Veterans and grunts alike may remember one of the more common pieces of advice given to them from their senior trainers: toughen up your feet. Along with that phrase, soldiers may have also been told to walk in their boots wherever and whenever they could. Some soldiers may have been given the advice to forgo wearing socks in their boots. And many who followed this advice, what did you get?

That's right. Blisters. Experienced and professional hikers and ultra-runners alike are probably wincing by now because they do the exact opposite to protect their feet from blisters.

Whether you're a soldier, an expert at hiking, a runner, or just someone that loves walking, you know that brand new boots or even old, broken-in boots can cause blisters. Blisters on feet can quickly turn into extreme pain and discomfort, which is the last thing anyone wants on a long march or trail.

Before you head out on your first or fortieth march or trail, let us share with you some of the secrets on how to stop blisters from boots forming.

Ensure The Fit

Your boots need to fit. And not 'close enough,' kind of fit either, but perfectly fit. How do you know if your boots fit your feet perfectly?

Signs Boots are Too Big
  • Your feet slide inside your boot, even when wearing thick socks.
  • Your boots have caused corns, pads of hardened skin that form from rubbing and pressure.
Signs your Boots are Too Small
  • Have you noticed a sudden increase in ingrown toenails? Boots that are too small and too tight are a significant cause of ingrown toenails.
  • Do you experience pins and needles sensations after wearing boots for hours? They're too small.
Signs your Boots Fit Correctly
  • There will always be a very small amount of slippage when it comes to new boots. As long as your heel is slipping no more than a quarter of an inch, you're good. If you find it slipping more than that, it's too big.
  • Your foot is wider than you think. When you wake in the morning, your feet are less wide than they are at the end of the day. Walking and standing causes our feet to swell, sometimes up to a half-size larger. It's essential to try on boots or measure your feet both in the morning and the evening before buying a boot.
  • Most people do not need arch support. However, if you have flat feet, suffer from plantar fasciitis, or have been told you need arch help for any other reason, then you need to factor that into your boot size. You'll need enough room to add an orthotic insole, which can change how the boot fits. The best way to guarantee you find a boot size that works with an insole is to bring the insole to the store and try the boot on in person.
  • Make sure you have at least an inch of space in the toe box. When you put weight on your feet, your toes will splay. Any toe box under an inch is pushing your boot to be too small, and if you find your toes frequently jammed together, your boot is definitely too small.

This might seem a bit over the top at first. All this just to find a pair of boots and fight blisters? Trust us when we say you don't want to be caught mid-march, hike, or halfway up a trail with hours ahead and behind you with your feet covered in blisters with no respite in sight. The first step in fighting foot blisters is ensuring your boots are a perfect fit.

Baby Your Feet

Now that you have boots that fit you, the next and most crucial step for a blister-free hike or march? Take care of your feet!

  • Remove calluses. You may not know this, but blisters can still form even if your feet have calluses. They can start under the calluses. Friction damage can begin to form below the outer layers of tough skin and results in some very excruciating pain. This can be prevented easily by learning how to employ a pumice stone to file down the tough skin on all parts of your feet. Target the heel and balls of your feet and try and make them as smooth as the arch. This isn't a one-and-done process and can take weeks, so be patient.
  • Moisturize your feet. After every shower and use of the pumice stone, use a moisturizing lotion on your feet. Lotion helps keep the skin on your feet hydrated and pliable while also aiding in recovery from long hours standing on them. Additionally, there's no shame in getting a professional pedicure either, as a pedicure can address a lot of issues you may not even know you have.
  • Keep toenails trimmed. You should always trim your toenails regularly and use a file after on all rough surfaces of the nail. This prevents nails from snagging on the sock, creating pressure on your toes, and avoiding a bur that can lead to pinpoint friction and toe blisters.
  • Splurge on the socks. Don't wear your everyday casual socks in your boots. Look for socks specially designed for long marches and hikes, and always carry several pairs with you.
  • Apply Skin Lubricant. It might sound funny now, but you may thank us later. Buy a stick of anti-blister balm and apply it directly to your feet before a long hike, walk, or march. Endurance athletes use skin lubricants, and it lasts for hours, all but eliminating the friction problem inside a boot.
  • If you know you're prone to blisters no matter what you do, protect your hotspots beforehand with a piece of moleskin or skin tape.

Preventative care and being prepared with fantastic fitting boots will be your shield on how to stop blisters from boots. We hope you enjoyed our tips and tricks to get back out there and march in comfort.

TDM Developer