How to Prevent Blisters on a Ruck March: 11 Steps

Do you know the moment ruck march blisters form on your toes, heels, or underneath your feet during a ruck march? I do, and I remember those moments well. 

I used to struggle with blisters (#ouch!) on quite a number of hikes, and if I can be honest, blisters pretty much ruined those hikes for me. I didn’t have a choice – I had to learn how to prevent blisters so my poor feet (and me) could stop suffering on the trails. 

Since I started ruck marching, I haven’t had any blisters (hope this doesn’t jinx me – crossing my fingers and unblistered toes here!). Why? Because I follow these steps and tips to the T

Now you too can prevent blisters on your ruck march… and march on in peace.

What Is a Ruck March? 

A ruck march, also called rucking, humps, or forced marches, is a low-intensity functional exercise with origins in the military. While training, special forces operatives and soldiers would walk fast over rough terrain, carrying at least 45 pounds in their backpacks. Some military personnel also need to ruck when out in the field. These days, anyone can ruck – with a weighted backpack (or rucksack), you walk or hike in your neighborhood, forest, or local park. 

Rucking is a very popular form of exercise these days – mainly because it is so accessible. Plus, it’s based on what most people do every day: walk. It’s just the weights that are extra

You can opt to ruck march as a new form of exercise or even incorporate it with any other training you do. The wonderful thing is that you can reap so many benefits! 

Benefits of Rucking 

There are many benefits to rucking. Ruck marching: 

  • Is an effective cardio exercise, boosting heart health 
  • Builds your strength and muscles 
  • Burns calories 
  • Improves your stamina 
  • Is for anyone; fitness newbies and fit runners, hikers, and walkers can ruck 
  • Is a solo or social activity 
  • Lets you gradually increase the weight and rucking distance, or you can listen to your body and do what’s best for you on a particular day 
  • Is inexpensive; you only need quality hiking boots, a backpack, and weights to get started 
  • Can be done anywhere 
  • Can incorporate high-intensity interval training and be a companion workout to your other fitness regimens 
  • Is a low-impact activity that’s kind to your joints 
  • Improves your posture 

While there are a lot of pros when it comes to rucking, unfortunately, there are factors that can negatively affect your rucking and set you back on your ruck marching journey. 

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Rucking is a very popular form of exercise these days – mainly because it is so accessible.

Here’s what you need to watch out for while rucking: 

  • Blisters 
  • Overdoing it in terms of distance and weight (start with weights equal to 10% of your body weight in the backpack and shorter distances) 
  • Hurting your back because of improper posture and putting on and taking off the backpack
  • Not wearing proper boots or trainers 
  • Backpack doesn’t support the weight or fits poorly on your shoulders and back 

Step-by-Step Guide to Prevent Ruck March Blisters 

No one likes having ruck march blisters on their feet. It’s uncomfortable, it’s frustrating, and it’s painful. Depending on the severity of the blister, it means you can’t ruck for a few days or longer. 

Having a blister form mid-ruck means you struggle to get back to your starting point, and other injuries can result as your concentration and posture suffers while you hobble along the trail. 

You can’t always avoid getting a blister or two, but there are ways you can prevent most ruck march blisters. 

So, what are the best ways to prevent blisters from forming? Here’s what I learned and the 11 steps I take to keep my feet blister-free

Tip #1. Buying the Right Type of Boots for Rucking 

The first step when you want to ruck and prevent blisters is to buy the right type of boots. You want rucking boots that are: 

  • Breathable – look for mesh material or other materials that allow air circulation to help keep your feet dry 
  • Waterproof – especially if you ruck when it rains, through puddles, or over ponds and streams since the friction between your wet socks and wet feet is ideal for a blister to form 
  • Good insoles – to reduce extra space between the boot and top of your foot
  • Suitable for the climate you are rucking in – insulated boots during winter is a must as frostbite can also cause blisters 
  • Rough-edge free – these areas inside a boot causes friction and blisters, so buy seamless boots or seal rough areas with a lubricant 

Tip #2. Buying the Right Boot Size 

Next, the size of your rucking boot matters too! If your boots aren’t the right size, friction blisters are common

Your boots should be snug in your heel area so the boot doesn’t move back and forth, and there should be enough toe room so your toes aren’t cramped. 

