Aug 21, 2011 at 1:23 pm #1278347
I just got back a few days ago from a JMT thru-hike. I hiked the entire trail (more than 220 miles including the trail out to Whitney Portal) WITHOUT A SINGLE BLISTER.
Some of you may be thinking, so what? But for me this was a big change, as those who have hiked with me in the past can attest.
So, what's the magic formula? As the book Fixing Your Feet makes clear, what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another. That said, here are the changes I made from previous hikes:
1) Minimalist footwear lifestyle: For the past 2 years I have worn nothing but minimalist footwear when I am not backpacking on long trips. I wear Vivo Barefoot Dharmas to work (one pair black, one pair brown gets me by), and all my casual shoes are minimalist. I also day hike and do short backpacking trips in minimalist shoes (I've tried many brands.) I suspect, but cannot verify, that this has been the biggest contributor to my no blister trip. My feet have toughened enormously and have calluses in all the right places. My ankles and feet have sprouted muscles where I did not know feet had muscles. This has prevented the kind of soreness and other nagging injuries that sometimes cause you to walk just different enough to create blisters over the long haul.
2) Shoes that fit: This should be obvious and easy to deal with, but as many of us know it's not. We think our shoes fit great until we go on a big trip and little issues become big issues. Here is how I ensured good fit. Last summer I went on 2 50 mile trips in New Balance 790s, the predecessor to MT 100/101s. No issues with blisters, so I bought a few pair and stockpiled them (knowing they would be discontinued), saving one pair brand new for the JMT.
3) Sock variety: On this trip I brought 3 pairs of socks, each one a different brand. At each rest stop / water resupply I took off my shoes and socks, let my feet dry out, and then put on a different pair of socks. Thus, my feet were never rubbing in the same way for more than a couple hours at a time. Not sure it matters which brands, but I used Feetures, Wigwam, and Wright socks. All lightweight running socks, though the Wigwams were much heavier than the other two, so I tended to use them on uphill climbs to avoid my foot jamming the end of the thicker sock into my shoe. At mountain passes, I switched to the wright socks or Feetures for the downhills.
4) Gaiters: I used Dirty Girl gaiters last summer when testing the 790s and used them again on this trip. Invaluable to keep heavy dirt and grit out of my shoes, but not bullet proof. On the JMT, there is just too much scree to expect to keep it all out, especially when wearing mesh trail runners.
I do not know what proportion of the blister free experience came from each of these methods, but I just thought I'd throw this out there for those who have had blister issues in the past. Having no blisters certainly made the JMT a much more enjoyable experience than it would have been with constant foot care issues.Aug 21, 2011 at 1:36 pm #1771658
John S.BPL Member
Minimalist footwear and gaiters would have nothing to do with it, IMO.Aug 21, 2011 at 3:03 pm #1771688
@davidlutzLocale: Bay Area
Hello Jeremy –
I've been waiting for posts from you guys, I saw Tony's earlier and now yours. Still waiting patiently for photos (I know there are photos, lots of photos).
BTW – You guys camped near a member of our party on a side trip near Center Basin/Bubb's Creek.
Congratulations on the successful completion of your trip, especially as regards your feet!
While I don't have problems with blisters, I do struggle with screwy feet. I have learned to disregard the overall length of foot shown on the Brannock Measuring tool and focus on the distance from heel-to-ball when determining shoe size. Moving up one-half shoe size helped tremendously.
I also consistently use hydropel (or equivalent) and baby powder, especially if my feet get wet.
Anyhoo, congrats again and good work on your feet..Aug 21, 2011 at 3:15 pm #1771692
John: Care to elaborate? You could be right, but just curious on your reasoning.
Thanks.Aug 21, 2011 at 3:18 pm #1771694
Dave: Tony will post photos after he gets through all 3,000 plus of them.
Who did we camp near? John M? Off topic, so send me an email or pm if you want.
I also move up a half shoe size. I don't use hydropel or powder though. My feet were wet off and on throughout much of the trip due to high water this year.Aug 22, 2011 at 9:07 am #1771873
jeffrey armbrusterBPL Member
@bookLocale: Northern California
+1 on the book Fixing Your Feet.Aug 22, 2011 at 9:38 am #1771883
Todd TBPL Member
@texasbbLocale: Pacific Northwest
"Minimalist footwear and gaiters would have nothing to do with it, IMO."
That's certainly not the case for me. Minimalist footwear, mainly in the sense of low- or three-quarter-tops instead of full boots, makes a huge difference in pressure on my heels. I have long, narrow feet and skinny ankles, which may contribute to the phenomenon.
And scree gaiters (I use Dirty Girls) make a huge difference for me as well. I have a lot less trouble with bottom-of-the-foot blisters when there's no grit down there.
I do agree that good fitting shoes are essential and just recently learned the value of sock variety. I haven't been changing socks as often as the OP, but I've discovered that I prefer my Smartwools (or other "slick" varieties) on uphills and my old-school Raggs (rougher, less slippage) on downhills.
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