Nothing kills the vibe on a hike quicker than a blister, yet hikers everywhere continue to lament that nothing seems to work. Jess sacrificed her heels to test the best blister products on the market.

 

As a hiker who accepts blisters as a regular sidekick, rather than the occasional visitor, painful feet are a big part of my outdoor experience. When hot spots swell into tender nodules, I’ve learnt to shuffle my feet slightly inside my shoes – taking the pressure off –  aware that even slight adaptations like this can delay the inevitable. Alas, the moment I lose that focus and my foot falls naturally, crushing the skin against the inside of my boot, the sharp hiss of breath against my teeth is always the same – yep, that all-too-familiar sting means it’s popped. Damn.

When it comes to blister prevention and treatment, I’ve tried so many techniques that supposedly work. Baby powder in my socks, too many pairs of new boots, vaseline, thinner socks, thicker socks… but so far nothing has been a standout.

The random experimentation had to end. I stocked up on a heap of recommended anti-blister products and scheduled a lot of hikes. It was time to test ’em all and pay close attention to see what worked and what didn’t. Could I finally lose the barnacle-like blisters covering my feet during every outdoor adventure? Let’s find out.

What are blisters?

Everyone knows what a blister feels like, but most people don’t realise that blisters are actually a defence mechanism your body is using to protect itself. When the skin on your feet rubs against your shoe, it creates friction and heat. Your body responds by sending in extra fluid under the top layer of skin to provide a cushion between the object causing the friction (the shoe) and you.

Unfortunately, when we’re hiking and our shoes are already rubbing against our feet, there isn’t any extra room for the blister, and it only provides more surface area for friction. The first mistake most commonly made with blisters is not tending to them the moment they start to make an appearance. If you ignore them, they’re only going to get worse!

 

Average evening on an overnight hike spent inspecting, treating, and whinging about blisters

Prevention vs Treatment

This one should be obvious right? Blister prevention is goal number one. If that fails and you do get a blister, then we can turn to treatment options to help clear it up ASAP.

Prevention methods:

  • Shoes that fit – I cannot overstate how important this is. Remember Goldilocks and her search for the perfect porridge? Channel her when you’re at the shops. Your hiking shoes should be snug, not tight. They should have plenty of room for your toes and if they’re rubbing in the store… leave them there.
  • Moisture-wicking socks – Blisters love wet feet my dudes so you have to focus on keeping your digits dry. Avoid cotton socks; you might as well strap a sponge to your feet. Aim for wool or merino socks if you want the best moisture-wicking ability fabric can provide.
  • Double socks – Got the moisture-wicking socks but still having problems? Try layering a thicker pair over the top of them to provide extra cushioning. BUT only do this if you have enough room in your boots.
  • Protective barriers – Use bandaids, tape or gels to place a barrier over blister-prone spots. For hikers, these spots are typically at the back of the heel and the outside of the big toe.
  • Air out your feet – Plan regular socks-off breaks throughout your hike. Take off your shoes and socks and air everything out. If you want to go the extra mile, pack additional socks and alternate between the two so they can fully dry out between stints on your feet.
  • Keep your toenails trimmed – The quickest pathway to painful under-the-nail blisters is having unmaintained toenails. Keep them nice and short before hikes and you’ll be a lot more comfortable.
  • Get creative with your shoelaces – If your feet move around a lot inside your shoe, you might benefit from a different shoelace configuration. I find the ‘surgeons knot‘ particularly effective at preventing my heel from slipping forward on the downhill sections (which otherwise leads to tiny end-of-the-toe blisters when they crush against the front of my boot).

Read more: How To Prevent Blisters While Hiking

Treatment methods:

  • Do nothing – Yep. My least favourite solution but also typically the most effective. Your body knows what it’s doing so let it do its thing. Admittedly this works best when you’re not hiking or the blister appears late in your walk. It’ll heal best without you intervening.
  • Don’t pop it – Popping blisters introduces the risk of infection and of that annoying spot being annoying for way longer than it needs to be. Resist the urge.
  • Elevate your feet – This helps encourage the draining of excess fluid from the area and can reduce swelling. Multi-day hiking? Great excuse to literally put your feet up at the end of each day.
  • Protective barriers – Cover it up to protect it from further friction and prevent popping. Depending on the size and location of the blister there are different ways to do this.
  • Lancing – Some blisters command too much real estate inside your boot and it’s better to lance them cleanly and hygienically than have them burst mid-hike. Follow medical instructions to do this in a sterile way to avoid infection.

