Taking Care of Your Feet: Preventing Blisters with Leukotape and a Little Common Sense - ITS Tactical

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Taking Care of Your Feet: Preventing Blisters with Leukotape and a Little Common Sense

By Bryan Black

Ask any accomplished runner, hiker, backpacker, or outdoorsman how they prevent blisters and you’ll more than likely get different answers from each person you run across.


Today, I’d like to share what’s been working for me and my experience with Leukotape. First off, I’ll share my history with blisters and how my evolution in activity has led me to this point.

High Mileage

I can’t share my history with blisters without mentioning the long mileage we put in weekly during my time at BUD/s (Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL Training), which interestingly enough, was a time in my life that I never had blisters, even during Hell Week. During BUD/s we’d run a total of 6 miles just to eat everyday, in addition to weekly 4-mile timed runs and at least two conditioning runs that were anywhere from 6 to 8 miles, depending on the instructor leading it.


You’re always running at BUD/s and on your feet. Granted the chow runs to and from the galley were at a “BUD/s shuffle,” which meant just fast enough to not get hammered if the instructors passed by and thought we weren’t moving quickly enough, but I digress. I attribute the long miles and always being in boots as the reason I never got blisters. In other words, my feet got used to it. Let me note that I feel this is the number one way to prevent blisters, adapting.

Another few things that I feel helped, are that we ran in Bates 924 boots that didn’t have a break-in period and I always had on wool socks. We also had the luxury of getting new boots whenever ours started breaking down. I’ll also say that this time in my life without blisters was also full of plenty of trips to the surf zone and my feet stayed wet quite a bit. This brings me to the micro-climate going on in your footwear that breeds blisters.

Heat, Moisture and Friction

Blisters are caused by friction and amplified by moist environments. While there’s other factors that can contribute to blisters, it’s more common for them to develop in warm conditions. It’s really as simple as that, if you can reduce heat, moisture and friction, blisters won’t have what they need to develop. This is also where the many schools of thought come in and the plethora of products that can leave you confused.

There are three things that can be stated, which most people you run across will agree with:

  1. Invest in proper footwear for your environment and replace worn out footwear immediately.
  2. Wear wool socks, which wick moisture and have antibacterial properties to help avoid stink.
  3. Take care of your feet and keep your toenails trimmed straight across, never rounded.

While heat, moisture and friction matter, I’d like to address the more common cause of blisters in my experience, being unprepared.

Your Feet will Adapt

As mentioned above, I never had blisters during BUD/s and I attribute that to the old 7 P’s – Proper Previous Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. I’m just as guilty of that as anyone though and I’ll use this past weekend as an example. I’m perfectly fine with making an example out of my own mistakes.

Just like many of you, we all have busy lives. This of course is no excuse, I’m just saying that I can relate. What I’m guilty of, is not putting in the proper mileage (again) before the Memorial Day event called Carry The Load. If you’ve kept up with ITS, you’ll know that we formed a team to “carry the load” together for the 20 hour and 13 minute event. There’s no obligation to walk the whole time or even what kind of weight you “carry,” but knowing the 34 miles I put in last year over 20 hours, I knew that my mileage was going to be equal or more than that this year and that I’d be carrying the same 25-35 pounds of weight again.


I did get some mileage in before the event, but not what I should have to prepare myself. Honestly, I wanted to test out some new ideas I’ve been reading about for blister prevention and I stupidly knew that my poor workup to the mileage for the event would be perfect for that. That may sound sadistic to some, but I actually like putting myself into uncomfortable positions to learn more about my capabilities.

Explorations in Blister Prevention

You may wonder at this point in the article why you even need to worry about blister prevention. If you’re using your training as a way to increase mileage the right way and allowing your feet time to naturally get used to your proper footwear and the mileage, what’s left?

My personal opinion is, nothing. But I’ll also say that I don’t wear boots daily since I’ve left the Navy and as mentioned above, didn’t train properly with a weighted pack before this year’s Carry The Load. This is a breeding ground for blisters and I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s why most people get blisters and need to learn more about how to prevent them.

