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Hiking Blister Prevention: The Best Time to Tape Your Feet Before a Hike

Leukotape P Protective Tape
Leukotape P Protective Tape

I tape my heels and the tops of a few toes with Leukotape, a very sticky protective tape, before all of my winter hikes, regardless of the type of boots I wear. Leukotape is much tougher and more durable than the duct tape I used to tape my feet with before I discovered it and will stay on your feet for days, even if you get it wet.

I’ve found that the best time to tape your feet with Leukotape is the night before your hike when your feet are warm and dry (or after they’ve dried and warmed up in your sleeping bag.) The sticky zinc oxide adhesive on Leukotape seems to adhere much better if it’s given time to cure overnight before you start hiking.

Leukotape is a non-latex tape that is very resistant to tearing and wearing through. It’s best used as a preventative over potential hot spots and not something you want to put over an open blister because it will pull off any remaining skin when you remove it. Leukotape is non-elastic so it has no give in it and is very different from kinesiotape, which has some stretch and is used by physical therapists to tape limbs for better alignment or function.

Although Leukotape is very sticky, it ‘s quite easy to pull off by hand. Some people also coat their feet using Benzoin Tincture before applying Leukotape to make their skin even stickier, but I haven’t found that to be necessary and just stick on a piece from the roll.

I find that tape the 1.5″ wide size is fine for taping my heels. I cut small rectangles of Leukotape to cover the tops of my toes below the nail and eliminate any friction against the inside of my boots. I am careful to keep the tape on top of the toes only and not let the tape drape between them to prevent any blisters from forming there. I’ve had the happen before when using tiny band aids to cover blisters on my toes – bad idea.

Leukotape
Leukotape

When cutting Leukotape, it’s important to have very sharp pair of scissors because the tape is tear resistant. Some people round the corners as well to prevent it peeling back when you pull your socks over it. I’m just careful to keep the sock away from the heel when pulling my sock back on, which helps to prevent the ends from curling.

If there’s a lot of friction between the Leukotape and your sock, the adhesive on the tape can bleed through the tape and adhere to the inside of your sock. You can easily remove this adhesive though by wiping off the sock with medical adhesive remover (thanks for this tip, Pam!)

When do you tape your feet before a hike?

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23 comments

  1. I never got blisters in 3 season hiking but when I started winter hiking this year I started getting dime size blisters on both heels. I started using this tape with the Benzoin Tintcure and I have not had another blister this winter until this weekend when I wore my plastic boots for the first time. My left and right toe just beside by big toe each started getting a hot spot, the beginning of a blister so I will now be taping those areas too. This tape really works.

  2. Blisters was a big problem for me, I got them on every hike. I tried tape but it always falls off. Maybe this stuff is different. However, my problem has been solved by rubbing glide stick on my feet every morning. No more blisters now.

  3. I totally should’ve used this on Monday’s snowshoe. Now I have a blister on the ball of my foot. I totally have this tape, but always forget to apply it before I go out in my winter boots.

  4. This stuff is great. I tape up a couple of problem toes I have to keep them from rubbing when I hike. I have hiked through 500 yards of mud and water and not had the Luko tape come off. Do be careful with the edges though as mentioned in the article. Pulled a stupid one time and didn’t tape it right. Then the edge of the tape give me a blister on the adjoining toe. I need to come up with a good way to carry some with me on longer hikes for replacements as the role is heavy.

    • I’ve had problems repackaging strips by sticking them onto shiny paper. This tape is so sticky that it pulls the surface of the paper off and is useless. Maybe just keep partially used rolls and bring them along instead,

      • Not sure if you mean by shiny paper. I use the wax (?) impregnated paper back that remains after labels are removed and have had no problem getting it off clean.

        When using the roll I find I make a lot of contact with my fingers with the end pulling off a strip, so I cut that portion off as part of rounding the edges. I also find use of a nice pair of forceps helps. For those interested, the ones offered on the below web page are really good, and Norman Schwarzkopf recommended for tick removal.

        http://countycomm.com/tweezerblack.html

        On covering a blister directly……..as long as you know that the tape stays on until the blister/skin releases it……..you can cover. I don’t recommend, but in a pinch.

