How can I avoid getting blisters in my work boots?
There are three key elements to ensure you don't get blisters in your work boots:
- Fit and break-in of the boots
- Proper socks
- Foot hygiene
Fit and Breaking In
You have to buy boots that fit your feet. Consider length, width, heel, ankle, and how comfortable or uncomfortable they feel when they are laced up. You can also wear slip-on safety shoes and boots, but they have to fit properly. Remember that your foot moves around inside your boots, so they have to be snug but not tight when you are wearing them.
Here's a simple trick to help avoid blisters in new boots: when you're buying them, stick your hands inside and feel around for rough edges, rough stitching, and obvious ridges or seams. If you feel them with your hand, you will feel them with your feet. These things can be dealt with, but the best bootsare really well made without any of those rough parts.
(Read about Safety Toes: An Overview of the Materials That Keep Your Feet Safe.)
Another place to make sure the boot fits well and feels comfortable is around your heels. Blisters are common in the heel area, so pay close attention to the fit here. When wearing them, if you feel that initial heat that suggests a blister may be forming, do two things: change your socks and put a moleskin patch on.
Breaking in your boots is crucial. Wear them for an hour or two a day for a couple of weeks before you'll start wearing them all day at work. Take them in your hands and twist and turn them to help soften up the leather parts. The more you work it with your hands, the quicker and easier it will break in.
I've always used a leather treatment on my boots if the manufacturer allows this. Dubbin or a similar penetrating product will soften things up, which helps with the fit.
This one took me some time to get a handle on. My personal preference and recommendation is to get the best hiking or walking socks you can find. I invested in a name brand product, bought multiple pairs, and still use them today.
In terms of the best materials, the socks I use are Merino wool – some come with a blend of nylon and spandex. They work in warm or cold conditions, wick moisture well, and stand up to daily wear and tear. (Yes, even in the summer. Wool socks allow your feet to breathe better than other thinner materials.)
(Learn more about Winter Footwear: Making the Transition to Keep Your Feet Warm.)
You should always have a backup pair of socks. Take a couple pairs with you and change them whenever your feet get sweaty. Some folks recommend using foot powders, or even corn starch, in the boot or the sock. I haven't tried this but there's no reason to believe it might not help. If you do use these, remember to clean your boots out daily so you don't get any powder lumps or build up.
Keep your feet clean and dry. Check your feet for any signs of chafing, rubbing spots, and blisters, and deal with those immediately. Petroleum jelly works well on spots that appear to be chafing. Remember to trim your toenails and keep them smooth.
Work boots are meant to keep you safe and comfortable, so buy the best pair you can afford. There are great manufacturers out there and they can help make sure you get the boot that is both the safest for the type of job you do and the best fit for your feet.
Blisters on the feet are primarily caused from friction. If your insoles wear out, replace them to reduce the friction you experience when wearing your boots.
Blisters can take a long time to heal and will require first aid and daily care.
In summary, buy great fitting boots, wear them properly with good socks, keep a spare pair of socks on hand, and keep your feet clean and dry. That should be enough to keep blisters from forming.
Written by Henry Skjerven
Mr. Skjerven has consulted professionally for over 27 years, with extensive Canadian experience, literally from coast to coast but with a home base in Western Canada. His experience ranges from marketing, adult education, and heavy transportation (rail) to municipal public works, fleet and transportation, oil and gas construction in the tar sands, emergency response (Fire and Ambulance), Public Works, Parks and Recreation, Security, as well as human resources and software systems, including enterprise style projects.
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