Blisters 101

Blisters are fairly common when walking a long distance. They can be caused by a few situations that can be minimized if you take some precautions.

Getting Blisters

Blisters on the feet are most commonly caused by intense rubbing against an object. Because of friction, the skin experiences trauma. The epidermis and the dermis layers separate and fluids then leak into this gap. The fluid acts as a protection of the layer of skin underneath.

Small blisters are best left alone to heal. Apply some antibiotic on them and cover them with a soft bandage. Moleskins are sometimes used to add comfort by cutting out the size of the blister and applying so you shelter the area around the blister, causing less friction, You may also put a lubricant like petroleum jelly or talcum powder on the part of the shoe that causes blisters in order to reduce friction.

Conventional wisdom is to not puncture blisters and to leave a broken blister alone, not trying to peel off the outer skin since it acts as some protection.

Prevention

Probably the most common reason for developing a blister is due to improper shoe fit. Shoes that are too narrow, short, not ideally designed for walking or even too large can cause blisters. Even if you have a pair of shoes that you have broken in, unless you have walked for a long time in them, there is no guarantee that they will be blister-free. See the article on getting the right shoes for more on what to look for.

Socks can be a subtle culprit too. Generally, there are only two products that are recommended these days, wool and Coolmax, that I have seen. There may be other synthetic materials though. The main function of the sock is to draw away moisture and provide some extra cushion. With wool be careful to pick only the softest Merino wool. A scratchier wool can help cause irritation. Again, this may not be apparent with everyday use, so your old standby wool socks may not be right for a long walk. Also, consider a sock liner – a thin fabric that wicks away moisture to the outer layers.

Lubricants can be applied before putting on your sock. The old standbys are Vasoline or talcum powder, which provide protection against friction whether its shoes or socks that might cause it. Some walkers that have had problems with certain parts of their feet suggest applying a bandage or moleskin before they start to avoid friction. Keeping feet as dry as possible helps too. So, changing socks mid-way is a good way to eliminate built-up moisture.

Treatment

You can usually tell when you are developing a blister by a new warm sensation or irritation developing in a particular spot. At your next rest break you should check your shoe and sock for fit or gathering issues. If you have an extra pair of socks, this might be the time to switch to a clean, dry pair.

Consider applying some lubricant to your foot where the sensitive area is to reduce friction. You can also try applying a bandage to the area after drying well to see if that might stop any friction before it gets to a blister.
Blisters should be kept clean and dried after washing. Just monitor for any new inflammation or infection. Usually the skin begins to heal within a few days. 

Also, ask other walkers or our support team for help if you feel you are developing blisters or have shoe problems. We usually have basic first aid materials and special blister supplies available.

New Blister Technology

There are several new products available for treatment of blisters which you might want to try, these are new to me but worth considering:

Liquid Bandage – this is not your mother’s bandage. Regular cloth or plastic bandages may do the trick for reducing friction but can loosen in a moist environment. Liquid bandages must have been born from reports about people using Crazy Glue to stitch wounds. Apply like nail polish and you have a protective coat that stays on longer and can be painted for any shape.

Blister Bandages –J&J’s Band-Aid now sells a special “Advanced Healing Blister” Band-aid. This provides a larger bandage with a strong adhesive, cushion material and some formula (probably hydrocolloid) to promote better healing. You can also buy a generic pad with similar properties using hydrocolloid which contain particles that absorb the liquid in a wound and create a gel-like covering that keeps the wound moist and protected, an optimum healing environment. Theses bandages can remain on the wound for several days before being changed.

Updated P. Kiczek, 1/22/12

Recent Events

Spring Ahead 2017

March 19, 2017 - Eight FreeWalkers walked the 12-miles from Trenton to Princeton on a day when winter would not let go. Snow covered trail and cold temps slowed down the trek but sun and good spirits were plentiful. 

See photos here

Roosevelt Island/Astoria 2017

March 4, 2017 - About 40 braved the mid-teens and walked across town to the tram. We explored the island and the FDR 4 Freedoms Monument and park. Eventually crossing the bridge to Queens for some middle-eastern sights, smells and tastes. Ending it all at the famous Czech Beer Hall. 

See photos here

See survey results here

Kennedy 50-Mile Walk 2017

February 4, 2017 - An event for history buffs and hardcore walkers. Our 4th walk along the C&O Canal in Maryland and West Virginia - just like Bobby Kennedy did in 1963. Chilly weather did not dampen the can-do spirit of 50 fellow walkers at our grand annual event.

