beginning of my hunt, and by the end, I had blisters up the insides of my feet, across my toes, and working their way back around the other side and onto my heel again. This was mostly caused from changing the way I walked to try alieveate pain from the original blister. Not the smartest thing I’ve ever done, but a fair trade for the bull I harvested that year!
Blisters happen to everyone at some point, and while there are ways to help prevent them, they may still appear. Taking precautions up front will minimize the potential. And proper care once you get a blister will get you back on your feet quicker.