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to blister or not to blister...

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to blister or not to blister...

Postby mattcav » Wed Sep 19, 2012 5:29 pm

A week ago, I made the decision to give Mount Whitney a shot before the snow hits. I have stayed in decent shape through hikes, being on my feet at work, and assorted other workouts, but I have not been training for 14er's. Estimated dates for my Whitney attempt are the 27th and 28th...so next week.

I joined a gym near work last Tuesday and have been alternating upper and lower body workouts with weights, along with pushing my cardio pretty hard with HIIT and incline sessions to wake up my usually very strong cardio engine. By alternating groups, I'm able to harness the benefits of active recovery, whereby I'm still active but I am able to allow the previous day's muscles the relax moreso by using them in minimal ways.

I did 5 gym days in a row, took Monday off, and went on a hike yesterday up Romero Canyon in Santa Barbara. The first 2 miles of the hike went up over 2000' and I was able to nail that in less than an hour, which is a great time for me. Then I reached the fire road and set out to go much higher along a 400'/mile incline. This is where things got interesting. I was wearing my Quest 4D boots from Salomon, a great GoreTex boot I've had for some time but haven't worn in about a year. Just after reaching the road, I felt hotspots starting on both ankles. I took a break to adjust the patterns on my laces and to apply moleskin... and then I continued onward. My left ankle felt pretty fine, but my right ankle's blister got much worse. Finally, at 3.5 miles in, I took of my shoe again and found a blister about 2" in diameter. Moleskin won't help with that.

It was decision time: to hike or not to hike.

1. If I continued to hike, the blisters would most likely worsen. I could tough it out, duct tape them up, and really get in some more miles, getting a better idea of where my fitness level is for Whitney, but there'd be a good chance that the blisters would get so bad they'd last into next week's big hike.

2. I could turn around. By doing this, I'd be going downhill, changing my stride, and thus taking most force off of my heel blister. It would also allow the blister to heal in time for next week.

I decided on choice 2. My leg felt surprisingly strong, my cardio felt great as evidenced by my ability to keep a surprisingly steady pace without breaks, and pushing on to make this a 15 mile hike instead of an 8 mile hike probably would not be worth the benefits considering the damage it would do on my blisters.

My question...what would you have done? Was I right?
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Re: to blister or not to blister...

Postby mrchad9 » Wed Sep 19, 2012 5:42 pm

I don't think it matters. Seems like you are in ok shape for Whitney regardless. One week is normally enough time for any blister to heal adequately for me, so I think first option would have worked but obviously the second one was ok too.

Put a little duct tape on before your Whitney trip and you should be good to go.
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Re: to blister or not to blister...

Postby Tonka » Wed Sep 19, 2012 11:24 pm

Wear a lighter boot when you go.
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Re: to blister or not to blister...

Postby lcarreau » Thu Sep 20, 2012 12:14 am

mrchad9 wrote:
Put a little duct tape on before your Whitney trip and you should be good to go.


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Re: to blister or not to blister...

Postby awilsondc » Thu Sep 20, 2012 3:35 am

Blisters are always tricky. Most of the time when I have a blister I just don't care. They almost never get to the point of ripping open and really causing me pain so I pretty much disregard any blisters I get and they end up going away on their own. I haven't had a really bad one on 5-10 years. However, if I felt like my blister was going to get really bad and prevent me from doing other hikes I really wanted to do I'd probably take it easy too.

In the end I would have probably made the same choice as you and turned back. I think you found the right balance of training for the hike and not overtraining for the hike. You got in shape, but you didn't over do it to the point of not being able to do the Whitney hike. Sounds like the perfect balance to me.
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Re: to blister or not to blister...

Postby mattcav » Thu Sep 20, 2012 7:12 am

Thanks everyone. I appreciate all of the feedback.
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Re: to blister or not to blister...

Postby JHH60 » Thu Sep 20, 2012 9:56 pm

If I can glom onto this thread - I've tried duck tape several times to protect my heel when using stiff boots, but it always ends up in a sticky wad above or below the abraded area on my heel, and my liner socks get adhesive crap all over them which never washes out. When you duck tape users use the stuff for blister avoidance, do you wrap it completely around your foot to avoid it wadding up? Or is there some other trick I'm missing?
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Re: to blister or not to blister...