My feet were destroyed after Carry The Load last year due to wearing improper footwear and poor training, which caused me to look into blister prevention quite a bit more since then. Even the long mileage Mike and I put in during the GORUCK Ascent a few years back, where we climbed 14’ers, didn’t cause any blisters for me. Why? We trained properly, wore proper footwear and wool socks.

Even though I know the proper formula for blister prevention (in my opinion) and have mentioned it here, my desire to learn more about myself and my capabilities, led me down the blister prevention path. Let me be specific, the blister prevention path for those that don’t follow the 7 P’s.

Fixing Your Feet

The heading title is also that of a great book, Fixing Your Feet by John Vonhof, recommended to me by a friend in this past year and was the start of my research into blister prevention. That and the glowing endorsement of Hydropel from one of my favorite Backpacking books, Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips by Mike Clelland.


Fixing Your Feet is what I consider to the be bible of anything you’d ever want to know about foot care. The amount of information there is almost overwhelming and the author even notes a few primary chapters to read first. After that, he recommends using the book as more of reference to particular issues rather than reading it from cover to cover.

As mentioned above, Hydropel is something I’ve been researching for quite awhile too and Fixing Your Feet helped me understand more about what it was used for. With a lubricant such as Hydropel, it can initially reduce friction, but may actually increase it over a long period of time. Lubricants primarily help to resist pruning due to moisture and some are even sweat resistant, like Hydropel.

What really piqued my interest is using a lubricant the night before to keep the skin soft and supple during the event. Unfortunately though, in my research, Hydropel seems to no longer be manufactured. This led me over to my friend Brian and an excellent post on Hydropel vs. BodyGlide Liquified Powder he ran on his Website, Brian’s Backpacking Blog. Brian’s written for us here on ITS in the past and is one of my go-to resources when it comes to backpacking, so naturally I was inclined to take his recommendation for the BodyGlide Liquified Powder as a replacement for Hydropel.

I’ll make a note here that in my research it appears that BodyGlide Liquified Powder is being phased out for BodyGlide Skin Glide, which is linked to above. I’ll try to find out more about this and report back.


My thought was that I’d pre-treat my feet before Carry The Load with the BodyGlide Liquified Powder, but still needed something to use as a friction coefficient for hot spots that might pop up during the event. This led me to Leukotape, which I read about in Fixing Your Feet.


I purchased Leukotape for a few reasons. I’ve used duct tape for treating hot spots and blisters before and it sucks. It releases with moisture, doesn’t mold well, which leads to curling and is a pain to deal with all around. I’ve also used moleskin, which I’ve also had the same experience with as duct tape. What drew me to Leukotape is that it’s marketed as breathable with a super-strong adhesive and molds well to the foot.


I’ll admit I was skeptical at first about the claims, especially the super-strong adhesive part. I didn’t know whether that meant leaving behind sticky residue during changes, or pulling off skin of developing blisters. I’m happy to say it meant neither, for the most part. I also found out that Leukotape is a little pricy and that it only comes in one width (1.5″) from what I’ve seen. Amazon had the best pricing at $9 for a 15 yd. roll (with free shipping) and it’s certainly more than enough to last you quite a while.

Something I immediately found out with Leukotape is that it resists tearing really well, which means you really need scissors or a knife to cut it. I carried a pair of medical shears with me during Carry The Load and one 15 yd. roll of Leukotape. A tip I read about taping in Fixing Your Feet was to round the edges of the tape to prevent the possibility of peeling and to ensure the tape was smoothed out as much as possible.

Using these techniques and Leukotape during Carry The Load this year was the ticket. That and having an extra pair of socks that I rotated out. While I was wearing one pair, the other was hanging off my gear or backpack drying. When I’d stop to treat a hot spot (with Leukotape) or during a break, I’d change socks. The socks I was wearing were SmartWool Hiking Socks.