        Living in the wet PNW, I find the benzoin really helps. To make it less messy (though I agree the night before application is really important), I bring cut off latex glove fingers for applying.

      • By “shiny paper” you probably mean silicone release paper. It’s used for backings on stickers, self adhesive mail labels and envelopes. I have our shipping department save all of them they use for me and distribute them to my backpacking group.

    • I cut pieces and put it on cookie sheet paper, peels right off with no problem. ready to apply when I need it

  5. I used this tape at Philmont Scout Ranch last summer…put it on the second day and had to use a jack-hammer to get it off at base camp upon returning. I never leave home without it!

    • I also never left home without a jack-hammer in my pack but hauling twenty miles of air hose so I could use it in the back country just got too heavy. I like your idea of using it at base camp instead.

  6. I use Hypafix Self Adhesive Dressing Retention Tape
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B003L87EK/ref=oh_details_o01_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    the glue is not a problem with this, but it stays on ok

  7. Instead of using Leukotape, or perhaps in addition, does using liner socks help you to prevent blisters? I find that the socks merely add bulk to your hiking shoe or boot.

  8. I’ve found Injinji toe-socks helpful, because I have crooked toes that overlap slightly. I’ve also found the “fixing your feet” website helpful in learning blister prevention strategies. There’s lots of information there on different kinds of tape and taping methods, and other sorts of devices, products and strategies for blister prevention and treatment (and other foot problems, too). Like Philip, the fellow behind the site (John Vonhof) recommends preventative taping in advance of your event (run, hike, whatever).

  9. I love Leukotape. Besides backpacking and in the gym, it works even better then duct tape, imo. We were sailing once and the gooseneck broke, since I always have my diddy kit with my essentials, we used leukotape from my first aid to fix it …. good times.

  10. The worst part of Leukotape is trying to get it off! Once a blister has formed, I have to be careful to not tear the skin because this stuff is rocket science crazy.
    It definitely saves my feet every long hike, works amazing on hot spots and stays for days.

  11. I actually have issues with chafing on my legs (under my socks) on longer mile hikes. My legs get red/rashy from my socks. I’ve tried many brands of socks, different materials (synthetic/wool), sock liners, etc. I’ve used lubricants – Body Glide, Hike Goo, etc. Lubricants help but don’t eliminate the problem. Sometimes I look like I have a sunburn for 2 weeks after I hike – just where my socks are (above ankle).

    I’ve been thinking about taping my legs to see if this helps. Anyone have experience with this?

    • Sounds like heat rash. I get this sometimes. If you wear boots, switch to trail runners and wear a very thin liner sock with them. That will help. Also take a lot of breaks, cool off you feel and legs during breaks in cold streams or air, and hike shorter miles if you have to.

  12. Tape is helpful, but it sometimes results in skin maceration
    because of the buildup of moisture on the skin.
    Suggest trying a lotion called TapeRelief before applying the tape?
    It also helps avoid maceration either with or without tape.

  13. I don’t really hike in the winter, but normally I’ll put bunion pads on my big toes and a toe bandage on one of my toes (the pad on this one toe tends to slip under the pad of the adjacent toe), and I hold them in place with horse wrap tape. It’s as sturdy as leukotape, and cuts more easily. Protects my ankles, toes, and heels and works like a charm. YOu can get it at any pet store, Tractor Supply Store, or feed store.

  14. The best advice I can give, is life lessons. I purchased the leukotape for my 100km trail walk the other day. I also taped up my feet. Lesson one, best tip of all – don’t take up your whole feet like a mummy. I thought this was a good idea. The tape was tight mostly and even when loose it felt pretty difficult to walk. After 25km in I took my shoes off and with the help of a team to their amusement, we cut the tape off. After removal, the tape had ripped skin off my feet and blood was apparent. Funnily enough there was a small village of blisters too (even with all that tape). After removal, I felt free again – Yay! Upon going to first aid, they advised the leukotape should be avoided. Too sticky, so it rips the skin. Not ideal for a long hike or in my case a trail walk. Thankfully, I learned bandages are the best way to wrap your feet to avoid blisters and reduce the pain. As my feet repair, these are the best lessons I can give you. TLDR: don’t wrap your feet like a mummy, avoid leukotape and yes I completed the 100km with pain, but life lessons gained.

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