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What should I do if my heels are blistering in my new hiking boots?

I bought the Oboz Sawtooth II Mid BDry Hiking Boots (for women) about 6 months ago, and found that they are a perfect fit for my narrow low volume foot EXCEPT they rub the back of my heel pretty significantly when I walk uphill.

I know any shoe will have a bit of a "break-in" period, but I've worn them multiple times and continue to blister on the back of my heel. Given they're an otherwise great fit, I'm wondering if this is a common issue and how others may have solved for it.

Thanks!

7 Replies

Hi there @ebaldini!

Thanks for reaching out to the Community!

Sorry to hear that you are having this trouble! I have moved your conversation over to our hiking board so that you can easily get advice from our other users!

In addition I’m going to tag one of our footwear experts @REI-PearlD to see if she might have some tips!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.
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@ebaldini we're so sorry to hear that your heel is blistering. This is not ideal, although it's smart to recognize there is a "break-in" period with most new boots. Blistering means there's too much up-and-down movement in the heel cup as you're walking uphill and there are a few tactics to try to minimize/eliminate this movement, including:

  • Add a liner sock - the liner sock hugs your foot, so if there is movement, the liner sock and the 2nd sock rub against each other, eliminating the direct contact against your heel. Also, make sure you're not wearing cotton socks and instead choose synthetic or wool, which both manage moisture better than cotton
  • Add an insole to your boot - an insole puts extra support under your arch, which also then locks your heel back in the heel cup of the boot, ideally eliminating an excess movement in the back; insoles can also help keep your toes from touching the front of the boot on the downhill, because the arch is held in place and again eliminates movement of the foot in the boot
  • Lacing techniques can also help really cinch your heel into place 

Hopefully one or more of these suggestions will help! If not, once our stores reopen, don't hesitate to bring your boots in so our footwear folks can troubleshoot further!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.
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@ebaldini Heel blisters are generally caused by heel lift and there is some good advice already given. 

Generally modern shoes while you do need to given them a chance, do not need much break in so if they are giving you blisters, the fit is wrong in some way.

This might be fixed by thicker or better socks.  If I wear cotton socks with my boots I get heel blisters after about 5 miles but Darn Tough wool blend hiker socks fixed that for me.

Another thing to try is to tape the area you get the blisters with Leukotape before your hike and before you get the blisters.  You can find Leukotape online and probably at good drug stores.  You can also use it on any hot spots before they develop into blisters during your hike.  This thin fabric tape sticks well and resists coming off.    I don't recommend putting it directly over blisters that have already formed although you can used it to secure moleskin or gauze in that case...gets into the whole should you drain a blister it or not debate which is a personal and situational decision.

@ebaldini It also helps to wear the boots in more sedentary situations (around the house or very casual Fridays in the office, shopping etc.) with the socks recommended above and with tape - just for brief periods.  Your feet an boots will eventually get along.

 

Wasn't there a hit song, "Breakin' In is Hard to Do"?  Absolutely true.

 

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Oh yeah! Neil Sedaka. The man!

@ebaldini  These days you shouldn’t have to break in new boots so much. 

They  don’t fit.

Take them back immediately.

 

REI Member Since 1979 YouTube.com/philreedshikes

Hi @ebaldini, you have already received some great advice from the other people who have replied. 

I just wanted to add that friction blisters, which is the type of blister that you are describing, come from the combination of moisture (most often from sweat) and motion (the repeated and continuous rubbing of skin, in this case). These blisters are very common on the heels, especially if the hiking boot you are wearing fits you loose in any way (such as the rubbing on your heel while walking uphill that you described). As @OldGuyot mentioned, if these blisters are still occurring after the typical "Break-in Period," then most likely the shoe isn't the right fit. This could be a size issue (i.e. you may want to downsize by a 1/2 size or so), or it could also be the way you are tying your shoes, and the tightness that you are creating via the laces. Contrary to popular belief, you want your hiking boots to fit tightly, as a tight fit will prevent the "motion" component of friction blisters (i.e. even if you sweat, if your foot has no room to rub up and down / side to side against the shoe, you won't get a blister). 

That being said, I suggest three things:

1) Make sure that you are tying your laces tightly, especially those towards the top of the tongue of the shoe (the laces that close the shoe around your shin/ankle).

2) If that doesn't help, you may want to look into the liner socks/thicker socks and insoles that @REI-JenK and @OldGuyot have mentioned. 

3) When you purchase a new hiking boot, be sure to make sure that the fit is tight (not so tight that you loose circulation/feeling in your toes/feet), but tight enough that there is no wiggle room (if your feet swell due to heat while hiking, you can always loosen the laces... thus, the most important "no wiggle room" is between the toe and heel - length, and between the inside and outside of your feet - width).

Friction blisters suck, and sadly they are the wound I find myself treating most on others when I have friends or encounter strangers on the trail (I am a certified Wilderness First Responder, which explains me treating strangers haha).

Hope you're able to find a solution!

www.brynsharpphotography.com

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.