The majority of people who hike the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine, adopt a trail name, or nickname. For example, my trail name when I hiked in the company of my two dogs was “The Three Amigos.”
You can choose a trail name or have one bestowed upon you. For example, during my first week on the trail I met” Firestarter,” who had ignited a picnic table while trying to light his camp stove, and “Aimless,” a woman who had been hiking the trail for years, stopping from time to time in the trail towns to earn enough money to continue hiking.
One woman called herself “Blister Sister,” and the name had been given to her due to the condition of her feet and toes. After suffering through repeated bouts of blisters, she’d become something of an expert at preventing them. Here are some of her tips:
- Make it a practice to go barefoot often, which will help toughen your feet before you hike.
- Don’t trim toenails too short and cut them blunt across instead of rounding them on the sides.
- Adjust your boot laces until you can barely raise your heel from the inside bottom of the boot.
- If you’re wearing your “good ol’ boots” from last season, add a new insole.
- Always carry spare laces.
- Wear polypropylene liner socks under your wool-blend hiking socks.
- React early to hot spots; take a break and apply moleskin pads immediately.
- Wear gaiters around the tops of your socks to keep debris from getting down inside your boots.
- During breaks, take off your boots and socks and let your feet air out and dry.
Wear the right boot for the hike and your history. For example, boots can be low (below the ankle bone), mid- (above the ankle bone) or high (several inches higher than the ankle bone). If you have a history of leg problems, such as a prior knee surgery, opt with the boots that will give you the best support with the lightest weight. Leather boots are typically heavier, but more durable for long treks of several months. Synthetic boots are lighter and dry faster, but may not wear as well as leather.
Break in your boots with short walks and hikes. Leather boots may require a longer break-in period.
Carry a “blister kit” which should contain antiseptic, gauze, moleskin, and Band-Aids. There are Band-Aids which are specific for blisters, which contain antiseptic in the padded part. You can use moleskin to make a “donut” around the blister as well.
- To pop or not to pop? As a general rule of thumb, if the blister has already torn, cut off the rest of the loose skin. A blister is actually a burn, and very prone to infection so if you puncture it to relieve fluid, the pin or needle must be clean, and you must take care to keep blisters clean.
- Carry sandals, which you can wear around camp. During camp time, remove the Band-Aids and moleskin and allow blisters to air dry.
This summer, don’t be a “Blister Sister” or a “Blister Mister!”
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