Postby mrchad9 » Thu Sep 20, 2012 10:03 pm

No I just use a patch of duct tape. I smooth it out when I apply it and guess for whatever reason it doesn't wad up in my shoes... no trick I just make sure it is secure when I apply it. I do sometimes get the adhesive stuck in my socks especially if it is a very long day which can sometimes even cause the plastic to disintegrate (better that than my skin!)

Another option I used to do was to apply the duct tape to the inside of my boot rather than my foot. It worked but not as well, and you have to maintain it every few trips from then on as long as you use those boots, but it doesn't slip around or leave gunk on your socks or feet.
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Re: to blister or not to blister...

Postby Sierra Ledge Rat » Fri Sep 21, 2012 2:39 am

I would have turned around. Once a blister gets really nasty and deep, it will takes a couple of weeks to heal. best not let it get to that point.

Duct tape has been shown in non-scientific testing to be the best blister prevention material, superior to everything else.
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Re: to blister or not to blister...

Postby mattcav » Fri Sep 21, 2012 4:04 am

JHH-
I've used duct tape to hold moleskin on when I've had large hotspots. I've also used chamois butter with some success but a couple days back I forgot my mini chamois container for whatever reason.
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Re: to blister or not to blister...

Postby 2 Bees » Wed Oct 02, 2013 6:26 am

Blisters suck. I got them a lot when I first started to climb because of my boney heels and it only happens in my climbing or hiking boots. I learned what works for me, see if it works for you.
Blisters are caused by soft heel skin, sweaty feet, wet socks and foot movement against the boot.
My cure.
-Wet tea bags on known hot spots, one hour a day for three days before climb.
-New boots or boots that only you wear that fit right; toes not touching front of boot, heel area has padding up high and forward around the heel (like a pocket, no slipping), and breath well. You get what you pay for so don't look at the price, look for the best fit. I'll try two different boots, one on each foot to compare,but make sure you use the same insert in both shoes.
-Get a really good insole.
-Sprinkle corn starch or foot powder inside the boots and socks.
-Wrap heel with 1.5" white sports tape (breathes better and lets the sweat move away from your skin); first two, only about 6" long, then one 12" that goes all the around the heel to the crown of your foot; 2 rows, one above the other lapping over each other by a half inch. No wrinkles.
-Wipe Body Glide over the tape at the heel area to make it slipper.
-Use 2 pairs of socks; a thin liner sock and a light to heavy sock over that. No holes or wore-out spots and not loose. No wrinkles.
This takes time, but lace up boots so your heel does not move or lift up going up or down a hill.
Make shorter strides on steep terrain going up or down hill.
Brake in your boots and feet slowly at first for a week or two before the climb and see what works from above; trial and error.
PS- I'am going to try liquid Band-Aid first over my heels alone, then maybe white tape over that; t and e.
Quote from me, " Its hard to keep ahead of a pack of man-eating flies with blisters (on your feet)"
Last edited by 2 Bees on Sun Jan 26, 2014 4:47 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: to blister or not to blister...

Postby DukeJH » Thu Oct 03, 2013 5:26 pm

Now that's extensive blister prevention.

I just grit my teeth.
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Re: to blister or not to blister...

Postby MoapaPk » Thu Oct 03, 2013 7:36 pm

I didn't even realize that flies could get blisters.
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Re: to blister or not to blister...

Postby Jarpup » Mon Nov 04, 2013 4:58 pm

I normally use short strips of duct tape overlapping all the way around my ankle and pressed smooth/no wrinkles like others have mentioned. If you go over the top of your foot (and even some on your heel if you want) like this it shouldn't ball up. I definitely don't wrap a long, single piece around my ankle and foot; I don't want to interfere with circulation at all. You may also want to shave your ankles (just don't quote that) because duct tape is not a friend of body hair!

On a recent climb though I used white athletic tape instead and figured I'd be fine. It held up well (ie, didn't ball up) but there was so much friction between the athletic tape and my liner sock that I still got blisters. Weird. So I put some patches of duct tape over the white athletic tape (and blisters) and the problem went away. It makes sense, I guess; duct tape is much smoother so there should be less friction. I'm sold on duct tape.
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