When you go camping, it is hard to avoid hiking – there is no better way to experience nature than walking. Still, the longer you walk, the more frequent it becomes to develop blisters. Countless times I suffered from these annoying wounds – sometimes they paralyzed me since I had them on both feet. However, as years passed by, I’ve noticed that the skin on my feet became rough and that I lose this tendency of developing blisters. That got me thinking about different ways on how to harden your feet to prevent blisters.
To harden your feet, you should keep them as dry as you can; you may try rubbing with alcohol, change the socks frequently, or hike with ventilated shoes while preparing for the hike. Also, your skin will become rougher when you gradually walk longer distances and maintain a relatively slow pace (you may also try the ‘Fox Walk’ as described below).
Besides, I recommend that you wear two pairs of synthetic socks – this way the sweat will be quickly absorbed while reducing friction and maintaining breathability.
1. Rub Alcohol
The first method I will discuss is rubbing your feet with alcohol.
If you’ve been searching for different techniques to toughen your skin, there is a good chance you’ve already encountered this one – mainly because it acts FAST.
When you apply alcohol on your feet, water gradually moves towards it from the different layers which form your skin. Practically, alcohol works like salt, although it requires fewer applies and gets the job done in several days.
The solution I suggest you use is known as ‘surgical spirit,’ which is primarily made of isopropyl alcohol – it is different than the conventional ethanol which is the ingredient in alcoholic drinks.
This method works great, although you should also take into account that drying your skin too much may end up with cracks. Hence, I suggest that you apply the solution merely in between your toes and skip the joints which are prone to tears.
2. Change Your Socks Frequently
If you are preparing for a long hike and interested in preventing blisters – I recommend that you start replacing your socks more frequently than you used to.
When we walk to different places – such as to work or school, our feet tend to sweat. However, most of the times we stay with the same pair of socks until the end of the day – when we finally get home.
The problem here is that your sweat keeps your feet moisturized – preventing the desirable dry conditions. About to weeks before your hike, I recommend that you start carrying two to three pairs of extra socks in your bag.
Once you feel things start to get sweaty – turn to the nearest toilets and switch to a dryer pair.
3. Gradually Walk Longer Distances
Have you ever got the chance to play string instruments? Well, if you have, you probably know that after a while your fingers start hurting. Nevertheless, the longer you play – the rougher your skin become, and you are gradually able to play longer.
Luckily, our body adjusts to the environment so we can endure pain and uncomfortable conditions longer. The same thing goes to your feet – if you wish to hike an extended period without developing blisters – you have to practice.
The more your feet will be adjusted – the more you will be able to walk without injuries. Before you go camping or backpacking – dedicate a few weeks to jogging.
When you practice, gradually walk longer distances, so your skin becomes harder and doesn’t develop blisters. Still, from my experience, even when blisters occur – your skin will get harder once the sore healed.
4. Try The Fox Walk
When I was researching different ways to make your skin rougher, I came across a term I was not familiar with – the ‘Fox Walk.’ Apparently, that was the way our ancestors used to hike before the modern footwear was invented – barefoot.
This type of walk distributes your weight more efficiently, by enforcing you to line your feet in a parallel way with no angle in between.
Also, when you land your foot on the ground, you first touch it with the blade part (the lateral section of your feet) – this way you feel sharp obstacles before applying all your body weight.
According to people across the internet – the more you will practice walking barefoot, the more robust and resistant your skin will be.
5. Wear Two Pairs of Socks
From my experience, it is better to wear two pairs of socks while hiking long distances. I’ve elaborated the reasons for it profoundly in this article, going through all the misconceptions and confounders hikers usually face with.
Along the discussed advantages, walking with two pairs will also help you to achieve rougher skin on your feet – allow me to explain why.
In general, when you wear two layers of socks, the sweat is being absorbed better, and your feet become fixated. The inner layer, which should be a synthetic sock that acts as a liner, absorbs moisture around your skin and even the friction distribution.
The outer layer, which shouldn’t contain natural fibers as well, prevents your feet from slipping around and suffer under friction (which is the primary cause of blisters).
If you wish to stick to one pair – that’s fine, however, keep in mind that your hiking footwear is precisely on the right size and that the socks are breathable (which is why you should pick synthetics).
6. Walk Slower
One of the best ways to roughen the skin around your feet is hiking at a slower pace. Remember when I said you should practice and gradually walk longer distances?
Also, I noted that hiking barefoot would work as well, based on the idea that challenging your feet will create a rougher skin.
Well, when you walk slower, you take advantage of this challenge and extend its efficiency to the maximum capacity.
Let’s say that you started to prepare for your journey by hiking around your street twice a week. If you take that precise distance and walk at a slower pace – your feet could be challenged twice as much while maintaining the same training plan.
