Blisters and Chaffing
"Blisters are the number one reason people don’t finish Oxfam Trailwalker. There are many views on treatment and prevention of blisters, and a variety of ways to help prepare and strengthen your feet. Below are some tips for keeping your feet healthy and happy during training and on the day."
Shoes. Make sure you have a comfortable pair of good walking shoes, boots or trainers plus a spare pair in case the first get wet, you feel pressure or rubbing, or for different terrain. Find out what works for you by experimenting during training. Don’t wear new shoes during the event!
Socks. The best advice is to wear good quality moisture-wicking socks in a synthetic/cotton or wool blend. (Avoid wearing pure cotton or pure wool.) Some Trailwalkers find that ‘double socking’ using a thin liner sock under a thicker walking sock works for them. Regular sock changes during the event are recommended and provide welcome relief for your feet. Get your support crew to carry spare pairs for you.
Moisture control. Keeping your feet dry will reduce the likelihood of friction blisters. Some walkers use spray-on antiperspirant (on the feet!) before and during the event. Don’t apply petroleum-based products such as Vaseline or pawpaw ointment. They are known to actually increase skin friction on long walks. Simple measures such as changing out of wet shoes and socks are the most effective.
Try taping your feet. Taping feet with a hypoallergenic adhesive bandage (not brown sports tape) may help. You should round the edges of the tape to prevent it rolling up when you put on socks. Practice different foot taping techniques during training. Massaging feet with anti-friction skin balm may also help, but avoid petroleum-based products (see above).
Know your feet. Get to know where your feet are prone to blisters. Cover these areas with either hypoallergenic tape (such as Fixomull) and if really problematic, a more specialised hydrocolloid type of dressing (such as Duoderm, Cutinova Hydro, Allevyn Thin) and then use Fixomull to secure.
Recognise hot spots. The key to blister prevention is to recognise ‘hot-spots’ which are slightly sore or warm patches of skin that can be caused by rubbing or pressure. Anyone who has experienced bad blisters will need no convincing that prevention is better than cure, so if you notice a ‘hot spot’ stop and fix it immediately.
Prepare your feet. Clip your toenails so they are short and rounded to help prevent pressure and bruising. A little callous is healthy, however you should gently file back excessive callous in the weeks prior to the event, or have it removed by a podiatrist. It’s a common misconception that hard skin prevents blisters – the worst blisters are under areas of callous. Moisturiser can be used daily to improve the elasticity of skin and minimise hardening.
Chafing is one of the most common discomforts for Trailwalkers. Here are a few methods to prevent it:
- Underarms, nipples and legs are all prone to chaffing. Put bandaids or a hypoallergenic tape over the nipples and apply antifriction skin balm (not Vaseline) to the other areas.
- Chafing between the thighs can be tackled with bike shorts or by shaving the affected areas and applying tape such as Leukoplast.
- Wear a base layer of clothing that pulls perspiration away from your body. This helps with chafing and reduces chills from sweating.