What causes blisters when climbing Kilimanjaro and how to prevent it
blisters while mountain climbing

Quite simply, the majority of blisters are brought on by friction or heat, which results in the formation of space between the layers of skin, which is then filled with fluid.

Climbing Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest peak, is a dream for many adventurers seeking to conquer its majestic slopes and reach its summit. However, along with the awe-inspiring views and exhilarating challenges come the realities of hiking in demanding conditions, including the potential for blisters. Blisters, those pesky and painful fluid-filled sacs that form on the skin, are a common nuisance for climbers tackling Kilimanjaro. Understanding the causes of blisters on Kilimanjaro is essential for preventing them and ensuring a more comfortable and successful trek. Various factors contribute to blister formation on the mountain, from friction and moisture to footwear issues and foot biomechanics. In this guide, we’ll delve into the primary causes of blisters on Kilimanjaro and provide tips on how to prevent them, allowing climbers to focus on enjoying the journey to the summit without the distraction of painful foot ailments

Simply said, blisters are a terrible thing to have. If they are not addressed, they can make a pleasant trip, such as a run or a walk, into a miserable experience. They are unpleasant.

When you go trekking or running, some of the most common causes of blisters are as follows:

  • Wrong or ill-fitting footwear, either too tight or too loose. Your feet will be unable to move as naturally as they should in order to adjust to the terrain if your shoes are too tight. Because of this, hot patches may develop. There is also the possibility of friction being caused by excessive movement or shifting within your shoe. Both your feet and the activity you are participating in should be taken into consideration while selecting the appropriate footwear. You should make sure that the socks you choose compliment that fit, and you should avoid making too many changes to it. It is possible for liners, for example, to generate an excessive amount of material within your shoe. More about hiking boots
  • Junk inside your shoes that shouldn’t be there. Keeping your footwear clean on the inside and washing your insoles is a helpful piece of advice that I picked up from my running coach, who is a holder of the FKT on several major trails. Small amounts of dirt, rocks, or debris can become a significant problem in the form of a hot spot. When there is a lot of precipitation, dirt can transform into mud and become caked under the balls of your feet and behind your heels, which can cause friction. Regardless of whether or not you are using liners, this is a possibility. I would suggest wearing gaiters to prevent debris from getting into your footwear if you continue to have problems with dirt, pine needles, rocks, and other such things. Choosing the right size of your shoes
  • Bunching/loose-fitting socks. It is important to keep this in mind when it comes to liner socks, as it is why I believe many liner tips are outdated. Improved fit and high-density knitting are two examples of how the technology behind socks has advanced significantly over the past 15 years. In the past, the majority of hiking socks were either cumbersome or loose, which meant that they would slip or bunch up in some areas, resulting in friction or hot spots. When socks are like that, it is easy to understand why liners would be appealing. It may not be necessary to use liners if the performance fit is achieved correctly.
  • Excess moisture (which can, in turn, cause bunching). When you wear socks made of materials that do not wick away moisture, such as cotton, on rainy or sweaty days, the moisture can cause your socks to become sluggish, which can affect their fit and cause them to slip. It is important to keep your feet dry and to wear socks that are made of moisture-wicking fibers (Merino Wool is my choice) and have spandex reinforcement to prevent slippage or injury.

How to prevent getting blisters on the mountain

Preventing blisters while climbing Kilimanjaro or any other mountain like Rwenzori, Mount Kenya, Mount Meru, and Ol Doinyo Lengai requires proactive measures to minimize friction, moisture buildup, and other factors that contribute to blister formation. Here are some effective strategies to help prevent blisters on your trek:

1. Break in your boots properly before the trek

It is only natural that you would require boots that are the appropriate size and fit for a walk in order to prevent any blisters from developing on your feet. Wearing your boots in the appropriate manner is the only way to know for certain that they are capable of performing the work at hand.

This entails wearing them all the time and for extended periods of time. The most effective method for breaking in boots is to wear them on walks that are progressively longer and more difficult. You want to simulate and test your boots in the conditions that they will be subjected to on a significant hike at some point in the future.


If you spend a significant amount of time hiking in your boots, you will be able to shape them to fit your feet and avoid blisters from forming when you go trekking.

2. Keep your feet dry

Given this information, you should make it a point to wear boots that are either water-resistant or waterproof when you go on a hike. Boots that are not waterproof or that are simply water-resistant are not adequate for keeping your feet dry in the majority of weather situations that are encountered when trekking. In our article titled “The best hiking boots for trekking on Kilimanjaro,” we offer a comprehensive discussion on the topic of waterproof boots.

Always have spare socks to hand

When your socks become damp or really sweaty, you should also ensure that you change into dry socks. This rule requires keeping an extra pair of shoes in your rucksack at all times. When you take a break for lunch, for example, you should examine the condition of your socks and, if necessary, replace them with clean ones.

Before putting your feet back into your boots, you should first put on dry socks and then place a plastic bag over each sock. This is particularly important if your boots are wet. All of your socks and feet will be protected from getting wet again thanks to the plastic bags.

Never put on damp socks

It is also important to remember that you should only put on dry socks in the morning. In the event that you are going on a multiday hike and discover that you do not have any clean socks left, you should make sure to dry some old socks properly over night. On top of that, if the insides of your boots are moist or damp, you should let them dry overnight.

3. Wear two pairs of socks

Socks, which are similar to an additional layer of skin that is placed between your boot and your actual skin, serve the purpose of preventing hot spots and friction that may occur between the boot and your foot. Accordingly, two pairs of socks function in the same manner as two additional layers of skin.

Therefore, when going on a hike, you should think about wearing two different pairs of socks. In addition, this will provide some vital additional warmth for a walk that is cold.

