BLISTERS – "The Hunt Killer"
Of all things we prepare to encounter on a hunt, such as harsh terrain, altitude, foul weather, etc., the most detrimental may well be the smallest and most easily overlooked. A blister is a collection of fluid beneath the epidermis (first layer of skin). Unlike calluses, which are caused by prolonged rubbing, a blister most often occurs due to a period of intense friction on a localized area. A blister on the foot, or even worse, several blisters, can incapacitate even the most determined and toughest of us all. Fortunately, there are preventative measures that can be taken that greatly reduce the chances of onset and, if they do occur, the effects of blisters.
What Causes Blisters?
Many factors can play a role in causing blisters on the foot. For us hunters, footgear and all of their components are the determining factor. An improper fitting pair of boots can very well lead to blistering. A pair of boots that are too small will create pressure points, such as at the ball and also the toes, which will ultimately result in the formation of a blister. Conversely, a pair of boots that are too big will result in excessive movement within the boot eventually causing "hot spots" at areas like the back of the heel. To be sure you are wearing correctly fitted boots, wear them around the house until you determine they fit well. Once this has been determined, get out and put some miles on them. While breaking in the boots you can determine if any problematic areas exist. We offer additional modification for those of you who feel that the boots fit well, but an area exists that merits special attention.
As important as having a properly fitted pair of boots is being sure to use a boot that offers the necessary amount of support and control. A lack of control will result from a boot that has a flexible mid-sole. By subjecting your feet to excessive motion you will eventually create an area, whether it be the toes, sole, or heel, that has a penchant for blistering. This issue can be easily avoided by insuring the soles of the boots you are buying are stiff enough that they cannot be twisted by hand. A lack of support is equally harmful. When traversing rough, uneven terrain a non-supportive upper will allow your ankles to roll or twist, and the lateral sides of your feet to rub against the lining in your boot. This is especially the case for the foot that is on the downhill side while side hilling. Depending on the type of hunt it may be necessary to purchase a ten-inch tall boot for added support.
The rise in popularity of aftermarket inserts has also created a blistering issue. When fitted properly, footbeds can aid with control, support, and blister prevention. We spent years researching and developing the Lathrop & Sons' High Country Synergy Footbed to do exactly that. Unfortunately, there are many inserts on the market today causing more blisters than they are preventing. The main cause of this is more often than not improper fitting. The average aftermarket insert is 1/8" to 3/16" thicker than the standard inserts inside of boots. This essentially creates less volume inside the boot, which may cause contact of the arch of the foot with the tongue/gusset and the tops of toes with the toe-box. By all means, we recommend aftermarket inserts for all boots, but we urge you to let a professional fit them so that all benefits can be attained.
Chances are that some of you reading this will have one or more of the following foot deformities, all of which increase your feet's proclivity for blistering. Hammertoes are a fairly common occurrence often causing blisters to form where the constricted toes contact the toe-box. Bunions also create pressure where the protrusion and the lining of the boot meet. Another deformity, Haglund's Deformity, is a noticeable bump at the back of the heel frequently causing hot spots and blisters. Although not a deformity, a high volume foot may also tend to blister due to the difficulty of finding a boot that offers enough space to prevent pressure points. Once again the opposite is true as well for those with very low volume feet who have trouble controlling excessive motion within a boot that has too much volume. For all of the aforementioned maladies we have methods and solutions that may allow a comfortable fit for those who have always struggled to achieve one.
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." We've all heard this before and the problem of blistering is no different. There are many preventative measures that can combat the onset of blisters. Some, such as proper footgear fit and choice have already been mentioned, but there are other relatively simple methods that will help you as well. Anti-perspirant sticks or powders applied to the feet will reduce moisture build-up and friction thus helping to prevent blisters. Choosing proper socks that are constructed with non-abrasive material, like silk and merino wool will also help. Applying duct tape or moleskin to areas that you have found to be prone to blisters is also a smart step.
For the best protection we have assembled the Lathrop & Sons' Foot Aid Kit, which contains several products that we use in our office for those of our patients with Diabetes and/or Neuropathy. We feel our hunting endeavors are important enough to merit the same concern. There is no way to guarantee a blister will not occur at anytime. If you develop a blister DO NOT POP IT. The fluid inside the blister is to prevent infection. Instead, attempt to lightly clean the affected area and then cover with duct tape or mole hair to further protect the area.
For most of us a Western big game hunt is the culmination of playing the state tag lotteries, months of preparation, and usually more than a couple of our hard earned dollars. We think the experience should be physically demanding, as that is part of the mystique, but not necessarily painful. A severe blister can hinder you to the point of not being able perform at your best, and can cost you the opportunity at the animal you deserve. We hope that some of you can take some of the tips and advice we offered and make your next adventure even more enjoyable.