It may not seem intuitive, but wearing 2 pair of socks is the best method for wicking moisture away from your feet to prevent blisters. Not two hiking socks, but rather a synthetic or wool liner and a thick synthetic or wool outer sock.
- Liner Socks: Wearing a liner sock is a great trick I have found useful to prevent blisters on the trail. They are very thin socks, and generally are made of wool, silk, or synthetic materials. Remember that cotton is your worst enemy on the trail, because it retains moisture, rather than wicking it away! My personal favorites are Injinji toe sock liners, which may look a little unconventional, but are designed so well that there are not any seams around the toes. This design provides further blister prevention!The drawback? They’re always sold out! All of my hiking friends are wearing them now, and the word is getting out that these funny looking liner socks are preventing a lot of blisters and unhappy feet on the trail 🙂 REI sometimes has them in stock, otherwise try Amazon.com. A small fits women’s shoe sizes 6-8.5, and medium fits women’s 9-11.5.
The next best alternative are the SmartWool liner socks – these really work well too!
- Hiking Socks: Your thick hiking socks are the outer layer, and provide cushion and insulation. The only thing you need to remember is that they must be synthetic or wool, so they wick moisture away from your feet. Over time, you may have established a large collection of socks like me, to suit various hiking needs. I wear thinner hiking socks for summer day hikes, thicker for backpacking trips when my feet want more cushioning, and super thick mountaineering socks when I’m snowshoeing. My favorites are the SmartWool socks, such as these SmartWool Light Hiking Socks for dayhikes and these SmartWool Mountaineering socks.
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- Trail Running Shoes
- Hiking Boots
- Backpacking Boots
- Mountaineering Boots
- Down Booties
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There are a lot of great ideas here but they are good intentions without fact. To avoid blisters you only need one pair of good socks such as Marino Wool and then lace your boots tight. This may sound counter intuitive but you need your boots snug to avoid a blister. You get blisters because your boots are slipping and abrading your skin. A pair of liner socks seems to work because the outer sock slides over the inner sock protecting your skin for the most part but not the correct application. Get a lace puller and start at the toe box tightening the laces so you feel the toe box is snug and work your way up. In 40 years of hiking a lot of miles never one blister and that would be wearing another 50 to 100lbs of gear.
I use hiking goo along with my liners. Have never had a blister even on 20+ days.
So sorry to hear about the blisters on the bottom of your feet! Blisters are caused by a variety of factors, and so there is not one cure all to ensure that you avoid them. Usually the factors that can cause blisters are (i) footwear that is too tight/laced improperly/too loose, (ii) sweat, (iii) friction. This results in “shear”, which is the sliding of skin layers beneath the skin’s surface. Bottom line: it is tricky to always figure out what caused the blister. The best thing you can do is continue your preventive measures (liner sock and wicking outer sock), use foot powder, and make sure your shoes fit well. Good luck and happy trails!
You’ve covered blisters on heels and toes, what about the bottom of feet. I went backpacking for the first time this past week. We hiked up to our destination the first day it was 11.5 miles with a 40lb pack. No problems, no warm spots on my feet. Perfect. The next day hiking out, by mile 3, the pad of my foot underneath my second toe (next to the big toe) started getting sore. I put a blister bandaid on it then later the other foot in the same place. I often get warm in that spot but never a blister. This was the worst blister I’ve ever had. It still hurts to walk!!! I wore silk liners and wool mid-weight hiking socks, my shoes (new) are a 1/2 size larger than I normally wear and were tightly tied. They had not been hiked in before but I’d worn them everywhere for about 2 weeks and they are so comfy! (the last pair I hiked in I ended up with top of toe blisters and black toenails…yikes!) What causes blisters on the bottom of feet? Is that a poor fitting shoe or too much friction from socks or feet moving too much in the shoe? I just don’t want it to happen again if I can prevent it! Thanks in advance for any advice!
Hi Camino Girl, Yes, I have tried silk liner socks, but much prefer Injinji toe socks. My second choice are the SmartWool liner socks. I have found that silk makes my feet sweat.
Hope that helps!
Have you ever tried silk liner socks? Do they wick as well as the smartwool liners?
I’d go for a synthetic product then such as Swiftwick. I like their products when I comes to synthetic. Hope that helps!
I am allergic to wool, any suggestions?
Darn Tough wool socks! None better and they come with a lifetime guarantee.
Just receive my Injinji toe sock liners in the mail today. I LOVE them, even if they look a little funny :)! Here’s to hoping that they help keep blisters away! We’re going on our first backpacking trip in July/August to Glacier National Park and your website has helped me with my purchases SO MUCH! I love my Deva backpack, my liners, etc…. any chance you’ll be blogging about sleeping pads anytime soon? 🙂
I’ve had success preventing blisters, mostly for hikes, by using ArmaSkin liner socks. They seem to keep the skin dry and free of friction which I’m sure is part of the secret.
I’m glad to hear that the Injinji toe sock liners work for you on your runs, and I am sure they’ll help when you hike as well. Thank you for sharing your other tips.
I just came across your blog and saw this post that I can totally relate to. I always have issues with blisters when I hike and run. I recently started wearing the Injinji socks and they have really helped. So far, I’ve only worn them for running and plan to use them next time I hike.
I also wanted to share a couple of other things that have helped me and maybe they’ll help others. I’ve tried the Wrightsock socks which are double layer socks that are supposed to prevent blisters. They helped compared to regular socks but there were still a couple of times when I got blisters on longer hikes/runs. However, they seem to work perfectly for others.
When I do wear regular socks I swear by the Band-Aid Friction Block stick. It’s basically a wax stick that you rub on the areas where you typically get blisters. This stuff has definitely reduced blisters for me. The only time I’ve gotten blisters when using this was when I didn’t apply enough of it or cover enough area with it.
