When you’re doing a number of exercises, getting blisters can be a big problem. Whether it’s blisters from hiking, jogging around the block, or playing sports, it can happen virtually any time you use your feet. With today’s post, I will highlight all the knowledge I know on blister protection. Keep in mind that this is a prevention guide. Thus, if you already have blisters on your toes, heels, or other place on your feet, scroll down for some treatment options.
Side note: every picture that accompanies this article is safe to look at. I am disgusted by web pages that deliberately post pictures of gross blisters and whatnot without warning. I firmly believe you can get the point across without having to post a picture of a blood-red blister.
Before we start work to prevent blisters, we should highlight what causes them first. Blisters happen when the first skin layer pull apart from the lower layers. They usually then fill up with either air or other bodily fluid.
Foot blisters most often are the ones filled with bodily fluid. They are caused by sweat and suffocation in the feet, typically during exercise. The friction in the socks can cause heat and disturb the skin on your feet. This then results in folding of the first layer of skin and then quickly filling up to be a blister.
We understand the causes of blisters. It is mostly about moisture in your feet and keeping overall temperatures low. So what can we do to prevent them?
Wear decent socks
Yes, there are specific socks for preventing blisters. While they aren’t anything magical, they do keep temperatures low by providing enough air flow through your feet. They are also very soft to the touch. This is to reduce friction while your feet move around in your shoes. I have only tried a few pairs of socks to prevent blisters, but I cannot recommend this one enough.
Best moisture wicking socks to prevent blisters: Balega Athletic
Hands down, the best anti-blister socks are the Balega Athletic. They are durable no-show socks that are impressively comfortable. I have tried the longer blister prevention socks, but those tend to be a little warm after some activity. The overall manufacturing of the sock is damn good as well. Everything seems detailed to make that hike or morning run more comfortable for you.
Balega included a seamless toe stitching at the end of the sock. This is probably to make it hug closer to your toes and thus eliminate friction on that end. Though I hardly noticed this change from my regular socks, I did appreciate the effort in including it.
There is also a neat “heel pocket”, which essentially prevents the sock from inserting inside your shoe. This is excellent for a no-show, since those can often cause friction around where your Achilles heel is.
The cushion, among everything else, is what sells it for me. Balega does a nice job keeping your feet comfortable while also preventing blisters by improving air flow. At the same time, the socks are highly affordable and definitely worth it. Out of everything available in the market, I support the Balega Athletics as the best anti-blister running socks.
For reference, here is what the material of these highly breathable socks is made of:
- Drynamix Polyester 84%, Polyamide Nylon 14%, Elastique 2%
— If you’re looking for more socks, try our list of the best compression running socks —
Ensure your shoes fit well
One of the biggest causes for foot blisters during activity is a pair of shoes that don’t fit well. For running, it is critical that you buy shoes that are exactly your size. Your feet move around a lot while running or walking. This creates the friction that can cause the very blisters we are trying to protect against.
With that said, even a perfect-fitting shoe cannot guarantee blister protection. If, even with the correct size, your feet still move around inside your shoe, it is highly likely the shoe itself is the problem. Most probably, the shoes just are not very suitable for running or hiking.
Best shoes for blister prevention
For those with ill-fitting or otherwise uncomfortable running shoes, I’ve made a quick list. This small list details some outstanding running shoes to prevent against blisters.
Adidas Energy Cloud
Adidas is a good brand if you are looking for high quality, yet lightweight running or hiking shoes. The Energy Cloud is an excellent representation of this concept. They are very lightweight and have a great midsole made with their “cloud foam” technology.
The best part about the Energy Cloud is the cage that wraps around your feet. Combined with the lightweight design, it definitely makes the shoe feel one with your feet. This is perfect for blister prevention since you no long have to deal with feet sliding back and forth inside your shoe. Any friction that is leftover is easily mitigated by how light the shoe feels.
On top of everything else, the Adidas Energy Cloud has some of the best ventilation I have seen so far in an athletic shoe.
Merrell Vapor Glove 2
Speaking of low-profile shoes, there is little out there that conform better than the Vapor Glove 2. The whole concept of the shoe is to feel as natural as possible. This means removing some basic elements of the shoe (eg. a midsole) in order for your feet to feel as one with nature as it possibly can.
While this can seem harsh at first, as Merrell basically asks your feet to support themselves, it is surprisingly comfortable to do my hikes in. I highly recommend them for trail walks, or even just walks around the neighborhood. For people my age, though, the Vapor Glove 2 would probably be best for walking only. Running with this kind of casing just does not seem suitable, but I have seen younger adults use them for that with ease.
The Vapor Glove 2 is lightweight and conforms to your feet.
The manufacturing on the Vapor Glove 2 are top-notch as well. The insoles, titled by Merrell “M Select Fresh”, have microbial agents that prevent moisture from padding up in the shoe. In addition to a nice moisture-wicking sock, this could be a great combination for blister protection. The shoe itself also has fantastic ventilation, despite looking so close-cased.
These shoes hopefully give you a good idea on what to buy. I highly recommend getting a pair of even one of them, in case you start getting foot blisters with your current pair. Even if you don’t end up purchasing a shoe designed for blister protection, at least you know what to look for: well-conforming shoes with enough cushioning and air ventilation.
Use blister powder
If you are perfectly fine with your pair of shoes and/or socks but still find yourself getting blisters from hiking or the sort, the next reasonable step is to invest in blister powder. This powder is designed specifically to prevent further friction while you use your feet. Just pour a small amount inside your socks and rub some on your feet prior to exercise.
Note: do not pour any powder in the shoe itself. This can be tempting, but it can cause your feet to slip around inside the shoe.
