Are you a rock climber who is frequently the victim of blisters and hot spots? Do you ever find your feet in excessive pain after a long day out at the crag? Maybe your hands are covered in calluses and flappers? If this sounds like you, you have come to the right place!
In this article, we’ll be talking about the causes of rock climbing blisters as well as discussing how to treat any blisters that you inevitably get. Understanding how to take care of your hands and feet when climbing will make your experience so much more enjoyable, and we are here to give you the tools to do that!
What are the Causes of Rock Climbing Blisters?
Blisters are caused by the friction between your skin and a surface it is rubbing on. In climbing, as with many other outdoor pursuits, this friction is most often between the skin on your foot and your shoe. Figuring out how to avoid blisters when rock climbing is similar to figuring out how to avoid blisters for the rest of your life.
Rock climbers tend to get blisters on their heels and on their toes since these tend to be the places with the most friction. Depending on the fit of your climbing shoe, you could develop blisters in other places on your foot, but your toes and heels are the most likely places.
Tight or ill-fitting shoes typically cause blisters on rock climber’s toes. Especially when you are just getting started climbing, the tightest shoe is not always the best shoe. Make sure that your climbing shoes fit your feet well and are not overly aggressive since tight shoes are much more likely to cause blisters. That being said, if your shoes are too big, your feet will have more room to move around inside the shoe, which can also cause blisters.
Should You Tape Your Fingers for Climbing?
Taping your fingers for climbing is an age-old strategy to help guard against blisters, cuts, and flappers. A climbing flapper is when a section of your skin hangs loose or flaps off your hand. Typically, these happen from popping blisters or continued climbing on sharp or abrasive rocks. Taping flappers down is a common way to help mitigate the pain and prevent the skin from ripping off completely.
If you are climbing and start to feel like somewhere on your fingers is getting rubbed oddly, and it hurts, taping might be a great option. Sometimes climbers start the day off by taping, but other climbers like to wait until later to add tape if needed.
Crack climbers, or climbers who climb vertical cracks by jamming their hands and feet into the crack, are known for creating tape gloves and covering the whole back of their hands in tape. This helps minimize the friction between the crack in the rock and the more sensitive skin on the back of their hands. You can also buy crack gloves, which are also made to help protect your hands.
How to Cure Blisters from Rock Climbing?
Curing blisters or letting them heal is a process that will take time. Over repeated climbs and lots of old healed blisters, you are likely to start to develop tough skin across your fingers and palm, thus minimizing blisters altogether, but getting these rough and rugged rock climbing hands will take some time.
If you have a blister on your hand, you should first determine if covering up the blister will impede your ability to do things with your hand. If it does, you may need to either call it a day and take a break or think about finding a sterile object that you can use to pop and drain the blister. If you are able to just cover the blister up with tape or a bandaid and continue climbing, you are welcome to do so!
If you get a blister on your foot, the same idea applies. If you find that the blister is changing how you put weight on your feet, you may want to consider calling it a day and letting your feet heal. If you think you can keep climbing and enjoying yourself, even with the blister, covering the blister with tape, a bandaid, or moleskin is going to be your best bet.
Some people firmly believe that you should pop blisters, while others believe that you should never. We’ll let you decide what you want to do with your blisters, but just know that there are some risks that come with popping a blister. First, you’ll want to make sure you can cut the excess skin off instead of pulling it because pulling it can cause more damage.
Next, you’ll need to use a sterile object for popping the blister. A great option is a sharp sewing needle or pin that you have heated with a lighter and then allowed to cool down. Once you pop the blister, make sure you drain the liquid out and keep the skin on if possible. Keeping the inside of the blister clean is your primary goal.
Other Tips to Avoid Getting Blisters When Climbing Rocks
Depending on where your blisters are, some of these tips will be more or less helpful, but overall, these are our favorite tips and tricks to help your figure out how to prevent blisters when rock climbing:
1. Make sure your climbing shoes fit well
Getting a good fit on your climbing shoes is the best way to avoid developing blisters at all. Your shoes should fit similarly to a sock. They should hug your foot, but your foot shouldn’t feel like it’s being squished. On the other hand, your foot shouldn’t be surrounded by extra air space because that can also help cause blisters.
A common rookie mistake is getting really aggressive climbing shoes right off the bat. These aggressive, downturned climbing shoes are great for certain types of climbing but are not the best all-around shoe and are not suitable for beginners. Make sure you research and find out what shoe style will be best for the climbing you do, as well as what shoes will fit your feet the best.
2. Give your skin time to recover.
We know that it can be hard to take any days off, but if your skin is in horrible shape, the best way you can prevent more blisters from forming is to give your skin some time off. One way you can help your skin prepare for longer climbing trips is by climbing regularly leading up to the trip. This will help your skin form calluses that will protect it during your days out climbing.
Figuring out how to heal ripped climbing skin can be challenging, but really the best answer is to prevent your skin from getting really bad in the first place. Make sure that you allow your skin to adjust to any sudden changes in frequency in climbing and understand that it will need time to build up calluses and recover after long days of climbing.
3. Take care of your hands after a full day of climbing.
If you are worried about your hands developing blisters, the best way to minimize that risk is by taking good care of your hands at the end of a day of climbing. Investing in a good hand balm, such as ClimbOn or something similar, can really help your hands heal without discouraging the formation of calluses. Using a traditional lotion or salve will soften your calluses, making it more likely for you to get blisters the next time you go climbing.
Using climbing tape for blisters is also a great way to help protect your hands from any further injury. If you protect your newly formed calluses from getting damaged, they are more likely to stay and help prevent blisters from forming.
Wrapping Things Up: How to Prevent Blisters When Rock Climbing
Learning how to prevent and treat blisters from rock climbing is essential to making sure that your hands and feet are in good condition. Prevention starts with the proper gear, so make sure you take time to figure out what climbing shoes are best for you. Once you have a blister or a small hot spot, it is essential that you take care of it quickly to prevent any further development of a blister. We hope we’ve given you all the tools you need to effectively manage and treat your beat-up climbing skin and blisters.