Hiking Hack: Blister Prevention

If you're going to believe something, make sure that there is some science behind it. So when I tell you that deodorant can prevent blisters, don't believe me, believe the science.


The background: a test was done at the US Naval Academy where two groups were put to the test. One group used antiperspirant mix and the other group a placebo on their feet before a long hike. Tin summary, 50% fewer blisters were found on the feet that used the antiperspirant solution. The complete results can be found below.

As for my personal experience, when I hike with new shoes I either wear double socks or I treat my feet to a quick rub of underarm Arm & Hammer UltraMax Antiperspirant and Deodorant until the shoes are broken in and ready for longer hikes.


Why do I do this? I have found is that the underarm deodorant does two things; first, it acts as a lubricant under the toes and one the heel, and second, the antiperspirant wicks away moisture from my feet.


I rarely get blisters using this method.


If you are doing long distance hikes, like the Camino de Santiago, where you are doing 20 miles a day for 30 days, you do not want blisters or it will be a good walk spoiled.


Not all shoes give me blister, but some do, with those I run my feet down with the Arm & Hammer UltraMax Antiperspirant and Deordorant.


Just for the record, this is not the same container that I use under my arms, I have a unique container for my feet. My feet smelling fresh is just a side bonus. :-)


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BACKGROUND:

Rubbing moist skin results in higher frictional forces than rubbing very dry skin. As friction increases, the probability of activity-related blisters also increases. Therefore reducing moisture may reduce blister incidence during physical activity.


OBJECTIVE:

We examined whether an antiperspirant can reduce foot blisters during hiking.


METHODS:

In a double-blind study, cadets attending the US Military Academy were separated into two groups that used either an antiperspirant (20% aluminum chloride hexahydrate in anhydrous ethyl alcohol) or placebo (anhydrous ethyl alcohol) preparation. Cadets were told to apply preparations to their feet for 5 consecutive nights. On day 6, cadets completed a 21-km hike, and their feet were examined for blisters before and after.


RESULTS:

Because of dropouts, the final sample size was 667 cadets with 328 in the antiperspirant group and 339 in the placebo group. There was a high rate of noncompliance with the treatment schedule: Cadets used the preparations from 0 to 5 nights before the hike. For cadets using the preparations at least 3 nights before the hike (n=269), the incidence of foot blisters was 21% for the antiperspirant group and 48% for the placebo group.


CONCLUSION:

A 20% solution of aluminum chloride hexahydrate in anhydrous ethyl alcohol may be effective in reducing foot blisters during hiking; however, the side effect of skin irritation should be considered and preventive measures studied to reduce this irritation.


Notes: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9704829

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