Best Products to Prevent Blisters

1. Injinji Outdoor Hiker & Liner Crew Socks

Price: $49.95
Performance: Great
Comfort: Excellent
Design: Limited colours (maroon? ugh!), good quality, wool pilling on socks happens early
Durability: Average

The Injinji Toe Liner Sock combo has long been the star of conversations about blister prevention among hikers. The idea is that you wear a thin moisture-wicking toe sock underneath a thicker outer sock. The toe sock prevents rubbing between your toes and the outer sock is generous in the toe box to allow everything a bit more space to move naturally.

I was so excited when I stumbled across these and initially, they worked well. While they didn’t prevent all blisters, they dramatically reduced the amount of them. The moisture-wicking properties were a noticeable improvement upon my standard pair of 50% merino wool Kathmandu hiking socks. No sock will eliminate sweat altogether but the addition of the toe liner made a huge difference. Big tick.

But when it came to durability, that’s where the Injinji‘s let me down. The toe liner is brilliant, but the outer sock, made of trademarked ‘nu-wool’ is prone to wearing out anywhere you experience persistent rubbing. This is problematic when you’ve chosen them specifically to protect the very areas they’re now threadbare. If this had happened after six months to a year, I wouldn’t even have commented, but I wore out the back of the heel in two pairs of these socks after just three days of successive hikes.

My advice with the Injinji’s? Buy the toe sock liners. They’re legendary at reducing between-the-toe blisters. Just make sure to take Ruby’s advice and don’t ram your toes all the way to the end – keep ’em loose. Add a pair of quality hiking socks over the top for cushioning. I’m still testing to find the perfect brand, but I know the Injinji outer sock isn’t it.

Got a recommendation? Let us know in the comments!

Verdict: Great toe-liner, but don’t waste your time with the outer sock.

 

Unfortunately the durability is lacking precisely where it counts the most

2. Wrightsock ‘Blister-Free Guarantee’ Escape Crew Socks

Price: $44.95
Performance: Excellent
Comfort: Excellent, very warm
Design: Great colour range, high quality materials, don’t like the white lining
Durability: Excellent

Never heard of these? Yeah me neither. I found these by searching for ‘socks to prevent blisters’ and the Wrightsock Escape Crew Socks came up boasting a very promising ‘blister-free guarantee’. Bister-free?! With a healthy amount of scepticism, along with desperate hope, I added them to my cart immediately. I was curious how these, a single pair of socks with no toe-liner would compare to the highly acclaimed Injinjis and put them to the test on a gruelling overnight hike with five hours of hiking each day.

They held up well, very well. While I felt hot spots developing quicker than I did with the Injinji liner combo, those hot spots never developed into anything more than a patch of slightly red skin. These Wrightsocks utilise their own patented two-layer design, like the Injinji, but they’ve integrated them into the one sock. The result is a very warm, well-cushioned, snug and comfy sock. They’re too warm for summer though.

 

Beautifully warm and snug while spacious in the toe-box

 

The socks are quite thick, with the inner lining being made of 70% ‘Dri-Wright Performance Yarns’. It’s hard to compare these trademarked fibres without knowing what they are, but ultimately, as long as they work I’m happy. The socks did an amazing job at moisture wicking – they were noticeably damp when I removed them but my feet were completely dry. Even without the Injinji liners that I’ve come to rely on, there wasn’t even a hint of a blister around my toes.

My main complaint with these is that they were slow to dry. If I took them on a multi-day again, I’d want to take two pairs to safeguard my feet against putting on wet socks the following morning (this is what happened on my overnight hike and yes, unsurprisingly, I got a small blister). The liner of the socks is also white. White. Well, it was white before I started and now it’s stained to the nines, even after a wash.

