By Nora Wotton
In general, everyone who decides to do a long distance walk, does some training. We increase the length of our training walks and try to incorporate different terrain, such as hills. We want to avoid having to abandon our walk due to lack of conditioning. We also want to break in our hiking shoes so we won’t get blisters.
On my first long-distance hike I bought my boots the day before I got on the plane to go to Great Britain. Big mistake – I had really bad blisters. I was totally unprepared, but luckily, a kind B n B host gave me all I needed to help survive without too much pain. For hike number two, I was much wiser. I bought my boots months in advance and wore them in all kinds of weather for hundreds of hikes. I wore good socks (very important), and felt certain that my feet were blister-proof. Wrong. I hadn’t walked with a heavy pack, so on day 3 of 33, I got blisters which stayed with me almost to the end. This time I had special blister bandaids, tapes, creams, and a needle to drain the blister if needed. Unfortunately, because I didn’t stop to let the blisters heal, they accompanied me for many days. Lots of people with blisters limp to avoid pain, but they often end up with other problems as a result – sore knees, backs, or hips. I just pretended the pain wasn’t there, and very quickly could ignore it and walk normally. In the end, someone recommended I wear nylon (pantyhose) socks under my smart wool socks, and the problem was solved.
As soon as you get any kind of a hotspot on your feet, you need to stop and do something to prevent an actual blister from forming. I think well-fitting shoes or boots is the most important thing to prevent blisters, but if you have odd-shaped feet like mine, having an array of foot care products with you is imperative. Before walking now, I have a silicone sleeve I put over one of my toes, as well as a coating of a silicone cream (Skin Glide) that I put on potential blister spots on my feet. In Spain and France, I also stopped every 1 ½ hours or so to take off my socks, let my feet rest and dry out, and put on dry socks (which felt heavenly). I’ve found wide boots to accommodate my wide feet, and I haven’t had a blister in over a year.