Carry The Load

As I type this, I count exactly one blister on my foot from the 20 hour event in which I walked 36 miles with weight between 25 and 30 lbs. I credit this almost completely to Leukotape. That one blister was completely my fault and actually started as an untreated hot spot just a few miles into the event.


This also leads me to the way I handled blisters at last year’s Carry The Load, I tired to push through them. While I did a good job mentally blocking out the pain and discomfort last year, it caught up with me during the early hours of the morning and I had to stop by the aid station for treatment. Not this year though, with the application of Leukotape to hot spots and the pre-treatment the night before of Body Glide Liquified Powder, I was good to go.

That one blister I mentioned was actually already a blister by the time we finally made the first stop and I covered it with a piece of Leukotape. It did continue to have pressure applied to it during the course of the day and eventually popped, but never got much bigger. Something to note is that I did change out pieces of Leukotape a few times, which probably wasn’t necessary, but I was curious if the hot spots covered by it were forming into blisters (which they weren’t.)

I certainly didn’t need to change it out because it was falling off and I’ll also say that when removing Leukotape, be slow and deliberate with it. If there is a blister under it, it can rip it off if you’re not careful. The adhesive is that strong. The blister I had started to tear just slightly when I was removing the Leukotape and slowing down and peeling from the opposite direction helped it not get any worse.

Lessons Learned

A few things I’m going to do moving forward, if I’m ever in a situation again where I know I’m exceeding what my feet are trained for, is to carry pre-cut pieces of Leukotape on releasable paper. This includes cutting pre-rounded edges. I’ll also carry alcohol wipes to wipe the area down that I’ll be applying Leukotape to. While it stuck just fine to my sweaty feet, I think having alcohol wipes would be a good idea.


Don’t neglect hygiene either when it comes to blisters, they can become infected, so clean them well if they develop. Remember, prevention starts with good footwear. Whether it’s shoes or boots, know their rating and retire them when they loose their cushion, tread or however many miles the manufacturer recommends replacement at. Wear proper socks and trim your toenails straight, trimming them too short can easily lead to ingrown toenails too, so don’t go too far.

I’d highly recommend looking into Leukotape, I’m even going to start using it for cuts on my fingers and other things that may need to be bandaged and would benefit from water-resistance. It’s certainly going to become an integral part of my aid bag as well.

I’m going to close with this. There are literally hundreds of ways you can treat your feet and I’m not going to claim that what worked for me is going to work for you, but take what you can from this article and take the time to learn what’s going to work for you. Let me know if you have any further questions below and I’ll certainly get them answered for you as best I can.

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  • Eric

    I have the body glide and it works well. Gold Baulm also has a stick type application that I like.

  • Eric

    And if you like Smart Wools – you need to try Darn Tough’s from Vermont. Amazing socks.

  • Garrett

    After all these years I still carry Benzoin tincture to treat any blisters that manage sneak past the preventative measures. I appreciate the recommendation on Leukotape, Ill definitely give it a try.

    • Thanks Garrett!

    • 29

      Benzoin Tincture is also good prior to applying any form of tape (duct, leuko, athletic) it becomes tacky and helps it stay on during humping and it releases in hot water like taking a shower after an evolution.

  • AJ

    Great info. I recently went through USMC OCS, and the corpsmen carried rolls of Hypafix (lighter substitute for Leukotape), which was a huge help for blisters; I recommend that if you can find it.

    • Hey AJ, not sure what you mean by “lighter” than Leukotape. You mean weight wise?

  • Eric

    And amazon has the Leukotape for 3.66 a role

    • Looks like that’s the link I have above too, it’s just almost $9 when you include the $5 shipping.

  • dryfeet

    This is just in time. I recently went on a backpacking trip – where I did several things wrong with regards to my feet. I did try to get in some pre hikes, but they were unweighted, not as far, and in cooler temps than the actual trip. With weight my choosen footwear was inadequate. Even when I tried to fix my feet (some moleskin around my pinky toe), I think I made the problem worse. The thick molesking compressed my toe, bruised it, and made it worse.