Verdict: Fantastic socks that actually do prevent blisters, but they hold moisture so effectively that drying them is tough.

 

Despite the colour, the lining is very smooth with none of the itchiness of Merino wool options

3. Blister Wool

Price: $14.95 for 20g (plenty)
Performance: Excellent
Comfort: Excellent, completely unnoticeable
Design: Fiddly, tricky to place correctly & placement affects performance
Durability: Single-use

Blister Wool has been around forever but for whatever reason it’s quite hard to find in hiking stores and I’ve only ever found it online. This one is made from 100% Australian-grown wool – it’s always nice to support local so this is a plus right off the bat. The lanolin in the wool is moisture-wicking and helps to reduce friction, protecting your skin.

 

You use blister wool by placing it on blister-prone areas before or after you put your sock on – whatever is easiest. This was the trickiest part for me. Inevitably I’d find the perfect placement, then try to pull on my sock and the wool would move. After a lot of time awkwardly shoving wool into my socks once they were on, I set out on a six-hour day hike to see how it went. Colour me impressed – this blister wool worked marvellously.

I was convinced it would slip or move about the sock but the fibres do meld with your socks to keep the wool in exactly the spot that you place it. Everywhere I placed it remained blister-free, except the side of my big toe, where the friction was too much for the small amount of wool I’d placed there.

The downside of this product is that it’s effectively single-use. At the end of the day when I took off my socks, the wool was hardened and firmly adhered to the inside of my socks. Pulling it off was easy but it was far less effective when I left it on the sock and hiked again the following day. One bonus for anyone who has particularly smelly feet – this wool is epic at odour reduction. The smell test is never fun, but I can honestly say that my feet have never smelled better post-hike. Good news for your tent mate!

Verdict: Extremely cost-effective, light, and successful at reducing blisters depending on your application skills.

 

Blister wool adhered to the inside of my Injinji Liner Socks post-hike

4. Compeed Blister Stick

Price: $13.99 for 8ml (small stick, like a lip balm)
Performance: Poor (the blisters won this round)
Comfort: Excellent, completely unnoticeable
Design: Felt cheap
Durability: Questionable (it’s invisible, and I couldn’t see it!)

Out of all the products I chose to review and test for their ability to prevent blisters, this Compeed Blister Stick was the one that I was most dubious about. Unfortunately, I was right to be. I’m not convinced that this achieved much at all. I’ve had much greater success with baby powder in my socks, so if you’re looking at a solution purely based on cost and performance, my vote is for baby powder. The case was also very cheap and I’d be nervous about it breaking in my bag on a multi-day hike.

This product is essentially a balm that you adhere to blister-prone places on your foot before you put your socks on. I tested this on multiple day hikes (and ended up with multiple gnarly blisters) just to make sure that it wasn’t a fluke that it didn’t work. The idea behind it is to create a barrier between your skin and your sock to prevent rubbing. I suspect that most of it rubs off on the sock fairly soon after you start walking. It’s invisible but tacky, exactly as if you’d applied lip balm to your skin. At the end of my hike I couldn’t tell where I’d initially rubbed it. This checks out – the product claims that it’s invisible. Full marks for that.

 

In the interest of being as fair as possible, I did give this a run while wearing my Teva hiking sandals, as some online reviews claimed that it works better when your feet can breathe. To be fair, most anti-blister products will work better when your feet can breathe so I wasn’t overly astonished when it did reduce the usual rubbing on the side of my foot.

Verdict: Can’t hurt, but it’s unlikely to work unless you’re wearing sandals (and even then, I wouldn’t guarantee it).

Best Products to Treat Blisters

1. Johnson & Johnson Hydroseal Bandaids

Price: $9.35 for a pack of four
Performance: Excellent for heels and under the ball, sub-par for toes
Comfort: Good
Design: Thick, easy-to-use
Durability: Excellent

When I get a blister on a multi-day hike, these are my new secret weapon. Once a blister emerges from a hot spot, it’s time to bust out the Johnson & Johnson Hydroseal Bandaids. As far as bandaids go, these puppies aren’t cheap but they’re worth every last cent.

