10 Best Hiking Foot Care Products

10 Best Hiking Foot Care Products

“The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art,” said Leonardo Da Vinci, but like all hiking gear, you need to take care of it to make it perform optimally. When it comes to your feet, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, which is why we recommend protecting your feet from common hiking foot injuries and afflictions before they occur rather than suffering the consequences on the trail. That said, mishaps happen and we encourage you to carry remedies for the most common foot care issues to minimize your discomfort.

Here are the top foot care products we use and recommend for hikers and backpackers.

1. Leukotape Sports Tape

Leukotape_P_Sports_Tape

Leukotape is a sticky blister prevention tape with a strong zinc oxide adhesive that won’t come off, even in very wet conditions. It’s also breathable, so it can be safely worn by runners and backpackers for several days at a time. It’s best used as a preventative barrier over potential hot spots. Leukotape is not intended for use on pre-existing blisters, however, because the adhesive can pull off loose and broken skin. While it comes on a roll, the best way to carry Leukotape in your first aid kit is to pre-cut it into strips and attach it to the shiny paper (called release paper) that adhesive labels are attached to. Go into any UPS or FedEx office and they’ll give you tons of the stuff for free. I’ve been using Leukotape for years and still tape my heels before day hikes and backpacking trips.

Available from:
Amazon | Garage Grown Gear

2. Darn Tough Socks

Darn Tough Hiker
Darn Tough’s Merino Wool Hiking Socks are the most popular socks used by hikers to prevent blisters, wick moisture, and keep your feet cool and comfortable on the trail. They’re also tough enough to stand up to the abrasive sand and grit that gets into trail runners and hiking shoes, which quickly eats through other manufacturers’ socks. They’re available in all kinds of colors, lengths, weights, and sizes, with and without extra cushioning. When backpacking, it’s important to keep a dry pair in reserve to sleep in to help your feet recover after a long day of hiking. My favorites are their Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Socks and Hiker Boot Full Cushion Socks.

Available from:
REI | Darn Tough

3. Dirty Girl Gaiters

Dirty Girl Gaiters
Dirty Girl Gaiters are low gaiters designed to keep sticks, pebbles, sand, and other ground litter that you kick up when hiking from getting into your trail shoes or boots, where they can irritate your feet. They’re primarily used with trail running shoes and low to mid-ankle hiking shoes. They are ultralight, weighing less than 2 ounces per pair, and are popular with hikers because they’re inexpensive and they come in all kinds of wild colors and printed patterns that let you express yourself on the trail. They don’t have a strap that runs under your hiking shoes but attach to your laces with a hook and a velcro patch that your stick on the heel of your footwear. They’re not intended for winter use and dry quickly when they get wet.

Available from:
Dirty Girl Gaiters

4. Superfeet Insoles

Superfeet Carbon Insoles
Insoles have two big benefits: they help support your arch which is important when carrying a loaded backpack and lock your heels in place to prevent excessive pronation or supination that can lead to plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation of the heel that can put you on the sideline for weeks at a time. Superfeet makes a million different insoles, but the two most popular ones for hikers are Superfeet Carbon Insoles which are thin enough to fit into low-volume trail runners and hiking shoes, and Superfeet Green Insoles, which have high arch support that’s best worn in hiking boots.

Available from:
REI | Superfeet

5. Vaseline Ointment

Vasoline 1.75 oz

Cheap and plentiful, Vaseline ointment is good for reducing the friction between your toes or between your footwear and feet which can lead to blisters. It’s also useful for treating dry and cracked skin which is the precursor to a callous, by locking in the skin’s natural moisture and helping it to heal from within. Vaseline is available in a 1.7 oz travel size which is small enough to carry or you can repackage it in a small tub to carry with you. Vaseline also makes an excellent firestarter when smeared on a cotton ball, something that other anti-friction powders and creams can’t claim.

Available from:
Amazon | Walmart

6. Lotrimin Ultra Athletes Foot Cream

Lotromin Ultra

Athlete’s Foot is a highly contagious fungal infection that affects the skin on the toes and results in a scaly rash that itches like hell and is very unpleasant. It’s easy to pick up if you visit public places barefoot including shower stalls, locker rooms, or swimming pools and thrives in hot and sweaty closed footwear. Athletes’ foot is easily treated with a prescription strength topical cream, like Lotrimin Ultra, but you have to be vigilant and consistent when you use it in order to eliminate the infection or it will persist. Treatment usually takes about a week, although you may want to continue longer to make sure the fungus is fully eradicated. Lotrimin Ultra can also be used to treat jock itch, another frequent and unpleasant skin irritation experienced by hikers and backpackers.