    I did everything I knew to do and still got blisters. Some of it was poor prep, the rest of it was knowledge limits and inexperience.

    The large amount of pain I was in the last two days convinced me to not to do that again. I was about to begin the quest of learning all I can about blisters and what cause them, and you practically hand the answer.

  • Thomas Whitmore

    I came out of it with only a couple small blisters on the inside of my heels. It’s what I get for wearing running shoes made for running, not hiking!

  • I have the RE Blister kits in my EDC and bug out bags (and a good half dozen in my big FAK for handing out):


    Moleskin is great if you use tincture of benzoin before you adhere it, and it’s included in the kit. I’ve considered putting a few syringes aside for hot shots, but the moleskin does the job unless you let things get far too far. I suppose you could get the components for less than $2, but not much. The safety pin and tape have other emergency uses, too. (I keep several blist-o-ban type bandages in the big FAK too.)

  • Band-Aid Doc

    I walked every mile with Bryan and I can say he diligently took care of his feet. It was the difference maker! I had good luck with tons of body glide and smart wool socks. I did not like Glacier Gel Blister Dressings, I could not get them to stick properly.

  • Jason Crist

    Lucky for me, I had the direct, main line dosage of ITS TACTICAL knowledge beamed to me in person at Muster 1. I just completed the Survival Trial 4 walking nearly 35 miles with 50 lbs or better in the New Mexico plains, mesas and mountains. Good socks (only one change in 22 hours) and boots broken in properly kept me blister free. Moving quickly in the airport with my boots half tied quickly put a blister on the back of my heel after then event but that’s another story.
    I attribute all of the factors Bryan taught us at Muster to my foot health with toughening up your feet being number 1. I rucked 5, 8 and 12 mile loops multiple days a week for months prior to this recent event. Can’t expect to just hit the trail cold and be blister free.

  • Liam

    I used that tape on my feet during my Clearance Diving selection test and it worked a treat. The tape stayed on for a full week without needing to be changed. The only advice I would give is to use alcohol wipes or even better some isopropyl alcohol spray first to get rid of any skin oils, this ensures the tape sticks. Put it on the night before if possible.

  • jbgleason

    Having handled untold numbers of nasty feet with disgusting blisters in my years as a team Medic I will say that this is a great article but here is a Nugget I learned from experience. Cut a small diamond shaped (long football shape) gap in the center of the tape before you apply it. I used moleskin which came on a backer, not sure if this product comes like tape with no backer or not, and once I cut the length of moleskin from the sheet I would fold in half longways and cut the center hole out before applying. The purpose of the hole in the center is to allow the moleskin patch to flex with the foot without causing it to pull away from the skin. Helps with pain on the hotspot/blister, keeps the patch in place, allows air to get to the injury. The key is to make the hole long and thin (hard to explain here, easy to understand when seen in person) so that the patch still protects the injured area. Don’t cut the hole too big.

  • Spencer

    Some helpful advice for my upcoming third-semiannual circumnavigation of Manhattan this Sunday. It’s approximately 33-35 miles of mostly paved surfaces and usually takes ~12 hours. The first year, I used cotton, running-style ankle socks my feet were the worst I’ve ever experienced (felt like hot needles inserted between each of my toes as I barely limped the last 5 miles). The second time, I tried some Injini toe socks, which were an improvement. This weekend, I’ll go with heavier boots and a couple pairs of wool socks and see what happens. Thanks, Bryan!

  • Austin

    Perfect timing for my trip to Yellowstone in a month for a week of backpacking in memory of my great grandfather, well lets just say there isn’t a whole lot of places to “practice” in central South Dakota, so I’m going to defiantly keep this info in mind!!

  • Blister prevention focuses almost exclusively on the skin-sock interface … products applied to the skin to reduce friction or protect it from abrasion. That works for most, but for some, perspiration leads to adhesive failure.

