Blister Woes? New Study Suggests Paper Tape Might Help Your Toes
After years of wondering how to best prevent blisters, a recent study from Stanford Medicine has brought some new insight to the debate.
Blisters are a sore subject for hikers. What causes them? What are the best ways to prevent them? How do you treat them on the trail? Happy, healthy feet are something of an obsession for anyone who relies on those feet to carry them up and down mountains. After years of wondering how to best prevent blisters, a recent study from Stanford Medicine has brought some new insight to the debate.
With all the expensive treatments and products on the market for treating blisters, it turns out a $1 roll of surgical (paper) tape could be the answer. In the study conducted by Grant Lipman, MD, and his colleagues at Stanford Medicine, 98 out of 128 runners in a 155 mile race showed no signs of blisters when they used the tape in trouble areas. In areas that were not taped, 81 of the 128 runners got blisters. That's encouraging news for hikers and runners alike.
The surgical tape is mildly adhesive, so even if a blister does form where tape is applied, it doesn't tear. When applying, a single thin layer of tape should be used to avoid bunching and unnecessary friction.
Tips for avoiding and treating blisters while you're out on-trail:
- Treat hot spots early. Apply tape before they can become a blister.
- Remove debris from your shoes. It might be tempting to just shift that little rock around in your shoe rather than take it off, but loose debris is a big culprit in causing hot spots.
- Keep your feet dry. Bring a backup pair of socks if you think you might be encountering wet conditions, particularly on multi-day trips.
- Friction is your enemy. Make sure your boots or shoes fit well and there is no movement between your sock and foot.
- If you do get a blister, use moleskin to patch around it, leaving a hole in the center where the blister is. Apply ointment to the blister and then cover the moleskin with a tape patch.
- To drain or not? There are fierce advocates on both sides of the debate around draining blisters while on trail. If you do decide to lance it, sterilize a needle and lance it in several spots, including the bottom where fluid will drain out as you move. It's important to try to leave the skin intact, then use an ointment and patch to prevent further friction on the area.
- Stay hydrated. Some hikers have noticed that being dehydrated makes them more prone to blisters.
- More advanced blister prevention and care tips can be found in books like John Vonhof's Fixing Your Feet, and other online resources and blogs.
No feet are identical, so no one foot care routine will work for everyone. Pay attention to your feet, try different things and see what works.
Have you found the ideal foot care routine to prevent blisters? Share it in the comments below.