Sunday, May 08, 2022

Avoid Killing your Feet

by Derek Benoit

Note: at the time of this writing there is NO affiliate relationship with any product, manufacturer, or vendor sourced in this article.

Footwear fit is absolutely critical to avoid killing your feet.
Avoid killing your feet outdoors with the right footwear for the job fit to key points of your feet.

Want to Avoid Killing Your Feet?

Start with quality footwear for the Intended Activity: fit to your feet, degree of ankle support, and degree of insulation are critical keys. The more rugged the terrain and more weight you must carry, the more support and stiffness you’ll need. Of course, this is a general condition and there will be variance of stiffness and comfort between models of the same genre of use (tree stand, rubber boots, mountain boots, etc.).

Break ‘em in with serious wear BEFORE the season begins or any extensive trip. Think lots of miles over a couple of weeks, minimum. Thus a day or two will NEVER be enough. These aren’t sneakers (Brannon, 2021).

Fitting Tips to Avoid Killing Your Feet

The heel of a brand new pair of boots should have a slight amount of slip in the heel. We’re talking only ¼” to a max of ½.” No more, no less. Provided that you break in the boots with those miles, the slip will go away. The heel will find its “home.”

Allow for some wiggle room for your toes. No cramped piggies so allow for evening swelling. When trying boots, look for ½-1” of room from the tip of the big toe to the end of the toe box. IF the boot flexes in the right spot, a bit of extra room isn’t a problem. More on that in the next paragraph.

Additionally, make sure that the widest part of your foot aligns with the widest part of the boot. It will help lock things in place. Consequently this is where your toes begin to bend as you step off of your forefoot. This is where the boot should “break”, or flex.

Wear thick, cushiony socks. Hiking socks are a must. They’ll help take up a bit more room and eliminate slippage. Think tight fitting, without pinching or pain (Brannon, 2021).

Arch Type and Boot Fit

As a rule, arch support is not common in boots. I have a prominent arch, but have a history of plantar fasciitis. As a result, I use plantar fasciitis insoles. You may not need such extra support. Those with flat but strong feet may not need any insert, either. This is where my personal experience differs from the advice of the author cited. According to him, those with flat feet will benefit from some sort of support insert (Brannon, 2021). It can’t hurt, but only you can decide.

Of course, exact fit will vary by brand as well as by individual boot model. Manufacturers can and do change the fit from one version to the next of the same boot model, Don’t assume that a favorite will fit exactly the same when replacing with an updated model. Keep in mind there is a tendency for our feet to spread out as we age. As a result footwear size tends to increase over time (Pres. & Harvard Fellows, 2018).

Some Great Boot Brands to Check Out

  • Kenetrek
  • Danner
  • Crispi
  • Lacrosse
  • Solomon
  • Kuiu
  • Zamberlan

Socks: Underwear for Your Feet

Merino wool is best for moisture management – don’t cheap out; spend the money. Choose sock that has cushioning in high friction areas, regardless of season of intended use. Zero friction is the goal.

Some Great Brands to Check Out:

  • Darn Tough
  • Hiker Boot Full-Cushion
  • Wigwam
  • Smartwool
  • Farm to Feet

Blister Prevention and Care

In addition to the right fitting boot and appropriate socks, you’ll find the following helpful to prevent the painful little buggers

Foot Powders

  • Gold Bond Medicated Maximum Foot Powder – has a very light scent; talc free
  • Arm & Hammer Talc Free Body Powder – scent free; talc free
  • Dude Body Powder – scent free; talc free
  • Nutribiotic Body and Foot Powder –available scent free; talc free

Anti Friction Balms

– note: * denotes item soured from Blister Prevention; ** denotes item sourced from The Runner’s World

  • Body Glide Foot Balm**
  • Solemates Anti Friction Balm*
  • Blister Bee Gone*
  • Squirrel’s Nut Butter All Natural Anti-Chafe Salve** (The Runner’s World Staff, 2020)

If You DO Get a Blister

Keep the “roof” intact. Unless the blister is very painful, don’t pop it. The roof is protection against bacterial infection. If it IS very painful, wash the area with warm soap and water (wash your hands with the same, and ideally wear some vinyl gloves) and disinfect with iodine (or rubbing alcohol) and use a pin or needle either heated via flame until red, or dipped in alcohol. Poke several holes at the edges of the blister and let it drain. Do NOT peel off the skin after draining. Apply petroleum jelly on the area to prevent friction, plus a non-stick dressing.

Only after several days check often for infection and change the dressing. Go here to learn the warning signs:

Should you remove the loose roof of skin. Disinfected scissors and tweezers are your tools here. Keep applying petroleum jelly or other ointment to prevent friction and keep it dressed (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2018).

Blister Dressings

Note: * denotes item soured from Blister Prevention; ** denotes item sourced from The Runner’s World

  • Moleskin dressings sized and cut to blister shape**
  • KT Tape Performance Blister Treatment Patch
  • Dr. Frederick’s Original Better Blister Bandages*
  • Elastoplast*
  • Cultiplast Sterile*
  • Livingstone (finger and joint)*
  • Band-Aid Hydro Dressing**
  • “Island Dressing”* – adhesive bandage with a padded “island” in the middle. You can easily make your own with would dressing supplies from the local pharmacy. The protective gauze is the “island” and the medical tape, Tegaderm patch, etc. holding it in place, is the “water” surrounding the island. Give yourself plenty of margin on ALL FOUR SIDES to give the dressing enough holding power AND to be sure to seal out dirt and germs (Rushton, 2021).


Brannon, Robert. (Updated May 11th, 2021). How Boots Should Fit (The Ultimate Boot Sizing Guide). Skills & Guides. Survival Magazine.

Rushton, Rebecca. (May 24th, 2021). Blister Treatment: Best Bandaids, Adhesive Bandages, & Island Dressings. Blister Treatment. Blister Prevention.

Mayo Clinic Staff (no author). (February 18th, 2018). First Aid. Blisters –First Aid. The Mayo Clinic.

The President and Fellows of Harvard College (no author). (November 29th, 2018). Why Your Feet Get Bigger as You Age. Pain. Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard University.

The Runner’s World Staff (no author). (September 18th, 2020). The 10 Best Blister Prevention and Treatment Products: Your Emergency Kit to Sooth Hot Spots and the Gear to Keep them from Flaring up Again. The Runner’s World.

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