Available from:
Amazon | Walmart

7. Victorinox Nail Clipper

Victorinox Nail Clipper

The Victorinox Nail Clipper folds flat to keep your toenails trimmed short to prevent them from banging against the front of your footwear, turning black, and falling off, which can be a painful process. They also include a coarse folding file that can be used to file down thickened or flaking toenails that have grown away from the nailbed as a result of repeated nail trauma. This is pretty common amongst serious hikers, but the coarse file makes it easy to keep them short and flush with the top of your toes to avoid irritating them further.

Available from:
Amazon

8. Engo Blister Prevention Patches

Engo Blister Prevention Patches
Unlike traditional blister bandages, ENGO Blister Prevention Patches are adhesive patches that are applied directly to your shoe, not to your skin. They are ultra-thin, 0.015 inches thick, so your shoe fit is unchanged. That means they last longer (up to 300 miles) and they won’t irritate your skin. They’re also water-resistant and stay attached even if they get wet. They work in all types of footwear from hiking boots to trail runners, dress shoes, and ski boots.  You can trim them as needed to prevent blisters on your heels, toes, the ball of your foot, the side of your foot, the arch, etc. I discovered these about 10 years ago and still use them today.

Available from:
Amazon | Walmart

9. Band-Aid Hydroseal Blister Cushion Bandages

Band-aid Hydroseal bandages
Band-Aid Hydroseal Blister Cushion Bandages are hydrocolloid gel bandages that are state-of-the-art for modern wound care. You can use them on popped or un-popped blisters. They provide a moist healing environment while using the body’s own moisture and enzymes to keep the wound hydrated for proper wound healing. They’re designed to be used by themselves, without the use of extra antibiotic ointment, and you keep them continuously for days at a time while your blister heals. You can tell that the process has begun after 24 hours, when the bandage plumps up a bit after absorbing your body’s moisture.  They’re the best treatment for blisters I’ve ever found that lets you continue hiking while letting a blister heal.

Available from:
Amazon | Walmart

10. Pro-Tec Athletics PF Sleeve

PF Sleeve

The Pro-Tec Athletics PF Sleeve is a compression sleeve designed for plantar fasciitis that can substantially reduce your heel pain and keep you on the trail. Overuse injuries such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis can result in significant swelling in the foot, ankle, or lower calf. Compression of these areas prevents fluid from accumulating in them and relieves the pain associated with swelling. Compression also helps blood flow from the extremities back to the heart through the venous system, increasing the flow of fresh oxygenated blood through injury sites, particularly where blood flow is normally poor like the Achilles tendon and foot fascia. I’ve used this PF sleeve myself. It slides over your foot and provides added support for the arch of your foot. You can wear a hiking sock over or under it and still wear your favorite footwear while it’s at work.

Available from:
REI | Amazon

See Also

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40 comments

  1. Is there a maximum shelf life on the Leukotape? I’ve got a roll that is several years old, thanks to comfortable shoes and good socks (Darn Tough). I recently had to use some of the tape during a too ambitious hike, and I found that the sticky part was getting onto the sock and not keeping the tape in place.

    • Good question. Nothing official. I find that the pieces lose their stick after about a year, so I refresh my stash of pre-cut strips at least annually. I also put it on at home before I even leave the house and just leave it on for days at a time. I also refresh my rolls at least annually. I find that the tape gets increasingly difficult to unroll if its old.

  2. Great list. It is crazy to me how many people do not make their feet a priority.

    I would also add trying toe socks to the list, they have worked wonders for me.

    I only wish I could figure out how to buy the Dirty Girl gaiters. I have tried for weeks to purchase two pairs (for me and my wife who needs them way more than me!). No luck, tried multiple browsers etc. and no reply from their ‘contact us’ page… Disappointing.

  3. I vouch for anti-friction creams or sticks over Vaseline or physical adhesives. My personal favorite is Trail Toes, but I also use Gold Bond Friction Defense Stick a lot as a preventative (cheaper alternative to Body Glide sticks). Diaper rash ointment is great for protection and recovery for basically every body part, but it sucks to work with when you don’t have a dedicated towel or lots of napkins to wipe your fingers.

  4. regarding Leukotape. I’ve used it for years ever since discovering it either here or on another hiking blog. like many others, I’d leave it on for days and it worked great! the last couple of times i used it for more than a day, I had a bad reaction where it left my skin itchy and with small hives. I just read through some reviews on Amazon and it seems it’s happening to others as well. the weird thing is, I never had a reaction in the past.

    does anyone know if they changed the adhesive formula? anyone else having an allergic reaction now?

    might be wise for others to test on a small area for a few days first.

  5. Jason, was it a fresh roll that gave you trouble? Was it a long time from its expiration date (if Leukotape has one)? I very much doubt that your problem was a result of the out-of-date problem that PStu was wondering about, but it would be nice to be able to rule it out completely.