Learn more>>
See photos here
See survey results here

TRAINing Walk 2017

January 28, 2017 - It's mid-winter and 75 hearty walkers show up at the Morristown train station. This year we went West to East and ended in a cozy bar called Coda. Special kudos to Madison Honda for their hospitatlity.

See photos here
See the survey results here.

Midnight March on Princeton


January 7, 2017 - The Midnight March was our first all-night walking event and first event for the new year. Six brave FreeWalkers played wannabe soldiers and stayed with the troops into battle.at daybreak.
Read the entire story here
See photos here

See the video!

Holiday Lights in Dyker Heights


December 16, 2016 - About a dozen FreeWalkers braved extreme cold and outmaneuvered rabid fans of the famous Brooklyn neighborhood. Thanks to Nakis Pericleous for leading us to the holiday kingdom.
See photos here

South Orange - Maplewood Walk & Year-end Party


December 4, 2016 - There were 35 FreeWalkers walking the grand and historic neighborhoods of South Orange and Maplewood followed by our year-end party and awards. Thanks to Risa Olinsky and David Ascher for a great day for a walk, celebration party and a start of the holiday season..
See photos here

Gobble-Gobble for MEND


November 25, 2016 - A crowd of about 40 walked off some turkey and at the same time helped the unfortunate in our communities by supporting MEND of Essex County - a food-bank charity that we support. Gobble-Gobble Walkers were asked to bring food and/or donate to help the hungry.
See photos here

Stroll & Roll - Union County


November 6, 2016 - Familes and FreeWalkers enjoyed a great fall day in Echo Lake Park, Mountainside, NJ as we got about 200 participants strolling and rolling. Kids had as much fun as adults enjoying the games, mild temps and colorful leaves on our first-ever family walking event. Thank you sponsors and Risa Olinsky and Yohana Osorio for organizing!
See photos here

Philadelphia Marathon Walk

October 30, 2016 - Charles Upkike led about 20 FreeWalkers along the route of the Philadelphia Marathon, know for its scenery - especially this time of year.

Legend of Sleepy Hollow Walk

October 30, 2016 - Rick Mohovich led about a dozen FreeWalkers around the Tarrytown area in a walk that passed through the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery of Wahington Irving fame.

Tour of Brooklyn - Coney Island


October 29, 2016 - 25 FreeWalkers walked from the New City waterfront to Coney Island on our annual tour of a different section of Brooklyn each year. Always popular and interesting, we enjoyed great weather and scenery as we walked the greenway trail, including under the Verrazano Bridge. Thanks leader Nancy Jonap!
See photos here

Autumn on the Delaware Series


October 20-23, 2016 - Four consecutive days, 120 miles. Walking from York PA to Frenchtown. FreeWalkers walked in support of Jim Gregoire, a FreeWalker and man on a mission to walk the entire US East Coast. Charles Updike, FreeWalkers PA Regional director organized this series of walk to keep him company and provide a great reason to visit the Delaware River area.
See photos here

Sailung Nepal Trek


October 3-16, 2016 - Two weeks trekking te foothills of the Himalayas. Sydney Frymire of Trek of Your Life (TOYL), a FreeWalker and experienced hiker and traveler organizes trips to Nepal which include a bit of volunteerism and plenty of incredible sights.
See photos here

Lenape 34


October 10, 2016 - On Columbus Day each year we brave the wilds of Essex County and travel through five reservations, 8 parks a dozen or so towns as we walk from Millburn to Cedar Grove, Montclair and Newark as we follow the Lenape Trail for 34 miles in our most diverse walk.
See photos here

Endless Summer Walk


September 24, 2016 - Once again we tried our best to hold on to summer and made a 30-mile trek along the bayshore and oceanside from Matawan to Sandy Hook to Asbury Park. Great conditions again this year for a beautiful walk and one of our most popular.
See photos here

Tour of Boston

September 17, 2016 - Fran Price, our FreeWalker leader in Boston, put together a great tour of the highlights of Boston. We walked from South Boston to Copley Square, mostly following the water and the historic trail.
See photos here

Providence - Boston Expedition

Providence to Boston July 23 to July 29 - Loredana, Ken and Nancy have finished thier 110 mile week-long expedition on the ECGA.

Read Loredana's story on why she walks the expedition each year.

See Loredana's 7-day Photo Journal

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