    If you need a little more protection, think about the shoe-sock interface. The effect of perspiration is negated. A low friction patch can stay in place for hundreds of miles without the need for reapplication . It may be worth looking into if you are more blister prone.

    Great article Bryan

  • I’ve never heard of this stuff before and will certainly have to try it out!

  • FlashlightSolutions

    How about SportsTape? Will it work (stick) the same?

  • Jon1911

    This stuff is amazing, thanks for the article. Completed my second GoRuck Challenge yesterday and used it for the first time. Not a single blister or hot spot after 9 hours and 12 miles. This is going to be a staple for my ruck training from now on. Even used some on my shoulders about halfway through, and it helped.

    • Hey Jon, congrats on the second GORUCK Challenge! Did you stop and replace the Leukotape at all, or use the same pieces the whole time?

  • P Dragon

    Every summer, I get horrible blisters from my sandals, and they progressively get worse, no matter how long I wear them. Maybe this year, thanks to this article, I’ll be able to be blister free! Or at least have a hell of a lot fewer of them.

    • Thanks for the feedback, you won’t be disappointed with Leukotape!

  • Jon1911

    @Bryan Black  Sorry
    for the late response. No, I stayed with the same pieces the entire
    time. I put them on right before the start, as we were all gathering. I
    wore Smartwool socks and Belleville Kiowas for this challenge and they
    worked out great. We got wet towards the end, but still far enough from
    the finish that I put a few miles down with wet feet. The strips stayed
    in place with minimal movement, even after being soaked in water. I
    swapped socks at the car, and the tape still have plenty of stick left,
    could have lasted several more hours. I brought an extra pair of socks
    just in case (my first challenge was over 12 hours) but this one didn’t
    go long enough to where I thought I would benefit from them.

  • Gsieg59

    Ihave used knee high stockings under my wool socks for years and never had blisters while wearing them!

  • Dyskolos

    The “Fixing Your Feet” book shown in the article is an absolute wealth of information. I use both Leukotape and Kiniseo tape. The Kiniseo is a bit easier to handle in the field, as it’s paper-backed. That makes it easier to round the corners before application to ensure it doesn’t curl up.  
    For the Leukotape, I simply roll out sheets of waxed or parchment paper, apply the tape, and then cut to size.  Then, it’s just a matter of using a small alcohol prep pad to clean the area, apply the benzoin, apply the tape, and then dust the area with powder so the exposed benzoin doesn’t stick to the sock. Simple and very effective.

  • Ten9t6

    This sounds pretty familiar, unfortunately. haha.. I was out there the entire time during Carry The Load, and my feet ended up looking like a crime scene. Like you, my biggest mistake was not ramping up my miles prior to the event. I hadn’t strapped on a large alice pack and frame since ’98. Good times! I attempted to tape during the event, but since the “suck it up and drive on” attitude had suppressed what I knew needed to be done, the damage was already done by the time I got to it. As I sit here at my desk, I say that I will not make the same decisions leading up to next years event, but we will see when I get to the starting line. haha
    While I did not do what I knew needed to be done, for CTL, I have used Leukotape for longer running events. I love the stuff. For multi-day events, I thoroughly clean and dry the feet before applying  Benzoin Tincture. Since my feet sweat like crazy, I want to make sure that the tape stays where I put it. As you mentioned, I (now) make sure to round the corners. You have to remove any point that can be gripped by the movement of the socks. I made the mistake of not doing it one time because I was “in a hurry”, and as one of the corners grabbed and started moving, it became a sawing force on my foot. Unfortunately, this was another one of my suck it up and drive on moments, and by the time I went to address the situation, I had blood in the sock. Not a great place to be on the first day of a multi-day event. haha So, yes, always round the corners. Since Leukotape does not flex I will also use Kinesio Tex tape in areas around the toes or places I want a little more flexibility. It is a little thicker, but it is worth checking out as well. I keep a roll of both with me during certain events.
    A couple of other blister prevention items I use for certain events is the use of Injinji sock liners (thinner than the normal Injinji socks) and homemade foot lube. One of the sections in the book you point out, discusses a homemade concoction that Dr. Andy Lovy adapted over the years of running and working ultra marathons. I had the honor of meeting him my very first ultra. After he lanced my blisters, he applied a thin coat of this stuff, and it worked like a charm. Since then, I have used on all my longer events, but it only works so well. If you go out stupid like I did on CTL, you are still going to feel the pain. For ~ $15.00 you can mix up enough of this stuff to last you the rest of your life.

