Wider Is Better – For Blisters!

In my post from a few weeks ago about how I deal with blisters while walking in the heat, I proclaimed that I had pretty much beat my blister problems through the use of the proper type of socks and blister tape.  By using my favorite socks and liberal amounts of blister-tape, I had my blister problem under control for several weeks while walking in 105°F temperatures in the hills above my house in the Inland Empire – but none of these walks was over 12 miles and I was still getting some new, small blisters on every walk.  I figured I would just have to live with taping my feet before every walk and was resolved to living with the small blisters as they arised.

I was wrong about my blisters!

Then came my first overnight test walk at Salton Sea.  Even though I planned on walking 20 miles on the first day, the temperatures were relatively low – not forecast to go over 95°F. I figured blisters would not be a problem. Until I took off my shoes at the end of the day.

Houston - We have a problem!

Houston – We have a problem!

Not only did my feet sprout 6 new blisters, they were some of the worst blisters I’d ever  had.  The blisters were so bad that I had to cancel the second day of planned walking, and bad enough to know that something had to be done.  Blisters like this would put my whole 116 mile shoreline walk next June in jeopardy.

Blister warning signs

I was confident that my socks were about as good as I could get and there was not much room for improvement with my use of blister tape, so I started looking at the third variable, my shoes.

As I’ve mentioned in my other posts, I’ve been fighting with blisters off and on since I started walking long distance a few years ago.  I’ve gone through several pairs of shoes but other than making sure they “feel ok”, I didn’t put much more thought into them.  Looking back, I can see now that the shoes were trying to tell me they were part of the problem.  This pair of shoes (see photo below) from last year made it clear that there was not enough room in the “toe box” – you can see where my small toe (where I get some of my worst blisters) actually wore through the side. This is a sign that the shoes were too narrow and my toe was fighting to get out, but I didn’t listen.

Picture of a shoe with a hole warn through the side

The warning Signs

New shoes

After my feet healed enough to walk again, I headed down to the shoe store to see what my options were. This time I took my time, tried several different types and brands, walked all over the store in them to get a better idea of how they felt on my feet, and for the first time since I was a child, had my feet measured.

The foot measure’er said that my feet were “wide”.  Never in my life had I ever bought a “wide” shoe, but looking back I can remember many times that new shoes felt too tight around my toes so I can’t say I was surprised.

Picture of "wide size" shoe box

Wider is better!

The shoe man brought me a few pairs of “W” sized shoes and I gave them a try.  I was shocked at how comfortable they were!  For the first time in my life all of my toes had room to move, wiggle, and breath!

After trying a few different types of “W” shoes, I settled on a low-price “light hiking” shoe. I still was not convinced that wider shoes would cure my blisters so I didn’t want to spend a lot of money especially after I had just blown a few hundred dollars on my current (narrow!) walking shoes a month ago.

Picture of a wide-sized hiking shoe

My new “W” shoe

Since the blisters on my feet from the previous weekend were still open and healing, I had to go easy testing my new “wider” shoes.  I did a short 2 mile walk to get a feel for the shoes and I was amazed! Even with open blisters, I felt zero discomfort wearing my new wide shoes!  The next day I walked 5 miles, again with no discomfort.  On day three, I went 10.5 miles in 100°F, again, with no discomfort, no new blisters, and not even any ‘hot spots’.  Later today I will be doing a 12 mile walk in 100°F+ temps and I will not be wearing any blister tape – THAT is how confident I am in my new “W” shoes.  This time I really think I have this whole blister problem beat!

This whole adventure has been an exercise in learning – learning about Salton Sea, learning how to stay alive walking long distances in high temperatures, and learning to not do everything (like buying shoes) “the way I always have” – and hopefully, learning how to not get blisters anymore.

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