It’s been so long since I had a blister that I keep forgetting they’re the bane of hikers everywhere.
What I do to prevent them:
Wear the right socks: soft synthetic hiking socks like Wigwam’s Coolmax work great for me. Heat and friction are a like a blister factory — wearing socks that help regulate foot temperature goes a long way toward preventing blisters.
Wear the right shoes: If they rub you the wrong way at the store, don’t buy them. If your feet get hot, get shoes that have lots of ventilation. Don’t obsess over how waterproof your shoes are — the more waterproof they are, the more heat buildup you’ll get inside and your feet’ll get wet anyway. GoreTex and other so-called breathable waterproof fabrics are nice for short, damp hikes but if you’re putting in over five miles, they’re pretty much irrelevant because the act of walking will keep your feet warm and will dry out your shoes as you go.
Rest when your feet start screaming. Especially true if you have a long hike planned. Give yourself a foot massage (and if you’re out there with the one you love, offer to share.)
What I do if I’ve got one: I’ve noticed that on backpacking trips, the extra weight and pressure will produce blisters much sooner than if I were hiking unloaded. If fluid is gathering, I take a needle from my first aid kit and poke through the skin to let it drain. This does raise the chance of infection, so you’ll want to disinfect the area and cover it to keep it clean. (One PCT through-hiker almost died last year because her blisters got infected — so the risk is there).
After I’ve got one: Like most injuries, rest is the key to healing. Not always a choice when you’re out in the woods for several days, which makes prevention all that much more important.
As always, your tips are welcome. I’ve heard some long-distance hikers have had good luck with duct tape.
Here’s a nice overview of what to do about blisters once you’ve got ‘em.