How do they help once a blister has formed? Clean your skin with water, pat dry, then with clean hands apply the hydroseal bandaid gently over the top, pushing down firmly at the edges of the blister (not on it – ouch!) to ensure a good seal on your skin. It feels weird initially to put a bandaid directly on top of a blister on tender skin, but these patches actively start helping the blister to heal from the moment you pop them on.

 

 

It forms a seal, preventing bacteria from getting in while simultaneously drawing out extra fluid and removing all that painful pressure. As the fluid is removed the patch turns white – this isn’t a sign to take it off, just an indication that it’s working. I’ve kept these on for upwards of a week on long hikes and provided I’m not swimming, they stay on even if I get them wet occasionally. When it starts to detach itself, its work is generally done. Your skin will be soft and tender, but clean. If your hike is done, your best bet is to give it a gentle wash then allow it to dry out. Your foot will be back to normal in a few days. If not, you can clean and patch with some tape or apply another hydroseal if you’ve got a few days to go. Use your judgment.

My favourite part about this product is that I don’t need to worry about the blister popping – the bandaid handles it all and keeps the mess contained. It reduces pain and allows me to hike without the constant nagging reminder that I’ve got a blister. If I’ve got to pay roughly $2.50 per bandaid, so I can enjoy the views, that’s worth it.

My criticism is that these are big so they’re not ideal for small blisters around the toes. They can also get a bit gunky around the edges after a few days – but that’s less a result of the bandaid and more of the terrain.

Verdict: These can rescue your feet – and the entire hike – in a matter of minutes. Where do I sign up for a lifetime supply?

 

Blister-free feet enjoying the sunset thanks to a $10 box of bandaids? Worth it!

2. BlisterPod Advanced Blister Kit

Price: $65.99
Performance: Great, wide variety of products
Comfort: Great
Design: Excellent, convenient case, high quality products
Durability: Great, high quality case and supplies

The BlisterPod Advanced Blister Kit has just about everything you need to both prevent and treat blisters, as well as a handy sheet of instructions so you can learn exactly how to use each item. What I loved most about this kit was that it came in a handy, bright orange carry case, making it super easy to see you in your pack.

The kit comes with couple of size 15 scalpels, which are what you need if you’ve got to drain a blister. It also includes a variety of swabs, dressings, and even a couple of hydrocolloid bandaids (they’re bloody great!). It made me really happy to see that a pair of gloves were included as it can be really hard to keep your hands clean while addressing blisters on a hike.

 

 

The items in the kit were high quality and there was a wide variety. I’ve never had much luck with toe sleeve bandaids – they tend to slide right off, but plenty of people swear by them. The Fixomull tape that’s included is very handy both for pre-strapping hot spots, and fixing over dressings of lanced blisters.

BlisterPod also sells a dedicated Blister Lancing Kit which includes hypodermic needles as well as scalpels for times you need a bit more precision. I’ve also got this one in my regular kit and it’s excellent value.

Verdict: If you want to buy one product and be confident that you have everything that you need should a blister arise – buy this.

 

A compact kit with everything you need for prevention and treatment of blisters

3. AMK Medical Blister Pack

Price: $23.95
Performance: Good, but could be better value and include more bandaids
Comfort: Excellent
Design: Light, re-sealable and compact, but no case
Durability: Mixed (alcohol swabs are great, moleskin is great for treatment but not so great for prevention)

Unlike the BlisterPod Kit, the AMK Medical Blister Pack doesn’t come with a case. Instead you get a relatively robust resealable ziplock bag with a collection of different sized moleskin bandaids, one glacier gel blister treatment pad, antiseptic towelettes, and alcohol swabs inside. The idea here is to clean the blisters with the towelettes and/or swabs as required, then use the bandaids or treatment pad to reduce further friction.

