In 2015, I walked 5.14 million steps. In all of those steps, I never got a single blister. Every hike I took, from Half Dome to Mt. Baden Powell to Mt. Whitney, ended with nothing more than some sore feet.
Here’s how you can do that too:
Don’t be a cheapskate
Above all else, the number one rule is: don’t be cheap. Don’t take a shortcut. The fact is, good hiking boots and good insoles are going to cost some money. You don’t have to go broke, but don’t think you’re going to get away with $30 hiking boots from Payless and $10 Dr. Scholl’s insoles. That is not enough.
It feels good to save money, but whenever you’re tempted to cheap out, picture yourself 10 miles from the trailhead with a painful blister. You can also read Darren’s post about the consequences he experienced after not taking care of his feet on our earliest hikes.
Expect to spend about $250-$300 for all of your footwear and blister prevention needs. The good news is that most of this stuff should last you a while!
What footwear you get is up to you, since it’s such a personal choice. My first “real” hiking shoes were some Merrells, which were great until they wore out. Now I hike in some waterproof Keen boots, which I love.
Every shoe type has its pros and cons. I have waterproof boots; they’re not breathable and they may be too confining for some, but they’re perfect for me and give the stability a klutz like me needs.
The best way to find the right shoe for you is to head over to an outdoor store and try on some different types and see what feels best to you. REI has a little ramp in their shoe section so you can get a sense of how your shoes will feel going uphill and downhill, too.
Don’t be shy about asking questions, either! You’re about to make an investment, so make it a good one.
Your hiking boots will come with insoles that will be decent for a few hikes, but they’re one-size-fits-all. High arch, low arch, whatever. Consider getting insoles that are made for your type of foot. They’ll make such a difference.
I use the SOF Soles insoles, and I have zero complaints! They’re like walking on a cloud and I couldn’t be happier about that.
Head to an outdoor store to find out more about different insoles and what type of support you might need.
Have some sock liners
This is embarrassing to admit, I did not know that sock liners were a thing until around May of last year.
Darren got a blister on our way up to Cucamonga Peak. The band-aids I had weren’t staying put. He was miserable.
On the peak, we met some kind strangers who gave Darren and some moleskin and then introduced us to the miracle of sock liners. (These are the sock liners I use, in dark blue). I swear, you meet the most helpful, informative people on the trails.
Sock liners are thin socks made of a moisture-wicking material that serve as a dry layer between your shoes and your regular hiking socks. Moisture, if you don’t know, is what causes friction and friction is what causes blisters. Sock liners also help your band-aid stay put if you do develop a blister.
How effective are sock liners? After we climbed Mt. Whitney—more than 26 miles of walking—my socks and my feet were completely dry.
Another reason to love sock liners: they’re one of the cheaper things on this list.
Get really good socks
Regular socks will not do when you’re hiking. No, no, no. You need really good, thick socks.
My favorites are Thorlos, but there are lots of good ones out there. The styles differ, as well, depending on how you hike and where you need support and extra cushioning.
Lace your shoes properly
You can have the best hiking shoes in the world, but if they aren’t laced properly, you can still wind up with some foot problems.
Did you know, for example, that you can tie your shoes in such a way to hold your foot back and prevent your toes from jamming into the front of the shoe? You can! Once you master it, it’s a game changer.
You can also go to REI and a staff member there can demonstrate various techniques to you.