What Causes Hiking Blisters?

If you love hiking but hate the blisters that come with it, you’ll likely want to know what causes them in the first place. After you know why blisters form, you can take action to reduce the risks of them happening and ensure you have a comfortable hiking experience. Find out more about the primary causes of hiking blisters and how you can prevent them while you’re out on the trail.

6 Main Causes of Hiking Blisters

The primary cause of hiking blisters comes from friction. When you’re hiking, your socks and boots will rub against your feet. This rubbing creates friction that makes your skin’s thick outer layers move more than its thinner inner layers. Eventually, this friction creates a hot spot where the inner layers separate from the outer layers. With the layers separated, fluid fills the area between them, causing a blister to form.

While friction is the primary cause of hiking blisters, a few other factors can accelerate the process. Take a moment to review them below:

Tight boots and shoes

Since friction plays a major role in blisters forming, you can probably guess that tight shoes and boots can increase the chances of blisters. The longer you wear ill-fitting footwear, the more your skin will rub against your socks and shoes, causing more friction. This friction then creates blisters, making appropriately-sized footwear a must.

Excess moisture

While out on the trail, you’ll often run into rain or wet conditions that cause your feet to get wet. This excess moisture raises the chances of blisters, as it increases the friction between your skin and your socks. If your feet get wet, your skin will soften and weaken, raising the chances of a blister forming. 

Dirty feet

When your feet are dirty, they can blister much faster. Besides the risk of faster blistering, dirty feet can also cause the blister to become infected. An infected blister can hurt a great deal and cause other problems, so it’s always best to clean your feet before slipping them into your boots or shoes.

Excess heat

Another common cause of blisters is excess heat. When you wear socks and shoes or boots with poor ventilation, heat can get trapped inside and raise your skin’s temperature. As you hike, your physical activity will continue to increase your skin’s temperature. If too much heat builds up and raises your skin’s temperature, the effects of friction will grow, causing blisters to form. 

Heat and moisture trapping socks

Your socks can also play a major role in blister formation. When your socks don’t naturally wick away moisture or release heat from them, you’re more likely to suffer from blisters. If you’re hitting the trail, you’ll want to avoid socks that trap heat and moisture, especially if you’re walking long distances.

Not wearing anti-blister hiking socks socks

Do hiking socks make a difference? The short answer is yes. When you set out on a hike, you need socks that are ready to keep up. Here are some essential considerations in finding the right socks for your hike:

  • Sock Fit and Feel: Check the sizing guide to ensure you order the right sock fit for you. Poor-fitting socks can actually make blisters worse than wearing no socks at all by adding another source of friction in your shoes. 
  • Sock Materials: You will also want to ensure you are selecting the right material for your adventure. Overly thick socks in the summer can make your feet more prone to harmful moisture. Meanwhile, thin socks in the winter can leave your feet vulnerable to winter rash and enhanced irritation. 
  • Sock Length: Take a moment to match your socks to your shoes or boots. Socks that are too short may leave you with blisters on your ankles or lower calves from your hiking boots. 

You can make the most of your adventure by choosing the right socks for you. Particularly, anti-blister socks are ideal for hiking. These socks are designed to protect your feet against all of the factors that contribute to blistering. You can read more about how anti-blister socks work here

5 Tips to Avoiding Hiking Blisters

While multiple factors can cause hiking blisters, you can take action to avoid them the next time you go out on a hike. If you’re planning on heading out into the wilderness soon, check out the top tips to avoiding hiking blisters below:

Wear hiking boots or shoes that fit

Before hiking, ensure your footwear fits comfortably and isn’t too tight. Since friction creates blisters, shoes or boots with a relaxed fit are ideal. Keep in mind that you also don’t want your feet to slip or slide in your footwear, so try on a few different options to find the perfect fit. Supportive insoles can also be an excellent option to compliment your footwear, as they can help stop your feet from sliding around.

Ensure your feet stay clean

While it can be more difficult to keep your feet clean while hiking, it’s well worth the few minutes it’ll take to wash off any dirt or grime. When your feet get dirty, rinse your feet out at a stream of water and dry them off before you slip back into your shoes. When you camp for the night, it’s also important to remove any dirt or grime so your skin can heal while you sleep. 

Stay dry on your trails

Since excess moisture can cause blisters, you’ll want to avoid hiking with wet socks or shoes. If your feet get wet, dry off your feet and swap out your socks before you get moving again. You can also hang your wet socks off your backpack for the rest of your hike to let them dry out and be ready to use if your feet get wet again.

Change your socks

It’s best practice to bring at least a couple of pairs of hiking socks when you’re going on an extended hike. Throughout your adventure, your feet are likely to sweat. You might also cross rivers, puddles, ponds, and other conditions that make your socks get wet. Even with moisture-wicking technology, it is best to keep a change of socks in your bag. Having an extra pair of socks to change into midway through your hike can protect your feet from excess moisture and prevent blisters.

Wear anti-blister socks

Blister-free socks are one of the best ways you can guard yourself against blisters. These socks should be made from synthetic or natural fibers designed to wick away moisture and release heat. By investing in socks with anti-blister technology and designs, you can greatly increase your comfort and lower the chances of blisters.

Turn to Wrightsock for Anti-Blister Socks

At Wrightsock, we know how important a good pair of socks is for preventing blisters. Due to our commitment to delivering the best hiking experience possible with our socks, we’ve created anti-blister socks to ensure you stay comfortable while out on the trail. We offer our blister-free socks with synthetic and natural fiber options, and we use double-layer technology to give you maximum comfort. We even have a blister-free guarantee, meaning if our socks don’t satisfy your needs, we’ll give you a refund.

Review our selection of hiking and trekking anti-blister socks today. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.