It is a struggle if you have non-generic, sensitive feet; especially on the start of a hut trip or even several days of skiing back to back. I recently had a return venture with the beasts that caused me a missed day of skiing. This is especially true with the new plastic boots that don't conform to your feet like the older leather boots. There are bunches of “workarounds” out there and this short article is intended to mention some .
The trick is to prevent them or at least try to catch before they get inflamed or before the skin breaks. Once the blister breaks its close to happy game over. The old standby might help: layers of moleskin and triple antibiotic cream to get you to a place where you can get out of the boots and take the pressure off the area. There are band-aids specific for broken blisters with some cushioning, baby powder to keep dry, and a layer of duct tape over the band-aids. The idea is to keep any pressure / rubbing off the area , keep it dry and keep it sterile. But it is best to avoid this stage if possible.
Once you feel a blister area starting to rub, stop and take preventive measures ASAP. The longer you wait the more likely it is that you will be sidelined. One of the solutions is to put a strip of duct tape over the area as it protects the area by decreasing any rubbing by being so slick. The trick is to try to keep any edges of the duct tape from buckling over, catching the sock, and creating another hot spot. Rub the edges (round edges are better) down on a dry foot. The edges can still buckle up so be careful and check frequently. Another tape that works even better is Leukotape as it stretches nicely and is less prone to bucking up. A lot of BC skiers use it on areas prone to blisters before going out to ski. It can usually can be found at some ski shops or over the internet at a price of about $12 for a roll. I have had to take an xacto knife to remove an old pair of liners and extract the area of liner over a blister. For obvious reasons, not the best solution, but sometimes you have to do what you can.
Prevention is the key.
A good boot fit is a good starting point. Whether light touring or big plastic monsters, a good fit is soooo important. Before buying , if possible, walk around in the boots a good long time ( hour+) to feel how they are going to wear. If the toes are really cramped, it is probably too small. If there is excess movement/ rubbing or the foot coming up when lifting the heel, either the boot is too big, the boots lower strap is not strapped down well enough, causing the heel to lift on the liner, or the boot or liner combination is too loose a fit. Snug but not cramped. At the beginning of the ski season or when you buy new boots, walk around in the boots for a while before going out to ski to get feet acclimated to the boots.
To estimate the correct size of boot shell of a plastic boot, put on the bare foot without the liner or sock, push the toes to the front of the boot shell, then measure sticking the fingers down between the shell and the back of the foot . Give or take on the thickness of the liner and make / model of the boot, two fingers between back of foot and shell is close to the correct size.
The next thing is liners for plastic boots. Most of the plastic boot shells cover about 2 normal mondo sizes or more. To account for the different sizes of feet going in the boots the liners are of different thicknesses. Get the right match. Some people do fine with felt liners, but the trend is towards a moldable foam liner to give a form fit to your foot. This is where a good boot fitter can help. A good fitting can be the most important aspect of buying a boot. A boot that fits well, snug but not cramping your toes, rubbing heels / insides of feet / ankles / shins, is what you want. On the other hand ( for die hard do-it -yourselfers) lots of folks put the moldable liner in the oven heated to 225F for about 5-7 minutes, then push a fist size of paper in the front of the liner and put your feet in the plastic shells, then walking and standing on the toes on a slight ledge for 10 minutes as the liner cools and molds to your foot. The paper wad gives extra wiggle room for the toes so remove it after you first take your foot out of the liner. I have done it successfully but you can also ruin a liner if it gets too hot. So if in slightest doubt go to a fitter.
One of my favorite liners is the Intuition Pro Tour liner. They lace up in the front to keep you from rubbing your heels against the liner when lifting heels going uphill. The company has good customer service and can send you out a form to help get the best match. You can also put a thin lace-up ankle brace over a non lace-up liner and achieve close to the same effect (avoiding heel rub going up and down). The brace needs to be thin mesh material w/o any stays to avoid taking up too much room inside the shell.
Other skiers swear by using foot powder for dryness and reducing friction. There are several foot solutions that you can put on areas prone to rubbing that reduce friction. Hydropel is one that can be found online if not in your favorite store . These products can be found in the hiking shoe supply area as well. They can help a lot.
Socks. As with boots and liners there are individual solutions to prevent sock skin rubbing interface. A good ski boot sock, such as Lorpen triple layer, are a great investment as it is very low skin friction and sheds moisture. Other folks like very smooth, nylon like material, a thin sock close to the skin with or without an outer sock, depending on space, insulation, personal preference. I have not tried it but some skiers put panty hose material as an inner sock and swear by it. No kidding.
A good blister kit/ solutions might contain:
These are just a few of the preventions / fixes out there. Shoot me an email if you have your own special “ fix” at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feb 15, 2015