    • Looking at the rear of my Leukotape box, it has an expiration date of 2025-03-04, so yes Leukotape does appear to have an expiration date. I’d be curious as to the source of this “bad” leukotape, because the zinc oxide adhesive in this tape (the same stuff you put on babies’ bums) is very well tolerated by the human population. In other words – where’d they buy it and what to the seller have to say when they complained?

    • it is not a fresh roll. I didn’t realize how old it is until I checked my Amazon history, it’s 4 years old now. this same roll gave me no troubles initially so I wonder if the age has something to do with it. I store it in an air-tight container between trips.

      I just ordered a fresh roll because this one is almost spent and, as others have mentioned in the comments here, is harder to unroll and get it to stick.

      it’s still the best preventative solution I’ve found and I’ve continued to use it- I just replace the tape every day and mostly avoid rashes that way.

      I’m backpacking the lost coast in October and will try to remember to post an update here regarding the effects with the new roll

  6. I’ve found KT tape to be much more user friendly than leukotape. My feet sweat something fierce. Additionally, I cannot deal with a sock that makes my feet hot or itch. Therefore, my sock of choice is drymax socks. Their moisture wicking capabilities are nothing short of impressive. I cannot vouch for their longevity as I don’t have many miles logged in them.

    • I haven’t tried Drymax socks. But I wore out 9 pairs of Darn Tough socks (which is very difficult to do) and sent them back to the manufacturer this year since they’ll replace them when they get thin or develop holes. They sent me a gift certificate to buy 9 new pairs worth $250, which I’m now wearing.

  7. Does anyone use moleskin any more?

    • I haven’t used it since discovering leukotape and the bandaid hydroseals. the adhesive in moleskin just wasn’t strong enough and the padding was thick enough to be irritating for me.

  8. Darn Tough are excellent socks but I have become a fan of Wrightsock with it’s double sock construction. The inner sock is white so the foot is less exposed to dark dyes.

    • I’m having a good results with Injinji toe socks with Teva sandals and Altra Timp trail shoes; especially after toe surgery to remove a ganglion cyst a couple months ago.

  9. One word of caution using athletes foot meds for the jock itch area. They may use the same active ingredients, but some of the athletes foot meds appear to have other ingredients to penetrate the tough foot skin, that will burn like the dickens if applied on the sensitive nether regions. It felt like I’d applied hot pepper oil and had to run around like a chicken looking for a way to wash it off. It probably depends on the brand and form, but it is wise to try only a small amount on yourself first.

    Other comment regarding irritation from tape. Thanks for the heads up. Sensitization can occur over time to certain chemicals and unfortunately, once sensitized, it takes a long break from it to become less sensitive again. People sensitive to scents and perfumes have that issue. Perhaps the tape manufacturer did change the adhesive formulation, or added too much, or had a slightly off batch of adhesive from a 3rd party supplier due to pandemic shortages, etc.

  10. I use six of ten. Thanks for the article. I would add Gold Bond Extra foot powder in the mini size, especially when it is really hot.

  11. I would add “SOLE” thermal moulded insolesinthe thickness that suits you best.

  12. I would add Bert’s Bees Hand Salve. I like that more than Vaseline as a lubricating ointment.

    Precutting the Leukotape and sticking it to label backing is the best hack ever.

  13. The arch of my foot often gets irritated after 2 days of hiking. Would you recommend that I put something on my foot or on my shoe, or both?

    • Try an insole, like the Green Superfeet insole I list here. It’s a lot less bother than attaching something to your foot. It might take a few days to get used to because it provides assertive arch support. Just buy it at REI so you can return it if it doesn’t work. They also sell other models that have less arch support that you can try, but it sounds like the Greens might do the trick for you.

  14. Regarding the Leukotape tape. I was introduced to it by a doctor who I hiked with for 6 weeks in 2018. He strongly recommended to rub the tape after application to heat if up for better adhesion. Have tried it both ways and it works for me to warm it up. Could be the reason why amazon reviews are either very positive or very negative.

    • Amazon reviews are often from people who have no idea what they’re doing. You really have to take them with a grain of salt. Rubbing the tap vigorously after putting it on works to help it stick better. I also advocate putting it on the night before you need it, which is what I do.

  15. Great tips, also Badger Foot Balm and Compheed blister healing strips.

  16. I prefer a light coating of Vick’s VapoRub on my feet before and after a long hike. As long as you don’t mind the greasy toes it will keep your feet hydrated, as I am known to sweat a lot which can dry out your feet.
    I believe it also can act as a fire starter when all else fails.

  17. When my latest pair of Superfeet were done I transitioned to Tread-Labs. I’ve only been on them 2 hikes so far but find them comparable to the Superfeet and like the fact that I’ll just need to replace the pad when it wears out. Less waste in the landfill and less $$ out of my pocket.

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