Make the second pair sock liners

You may alternatively construct the second pair of hiking socks sock liners, which are often referred to as sock inners. This would be an alternative to making two pairs of hiking socks. These are often thin socks that are designed to fit closely against your foot. After that, you can wear your regular hiking socks on top of them.

Sock liners are extremely form-fitting socks that are typically made from silk, polyester, wool, or a hybrid fabric. They are typically narrower than regular socks.

It goes without saying that it is of the utmost significance that you use socks that are not only comfortable on your foot but also comfortable with each other. Instead of resolving the problems, a bunching of socks would make them worse.

Test out your socks beforehand!

Lastly, regardless of the quantity of socks you wear or the types of socks you wear on your walk, you should be sure to only wear socks that have been tried and tested. Certain pairs of socks feature seams that are irritating or fabric that causes chafing. Although sock marketers are able to (and frequently do) promise the moon, the only true test is to put their products to the test and see if they are successful for you.

In the same way that you should walk a significant distance in your hiking boots before using them on a significant hike, you should also use the socks you intend to wear with your hiking boots to ensure that everything is harmonious when worn for a significant amount of time.

More sock info

The article titled “Choosing the best socks you need for Kilimanjaro” provides information on a variety of topics, including the best materials for trekking socks and other related topics. Although the article is centered on climbing Kilimanjaro, the information presented here is applicable to any multiday hike, particularly one that takes place at a high altitude.

4. Protect your pressure and hot spots

As some of us are prone to chafing and blistering in different regions of our feet, there are a variety of products that you may purchase to protect the various locations on your foot.

Toe socks, in which each toe is covered in its own small covering, are something that you should consider trying out if, for example, you have a tendency to obtain blisters between your toes. You might think of them as a pair of gloves for your feet.

You might also try using a gel toe cap if you only have one or two individual toes that are bothering you. These offer incredible cushioning and are also referred to as toe protectors.

5. Try a foot spray

By generating a layer of sweat-resistant skin on top of the skin, foot sprays are available that can help prevent blisters from forming on the feet.

Barefoot Scientist PreHeels+ and Dermal Therapy Blistop are two well-known brands that you might feel comfortable trying out.

6. Adjust your bootlaces for long uphills and downhills

It is well worth the effort to loosen the laces across the foot and tighten the upper section of your boots when you are going to be trekking uphill for an extended period of time. Because you want your heels to remain securely in place but still allowing for healthy toe splay at the front, this is the type of shoe you should wear.

On the other hand, while you are going downhill for an extended period of time, you should loosen the laces across the upper area of your boots somewhat and tighten them across the feet. You want to make sure that your toes do not come into contact with the front of the boots, but at the same time, you need leave some space for your ankles and shins so that you can take the huge steps down.

Also, keep in mind that while you hike, your feet will swell. If you notice that your feet are beginning to feel pinched, you should schedule some time during the day to loosen them. Shoes that are of an excessively tight fit are one of the most common causes of foot blisters.

Following these preventive measures and paying close attention to your footwear and foot health can minimize the risk of developing blisters while climbing Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, Mount Meru, Ol doinyo Lengai or Rwenzori. Prioritize comfort and protection to ensure a more enjoyable and successful trek to the summit.

How to manage a suspected or developing blister

You must take prompt action if you come to the realization that a blister is forming on your foot or if you discover that one is already taking hold. At no point should you choose to dismiss a niggling; this would be more of an overreaction than an underreaction.

Therefore, you should immediately stop whatever you are doing, locate a seat, and apply a blister plaster or zinc-oxide strapping tape to the problem area. It is possible that a plaster or tape might be more suitable for your goal, depending on the size and position of the blister that is now in the process of developing.

On a hike, you should never bring along merely normal plasters, sometimes known as band-aids. There is a great probability that a conventional plaster will not have the necessary staying power if there is sufficient friction to cause a blister to begin to form on your foot. Rather than that, it will simply wrinkle or glide off.

In other words, before you go on your hike, we suggest you try out various blister plasters and sports strapping tapes from the comfort of your own house during your regular routine. It is not a good idea to find yourself in a situation where you are dealing with a blister that is developing and discover that the product you brought for this purpose is either ineffective or not suitable for you in some way.

Put on a blister plaster or a strip of zinc oxide tape that is the suitable size and shape for the area of your feet or ankles that is prone to blistering, and make sure to keep it on throughout the day.

If you do not have any plasters or tape on hand, you can try applying a small amount of Vaseline or lip balm to the hot place.

How to pop and dress a foot blister

If you have an enormous and painful blister, you will need to pop it. However, as mentioned earlier, it may be more prudent to leave smaller blisters alone and treat them as possible blisters.

However, if you do have a blister that is so huge and painful that you need to pop it to continue trekking, you want to be sure that you do it correctly.

Please make sure you pop it with caution by using a hypodermic needle. The blister should then be drained and allowed to dry.

At this point, it is important to apply antiseptic cream and then cover it with a hydrocolloid bandage to prevent the infection from spreading. Hydrocolloid dressings are a type of wound plaster that are not only waterproof but also provide a healing environment that is slightly wet despite their waterproof nature.

It is strongly suggested that you keep a hypodermic needle in its original, unopened packaging in your backpack at all times. This way, you will always have a sterile needle on hand for situations like this one; there will be no need to sterilize a needle by dipping it in hot water or in any other way. You will also be able to resist the temptation to pinch and rupture the blister with your fingernails, which may be unclean to begin with!

To put it another way, this is how you take charge of your life, folks. It would be best if you didn’t go on your journey with fear or adopt the mindset of a fatalist. Get a firm grasp on the circumstance by ensuring that you are properly prepared. Blisters should be avoided at all costs, and each time they do appear, you should be prepared to deal with them in a prompt and efficient manner.


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