Why Do Hikers Ignore Hot Spots and Blisters?

Why Do Hikers Ignore Hot Spots and Blisters?

Everyone knows you need to pay attention to hot spots before they become blisters. But many hikers ignore them until it’s too late and then continue hiking on blisters, only to make them worse. Why is that? I’ve been reading Fixing Your Feet this week, by John Vonhof and Tonya Olson, and while they offer plenty of blister prevention tricks and remedies, they don’t ask the obvious question about why people fail to recognize hot spots and keep hiking, even after blisters form, only to make them worse. There must be some kind of mental block that prevents people from taking action, even when it’s to their benefit.

How Hot Spots and Blisters Form

A hot spot is a patch of skin that has become red and sore, usually as a result of friction in your shoe. The soreness occurs because the outer layer of your skin separates from the inner layers, a process called shear. A liquid, called serum, leaks in from neighboring tissues as a reaction to the injured skin to provide some padding and promote healing.

If the source of the shear is left unchecked, the gap will grow in size, fill with serum and cause a blister to erupt from the skin’s surface. But if you catch a hot spot before it becomes a blister and eliminate the source of the friction by covering the affected area with slick tape or a lubricant, the serum will be reabsorbed by the skin as it heals without forming a blister.

Why Don’t Hikers Stop to Treat Hot Spots or Blisters?

I can feel it when I have a hot spot forming on a hike. It might be because I have a pebble or stick caught in my shoe, or because I’m breaking in a new pair of hiking boots and they haven’t softened up yet to mold around my feet. So why do people blow off the signs and keep hiking?

  • Is it possible that hikers don’t recognize when a hot spot or blister has formed on their feet? Surely they can feel foot pain. Or do they not understand the potential consequences of it?
  • Do social pressures from hiking partners, make people ignore hot spots or blisters because they’re embarrassed to request a break to address foot issues in front of others?
  • Do goal-oriented people put off dealing with hot spots and blisters until they reach some milestone, like summiting a peak before they’ll take a break?
  • Has the practice of taking a break to rest or air out your feet, fallen by the wayside among hikers?

I’m curious what you think. Discuss.

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