Blistershield powder or Squeaky Cheeks?
Blistershield powder is probably the most popular blister prevention powder available. It is a highly suitable powder that wicks away moisture and lasts a long time. However, I did notice my feet sliding around ever so slightly in my hiking boots.
For this, I recommend Squeaky Cheeks powder instead. I find the all-natural formula is better suited to prevent slippage and reduce friction. It does this better while also keeping your feet dry. In addition, I find it is a better solution for odor cover-up and prevention.
To top it all off, Squeaky Cheeks’ blister powder comes in a much larger container: 5 ounces compared to 2Toms’ 2.5 ounce shaker. Per ounce, Squeaky Cheeks is much more affordable so you can get a lot more for your money.
You may of course try baby powder. However, these powders are designed specially to prevent blisters. They are non-greasy or slippery, so performance is not affected. It eases away any leftover friction that could cause blisters on the feet. It lasts significantly longer than any other powder. Most importantly, though, it drives moisture away from the source, preventing sweat buildup from happening in the first place.
Use foot blister cream or anti-chafing gel
The measures we suggested above were based on blister protection. We are not writing about healing existing blisters, as there are many articles already on that. Instead, we are writing recommendations for blister prevention. Cream and balms are some of the best techniques of doing so.
Note: blister cream and balms are helpful to prevent against blisters from forming. While they can also reduce irritation, they are best used as a preventive measure. I would advise against applying them directly to existing blisters, as the ingredients were not designed to counter them. Instead, the ingredients are for reducing the friction and temperatures that actually cause them to appear.
Best cream for blisters on feet
I have tried maybe 3 or 4 different creams and have to go with my favorite of them all so far. Trail Toes is an anti-friction cream you can apply anywhere on your body.
I use the cream mainly for my feet, as that is where I get blisters the most. But as the ingredients also serve as a coolant and are anti-chafing, you can apply it virtually anywhere you consider a “hot spot”. For example, I have had issues with the inner parts of my thighs rubbing up against each other while jogging. I apply a small amount of Trail Toes before a run and the friction from my shorts goes away!
For friction and perspiration, you cannot go wrong with Trail Toes. It is essentially the cream version of the Squeeky Cheeks powder I mentioned above. If you don’t like powder or otherwise need to apply blister protection elsewhere, Trail Toes is the perfect solution.
The jar is also quite generous. I purchased my 2-ounce jar for around $15 two months ago and still have over half of it left. Keep in mind, the family and I go hiking almost every weekend and so we use plenty of blister cream.
This would be a great place to mention that “anti-chafing gel” and “anti-friction cream” are essentially the same thing. People often get fooled by the different names, but I assure you that they function in the same regard. This is important because you can often find this anti-chafe gel for less than you could find blister cream.
Lanacane anti-chafing gel
The most popular is Lanacane anti-chafing gel. It works very similarly to blister cream in that it reduces friction in skin-on-skin or skin-to-clothing contact. Lanacane is my favorite because it dries quicker than a lot of other gels, but still keeps moisture away even if it feels like it has faded.
The formula is also fragrance free and works well with allergies you may have.
The alternative to powders, anti-chafing gel, or foot cream is an anti-blister stick. These are ideal for those that do not like the slight mess from creams/gel or powders. They work just like lip balm. Simply apply them to where the friction bothers you and is likely to result in blisters.
There are two I rounded up as the best foot balms: the Compeed Stick and the Body Glide Anti Blister Balm. Now, there are differences between the two products despite the fact that they both vie to be the #1 anti-friction stick. First, I’ll do an overview of the Body Glide balm and then the Compeed Stick.
The Body Glide foot balm is my choice for an all-in-one solution. It is excellent to apply on any part of your foot where rubbing could occur, including the toes, ankles, and heel. Even though it is the Foot Glide, you could still apply it directly to other commonly irritated areas such as just below the underarm, inner thighs, or behind the knees.
The Foot Glide doesn’t stop there, however. I’ve found that the ingredients in the balm really help toward restoring chapped skin. This is irritated skin caused from rubbing that did not immediately result in blisters. The Body Glide stick works well to repair it and prevent it from further evolving into a foot blister.
Compeed Anti-Blister Stick
The Compeed Stick is mainly used to get rid of friction prior to a strenuous hike or run. It works really well in this regard, drying very quickly while staying put even after putting on some socks and shoes.
While the Body Glide is has all-in-one qualities, the Compeed is limited to just reducing rubbing while exercising. That isn’t a bad thing because it does this extremely well, while also being a few dollars cheaper than the Foot Glide.
For affordable blister protection, invest in the cheaper Compeed anti-blister stick. It is a long-lasting and highly effective blister balm.
For a more compound solution, I would go with Body Glide’s foot balm. It does cost a few dollars extra. But the restorative qualities, along with lubrication to lessen the rubbing in exercise, may be worth investing in.
Best bandages for blisters
We decided to include this in the article anyway, as we’re anticipating some readers that land on this page already have blisters. For this problem, we will need advanced healing bandages to prevent the blisters from being bothered while allowing room for them to repair.
Band Aid’s advanced healing bandage has all the attributes to repair blisters and the skin surrounding them.
The cushioning relieves some of the pain by reducing contact with the irritation. It is also highly durable, never breaking down even while continuing my activities.
The adhesive is better than most blister pads, while also being waterproof. I’ve never had a problem with sweat loosening up the bandage.
Finally, it is highly flexible. At 1″ x 2″ (width x height), you can apply it anywhere you might experience blisters. I have used it as a heel blister pad, as well as a bandage for blisters on my foot. The cushioning is there, but it isn’t invasive to where you can no longer stick the Band Aid in between your toes.