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How can I prevent blisters in wet conditions?

I spent a week hiking rugged trails in the Great Smokies, where conditions and socks were wet. After three days I developed blisters and raw sores on the tops of my middle toes on both feet. Never had that happen before. Can you help me avoid this in the future? My boots are a few years old and I use them regularly; my socks are good quality wool hikers, liners CoolMax synthetic. Guy Columbia, South Carolina

A: Simply put, your feet got wetter than they perhaps have in the past, and that accounted for your blisters. In fact, you might have been heading for the precursor stage of trench foot, when prolonged moisture softens the skin and begins to breed bacteria growth.
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Your socks combination sounds fine. My question would be: How often were you changing them out? On a trip such as that, if any rain at all were anticipated, I'd suggest carrying at least one pair of extra dry socks, two would be better yet. Store them in a plastic bag to ensure they really ARE dry. You'd want to change socks at least once a day or whenever they got wet, placing wet socks in a spot where they could dry out (hang them in the tent at night, for instance, or in a mesh pack pocket if the weather is dry for a bit). It's also a good thing either to go to bed without socks—so your feet thoroughly dry out—or just wear light, dry liner socks at night.

That said, it's not at all uncommon for extra blisters to form when it's wet. Your boots deform a little and, as I said, damp skin simply blisters more easily. So it's also prudent to carry water-resistant medical tape, in case the only solution is to tape up the sore spots. A little antibiotic cream would be useful, too—an infection could turn a minor blister into a trip-ending abscess.

Read "Ten Easy Steps to Happy Hiking Feet" from Outside Online's partner site for more advice on keeping your dogs smiling.

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Filed To: Hiking Boots