Hope that helps and thanks for the tips!
Thanks for the feedback Natalee! I’m just about to launch a website called Hiking Baby that will eventually have all sorts of content about everything related to kids gear (which you’ll find helpful for your kid sized feet! Stayed tuned…) Happy trails!
This post is excellent! Learning/finding the proper foot gear has been a bit of a struggle for me (I have kid-sized feet!) I actually came to your site in hopes of finding alternatives/suggestions for kid size socks, liners, and boots! If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear about them! 🙂 Thanks~!
Great questions! First off, have you tried this lacing method with your hiking boots to prevent heel blisters?
Regarding Vaseline, it will most likely just get absorbed into the socks. I haven’t tried this method myself but I don’t see it working well. If you try it please let us know!
Regarding compression socks, they can be an okay liner sock, however, I prefer regular liner socks. I find that my feet sweat more with compression socks, so I primarily wear them after a hike and on airplane flights.
Hope this helps. Please let me know if the lacing method solves the problem.
I am getting ready to hike the West Coast Trail and am breaking in my boots. I really tend to get blisters on my heels when I wear a higher boot. Always, a lot, no matter. ;-/
1. I hear a light coat of Vaseline under socks?
2. I have a pear of compression socks, the good ones ($70) There for athletes but I wear them on long flights and drives. What do you think about these for a base layer?
I’d recommend ordering both, and returning whichever one is less comfortable as you wear it around the house. When I buy a new pair of boots, I often order 5 pair online, try them out on the carpet inside the house, then pick the one that is best. If you really want to just order one, then I’d get the one in your size.
Good luck in the quest to be free from heel blisters! You’ll get there!
Hello! I’m about to buy Arc’teryx Bora Mid GTX for women online. I was wondering if I need to order a size up to wear the liner and hiking socks, or if I should get the right size for me and only wear the two socks if the boots are too big? I’ve had a horrendous time with heel blisters from hiking boot that aren’t narrow enough.
Hi Charles, if you wear water booties for dry activities you *might* be able to avoid blisters with cotton socks, but that is no guarantee. Sweat gets trapped in cotton. If you’re feet tend to sweat, then I’d recommend avoiding cotton and purchasing synthetic or wool socks, since they wick sweat away from your foot.
Hi! Seeing the message you replied, I would like to ask what if I would wear cotton socks in water booties for dry activities? Would I get any blisters due to sweat trapped in my booties?
You are definitely likely to get blisters if you plan to hike or walk in water…generally people wear neoprene socks with water booties if they are hiking in a wet area.
However, if you are referring to water shoes, and want to wear cotton socks and only wear them in dry areas, you should not get blisters.
Hi! Will I get blisters if I am wearing cotton socks in water booties? Any ideas? Do reply me as soon as possible. Thanks.
I have trouble with blisters on my pinkie toes. I’m looking for seam free thick hiking socks. Any ideas? I have sock liners already.
Hi Mini Piggies! Great question. I’m thinking you may be better off using regular sock liners like the SmartWool liner socks mentioned at the end of the article.
If you do end up trying toe sock liners, I’d love to hear how they work for you. There is some stretch to the material, so you may be okay with your mini piggies because the toe openings are fully stretched when I wear them! 😉 It might just be okay for you…
I have little short toes – unlike those long limb-hangers in your picture (so jealous) and wonder what impact individual toes will have in regard to blisters for someone like me? Will the un-used portion of sock wrinkle up at the ends of the toes and cause blisters?
Just found a lot of iniji toe socks on Amazon.
Some feedback I just got via email from a reader named Shannon! 🙂
Hi Hiking Lady,
I’ve been reading all of your posts about the Injinji liners, and I
FINALLY got some, and you’re SO RIGHT! I love them, they’re the most
comfortable sock liners EV-er!
Thanks for the comment. I wasn’t aware of Tape Relief, so thank you for pointing it out.
Have you ever used Tape Relief? I was exploring tape and moleskin last time to ease my blister pain, when I stumbled upon this stuff. It is a lotion you can put on the skin to protect it from friction and prevent blisters in the first place! It would be a good combo with the sock liners. You can get it on their website: http://www.taperelief.com/
Great question Alicia! If you’re going to be doing a lot of hiking in water, especially at the Narrows, you should rent or buy canyoneering shoes and neoprene booties, which will keep your boots dry. There is one outfitter I know of called Zion Adventure Company that rents that equipment for people hiking the Narrows.
Hello Hiking Lady!
My husband and I are getting ready to hike the Narrows and a few other places and I have a question about socks. I am not worried about sweaty feet as much as I am getting my feet wet in the river and THEN blistering. How do you suggest we handle this situation?
Thanks and I love your blog!
you are really a good writer. you’ve done a fantastic job! keep it up
Hi Robin! I’m so glad the toe sock/outer sock combo helped you! It truly is the best way I’ve found to keep my feet happy on long hikes and backpacking trips. Thanks for your comments.
Further, the Injinis keep your toes from rubbing together or rubbing around inside your shoes which can cause blistering. Yeah great idea and they’re available on Amazon!
Yes, after reading this article awhile back I tried the toe sock/smartwool technique and it worked beautifully during a 6 day trip throughout the Grand Canyon.
I just need a couple more pair of the Injini socks and I’ll be set for many seasons!
Hi Heather! I hope it helps!
I love the Injinji’s as an insert. REI has them again and I bought several pairs for changing out 1/2 through my day hikes.
We are slowly training for our summer backpacking trip. I took the training tip on lacing my backpackers from the REI shoe salesperson and got blisters on blisters. I am looking forward to trying out your lacing method and see if that helps my low volume foot stay blister free.