The moleskin bandaids can technically be used for both treatment and prevention. As far as prevention goes (by applying them before you start your hike), I’ve never had much luck with moleskin bandaids before (although I’ve only ever used cheap ones from Amazon previously, maybe that’s why!). They normally roll off, move, and generally end up causing friction problems elsewhere when they bunch up. But not these. These stayed firm, didn’t move, and prevented hot spots from developing any further. Can recommend.

 

Without a doubt these are the highest quality moleskin bandaids I’ve come across

 

As far as treatment goes though – this is where moleskin bandaids shine. You receive two sheets of them in varying shapes. You can apply them as a circle or disk, or pop out the middle so you’re left with a donut shape. When you’ve had a blister pop, these are great to adhere around the outside of it to provide a protective shield that stops your shoe from rubbing directly onto damaged skin. The downside is you would normally pop some antibiotic ointment to the blister and then tape a non-adhesive dressing over the top – but neither of those items are included in this kit. As a hiker, you should have non-adhesive dressings in your standard first aid kit anyway, but I was disappointed that this kit didn’t include at least one.

The glacier gel treatment pads are very similar to the Johnson & Johnson Hydroseal Bandaid – but they’re thinner and peel off slightly more easily. Emphasis on slightly. If I hadn’t previously used the Johnson & Johnson version I’d be giving these five stars. They were effective at calming my blister down, but they also didn’t stay on quite as long as the Johnson & Johnson bandaids before they lost their grip, so the blister was still quite tender and raw.

Verdict: The items in the kit are individually useful but you don’t receive many of the high value items. Good for restocking an existing first aid kit or an affordable way to bolster your blister supplies for a group trip.

 

Every view is improved when there isn’t a blister lurking in your boots

Does one anti-blister product stop blisters best?

No. Unfortunately none of the products I reviewed were perfect for treatment or prevention, but what I’ve learnt is that no one product will be. Blisters are complicated. They form based on so many different factors – temperature, friction, duration of activity, how tight your laces are, etc. I can do the same hike in the same shoes on the same day each week and get blisters in different places on each trip.

For that reason, those of us that are blister-prone need to experiment and test different products to find what works for our feet. I’ve discovered that sock choice is critical for me. My feet can handle a fair amount of friction but if they get too hot… well, it gets nasty fast.

What’s my method for stopping blisters now?

If I’ve learnt anything by reviewing these products, it’s that the one true shortcut to winning the blister battle is having the right supplies on hand. So what do I use?

The BlisterPod Advanced Blister Kit is now a permanent fixture in my hiking bag, but I’ve got it stocked up with extra Johnson & Johnson Hydroseal Bandaids, a selection of AMK moleskin bandaids, and a small wad of Blister Wool. My winter sock of choice is the Wrightsock Escape Crew Socks but I’m still working on finding a pair more suitable for summer.

Got suggestions? Let’s share ideas in the comments!

Reader Recommendations

When we initially published this article we were blown away with a number of awesome suggestions from you guys – so we decided to add them too. Thanks to everyone who’s contributed so far. If you’d like to see your top tip included, please leave us a comment!

Prevention

Treatment

How to Stop Blisters FAQs

Are there any other anti-blister socks on the market worth trying?

Yes! The anti-blister sock market continues to grow with new products frequently becoming available. Consider trying the Balega Blister Resist Range. I haven’t got my hands on a pair yet, but I’m definitely keen to give them a go.

How many anti-blister products should I try before I give up?

Unfortunately everyone has different feet and different tolerances for friction while hiking. Some people just get more blisters than others. Keep trying products until you find something that works for you. Reading reviews like this one will help guide you towards products that may have a higher chance of being successful.

What’s the best product for blister prevention?

There isn’t a perfect product that will suit everyone, but there are products that are consistently more effective than others. The Wrightsock Escape Crew Socks come with a blister-free guarantee, and aside from being more suited to winter than summer, I really can’t fault them.

We’ve shared these recommendations because we genuinely rate them and want you to enjoy them too. Our writers use a mix of personal experience and research to compile these lists, and they’re also encouraged to be honest when things aren’t up to scratch. For more information on our approach, check out our Editorial Standards.