What to do about blisters
Most of us will have had a blister at some point - they can be disproportionately painful and even a small one can seriously spoil a good walk, but what can you do about them?
The first step is to make sure you have good, well-fitting boots. You boots need to allow your toes plenty of room but not allow your heels to move up and down as you walk. A good outdoor shop will help you buy the right boots. If you buy new boots for a long distance walk be sure to wear them in well first. You can read advice on choosing and fitting boots from the Ordnance Survey here.
Next you need to think about socks. All my walking life I have worn a thin inner sock and a good quality wool walking sock, but there are plenty of other options and different people have different preferences. I recently started to get blisters on my toes due to them becoming squashed together. Buying wider fitting boots helped but I find my traditional walking socks still squash my toes, so I tried a pair of Vibram FiveFingers merino blend toe socks and so far they work brilliantly for me. If you have the same problem it's worth trying a pair. They allow your toes to move independently and stop any rubbing between them. They are thin socks though, so if you are used to a thicker walking sock you may need to consider an insole in your boots, or another sock on top. Another option is to use petroleum jelly between your toes to reduce friction.
Walking socks come in a wide variety of styles and qualities, and everyone has a personal preference. Traditionally they are made of wool to wick away sweat and provide cushioning, but many are now made of man-made fibres and these can be good too. You can also buy waterproof socks.
If you are prone to heel blisters, or your boots are a bit slack on the heels then an option is to buy a pair of Blis-soxs. These gel-filled heel socks are brilliant at preventing heel blisters. They last up to 30 washes, and it is worth considering putting a pair into your pack before you set off just in case.
You can also change the insoles in your boots - if you find the soles of your feet are sore at the end of a day's walk it is worth trying a different insole, gel or memory foam ones can make a big difference.
What can you do to prepare your feet? In the past advice used to be to harden the skin on your feet with white spirit before a walk, but that doesn't really help. Instead make sure your feet are in as good health as possible, keep your toe nails short (and pack something to keep them that way if you are doing a long walk) and treat any fungal infections even if very mild. We have heard good things from people who have used a Scholl product - called Hirschtalg - to moisturise their feet for a month to 2 weeks before their walk. This product, which is mainly made for the German market, contains antler tallow and seems to soften and harden your feet at the same time. Worth a try if you can get hold of some.
Once on your walk do what you can to look after your feet. If you feel a sore area starting use petroleum jelly or a blister plaster to protect it before the blister starts to form. I do know people who use sheep's wool tufts taken from barbed wire fences to cushion sore areas - the fibres provide a cushion and the lanolin protects the skin, and you can find it pretty easily on many of the trails. Try to keep your feet dry, gaiters will help prevent water running into your boots. If you have doubts about how waterproof your boots are it is worth buying waterproof socks, or carrying a change of socks, re-waterproofing or buying new boots!
At the end of each day wash and dry your feet and dry your socks and boots as much as possible. Don't wear the same pair of socks for too long and let the air get to your feet in the evening.
If you do get a blister Compeed or similar will help, but hopefully if you follow all of the above advice you won't need any. Just in case you do we do sell a blister first aid kit.