Please accept my advice and practice smart – exhausting yourself wouldn’t achieve any results and may even make things worse.
7. Prepare With Hiking Shoes
By now you’ve probably got yourself the hiking footwear you are planning to walk with. There are many differences between hiking boots and shoes, although the one I will focus here is their breathability.
In general, hiking shoes are better ventilated than boots since they usually feature mesh from the sides. When your socks absorb the sweat around your skin – most of it evaporates through the mesh pores and your feet maintain dry.
Well, dry conditions are precisely what we desire when we attempt to achieve rougher skin and prevent blisters. For that reason, I recommend that you prepare for your journey by walking with hiking shoes instead of boots.
Still, if your boots feature the Gore-Tex technology, there is a good chance they are breathable and practicing with them would be just fine.
8. Do Not Pamper Your Feet
If you wish to achieve a rougher skin, you most certainly do anything you can to avoid pampering your feet.
By saying that I mean that you shouldn’t use any products which contain lubrication ingredients. To the ladies among you – do not apply any creams before going to sleep to soften your skin.
The methods I’ve discussed above focus on drying your feet (i.e., rubbing them with alcohol for a couple of days). Well, moisturization would do the opposite and slow the drying process down.
Also, I suggest that you avoid using soaps which feature the ‘Moisturizing’ description – these usually contain oils which soften your skin.
How to Stop Blisters From Forming?
So you’ve taken all the necessary steps to harden your skin, however, during your hike you noticed a forming blister. Well, the reason it happened is that your feet rubbed consistently against something, most probably the insole.
Hence, the best way to stop blisters from forming is by reducing these frictions forces as much as possible. First, make sure that you wrap it with bandages which will act as a padding layer.
If you haven’t purchased any yet – please do, they will make all the difference when you hike long distances.
Also, make sure that you switch your socks more frequently during the walk – it is essential to keep your feet dry as much as possible.
If you haven’t brought many extra pairs – it’s okay, merely hang the damp one outside your backpack while you hike in the dryer pair.
Finally, make sure that you make more frequent breaks and allow your skin you heal and relax. If you don’t, the blister will begin to swell and eventually get worse.
How to Harden Blisters Fast?
Like you probably know, blisters tend to heal more quickly and cause fewer pains when it becomes hard, or in other words – dry.
Remember the methods I’ve just listed to roughen your skin? Well, the same will work on making the blisters harder once they have occurred.
If you wish to roughen as quickly as possible, use the surgical spirit I recommended (make sure that you apply it on the sore skin each time you take a break).
When I was searching the internet for other ideas, I saw one comment which said that applying vinegar could also work. Personally, I haven’t tried it, although my common sense would tell that if you already have one at your house – it wouldn’t do any harm to try it.
If you would like to speed things up, please make sure that you change your socks more frequently – perhaps you should even abandon them and walk with sandals.
Remember – the more you will expose the blister to dry air and decrease moisture, the faster it would harden and heal.
How Long Does it Take For a Blister to Heal?
From my experience, blisters take time to heal – according to a reliable source it may even take several weeks. Of course, you can shorten or extend that period by the way you treat it.
If you keep on hiking and your skin keeps on suffering from friction and rubbing, I guess it could take longer and may even get to surgery.
However, when I develop blisters, I tend to reduce the burden on my feet and begin to use my hiking poles more frequently – this way it can barely feel the pain in about a week.
Should I Harden my Feet After All?
I’ve talked quite a lot by now and described so many ways on how to make your skin tougher, so you don’t develop blisters. Although, is it really worth it? Should I spend my time rubbing my feet with alcohol instead of focusing on other things?
Well, I believe that your skin will eventually get harder when you actually hike and enjoy nature without even thinking about blisters – that’s what happened to me.
Still, I wouldn’t say that shortcuts are entirely a waste of time; if you believe they could help you and they don’t consume too much time and efforts – go for it.
In summary, all that I’ve said above drains into two conclusions – you can harden your feet by maintaining dry conditions or training.
It’s hard to tell which method works best since it requires time and may differ from person to person. Still, my experience had taught me to try things gradually, and for that, I would start with training – try walking three times a week and from time to time extend the distance.
If that hasn’t worked for you – try roughening your skin by rubbing alcohol, there is a good chance it would dry them quite fast.
If you’ve been using moisturizing products – toss them away. Pampering your feet would postpone the time they will become durable and could endure hiking long distances.
Unfortunately, these techniques do not prevent blisters 100% of the times, and the annoying sores may still occur.
If they do, I suggest that you use your hiking poles and make as many breaks as possible. In other words – let your skin rest and give it the time it needs to heal.
Well, I hope my article has pointed you in the right direction and helped you gather a rock-solid strategy on how to avoid blisters. If it hadn’t, let me know all about it by leaving a comment below!