    • Ten9t6 Thanks for sharing your story from CTL, brother. So what’s the secret recipe for the foot lube? Hope to see you next year out at CTL.

    • Ten9t6

      Bryan… If my pain and lessons learned can help others.. Outstanding! There are some out there that do not care to learn the hard way. haha. As for CTL, I will most definitely be there again next year. Great event, Great cause, and Great people. If I am able to move, I will not miss one moving forward.
      For the foot lube, it would be easiest to point you to Doc’s write up, on the ‘Across The Years’ website. In case you have not heard about it, Across The Years is 24 / 48 / 72 hour race held every year (this year they will have a 6 day too.) Type the following in your web browser (with no spaces of course): www across the years dot com / Andy dot html # blisters 
      That will take you to the blister section and from there, scroll down to “ointments, creams, and salves”.

  • foo1234

    Both Hydropel and Body Glide Liquified powder are not out of production. Regular Body Glide does not have the Dimethicone active ingredient that made these two products work. I found the 3M Cavilon Durable Barrier Cream is about the only product that still has that active ingredient. The 3M white paper on the subject claimed that the 30% in products like Hydropel was excessive and not adding any benefit. The Cavilon is 1.3% and seems to be working as well for me. Second the Leukotape recommendations. Been using it for years under a prosthetic gel sleeve – hot, moist, and shearing, just what blisters love. Leukotape is not perfect in this environment but it has so far been about the only product that can minimize the blisters on really long backpacking trips. Tincture of Benzoin helps enormously but in the gel sleeve environment the Leukotape will break down in about 12 hours.

    • professionalnomad

      I have recently tried and been impressed with Trail Toes, which also has dimethicone, though I don’t know at what percentage.

    • professionalnomad  RunGoo by Foot Kinetics is by far the best blister prevention and anti-chafe product sold. Last all without re-applying. I’m and ultra-runner and understand how important it is to maintain healthy feet and skin.  It all about prevention, not treatment.

  • SmilingGoodTimes

    I’m new to hiking, having begun last year, at age 50, for the first time.   I read the above article, bought the Leukotape, also the HikerGoo, BodyGlide and Tuff Toes before hiking as I have extremely soft feet for a guy.    I always put on the Leukotape the night before my hikes to allow it to bond and take affect.

    Leukotape is an absolute must for any hiker!   I love it!!!   The above mentioned anti-chaffing creams were perfect for treatment on the trail when I would begin to feel a hot spot and immediately treated my feet.    I hiked 275 miles my first season, with elevation gain of more than 50,000 feet my first year.  NOT one blister!   Sore feet, yep, blisters, not a one.   Thank you for a great article!!!


    • SmilingGoodTimes Thanks for sharing your experience! It’s great to get feedback that the Leukotape is working for others as well as it does for me. Congrats on the 275 miles and the incredible elevation gain! Keep up the awesome!

  • wjack4580

    I think I’m going to start carrying around Leukotape as well. I went on a n40 mile hike a couple of months ago and the blisters are finally starting to fade. It was the most annoying thing I have ever had while hiking. http://www.mccowanfootclinic.ca/en/

  • ElizaCranston

    Thank you for sharing the ways that you deal with blisters on your feet! I got some really good hiking shoes recently but the blisters they give me are terrible. I probably just need to break them in more but I want to be able to hike without a lot of pain so I’ll try to care for my feet with this tape. http://www.rockymtnfootandankle.com/diabetic-foot-care/

  • armybeef68

    One word….Moleskin

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