Tip #3. Breaking in Your Boots 

Another common cause of ruck march blisters is new boots that you haven’t broken in yet. Brand-new boots haven’t stretched or shaped to your feet, so they are and feel tight – this friction causes blisters. 

So, before you go rucking, break in your boots by wearing them for some time every day. Gradually increase how long you are wearing the boots and eventually test them out over uneven terrain and on steps when they feel more comfortable to wear. 

Tip #4. Cover the Problem Spot 

You’ll notice the areas that are likely to be problem spots while breaking in your new rucking boots. Alternatively, you may also know the problem areas because of experience. 

I know that the one joint in my big toe, heels, and bases of my big and little toe are prone to blisters. Do you know where your problem areas are? 

To prevent blisters, it’s best to protect these high-risk areas. Blister protection comes in various forms, and you need to experiment to see which ones work best for you: 

Tip #5. Choose Socks with No Toe Seam 

Socks that have a toe seam is a big no-no. The seam rubs against the top of your toes, producing friction, which causes … blisters

If you can’t find socks with no toe seam, then wear the socks inside out to eliminate the toe seam friction element. 

Tip #6. Wear Synthetic or Merino Wool Socks 

Socks that don’t wick moisture away produce friction that leads to blisters. Cotton socks are not recommended because the cotton absorbs moisture or sweat, meaning your feet stay damp. This increases your chances of getting blisters. 

Synthetic-blend socks like those made from nylon, polyester, or acrylic or merino wool socks are the best for your rucks. 

The benefits of choosing merino wool socks (Darn Tough Women’s Micro Crew Lightweight with Cushion Socks or Darn Tough Men’s Light Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Socks) are that they: 

  • Help regulate temperature by acting as an insulator and keeping your feet warm during cold weather while also wicking sweat away on hot days so your feet stay dry
  • Odor-resistant, which prevents bacteria buildup 
  • Moisture-wicking and breathable so your feet stay dry and blister-free 
  • Are silky smooth and thin, making your feet feel comfy 

Tip #7. Wear a Liner Under Your Socks (Double Socks)

Another option to stay blister-free is to double-up on your socks. This means you wear a thin pair of socks that serve as a liner (FoxRiver X-Static Crew Hiking Liner Socks or Injinji Liner Crew Toesocks) underneath your rucking socks. 

The purpose of the liner (first sock) is to reduce friction between your foot and the second sock, while the second sock reduces friction and acts as a cushion between the boot and your foot. The liner wicks sweat away from your foot, and the second sock absorbs or wicks moisture away from the first sock. Any friction occurs between the two socks and not your foot and the sock. 

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Another option to stay blister-free is to double-up on your socks.

The liners you choose should have a snug fit and be smooth. Any wrinkles or gapping will cause blisters. Wear the liner inside out if there’s a toe seam, and if there’s a toe seam on your second sock, wear these inside out too. 

Tip #8. Trim Toenails Before a Ruck 

If you want to avoid toe top blisters, then trim your toenails before a ruck march. 

If your toenails are just a bit too long or there’s a rough edge, they can snag on your sock and create a bur. The bur causes friction, and viola, you have a toe tip blister. 

Tip #9. Remove Calluses 

Blisters can form under calluses, so while some people advocate that you need to have “hard feet,” a blister underneath toughened skin is excruciatingly painful

Prevent these kinds of ruck march blisters by filing down calluses with a pumice stone, so the whole underside of your foot is smooth. Next, moisturize your feet to keep your skin hydrated and pliable.

Tip #10. Use a Quality Lubricant 

Using a quality lubricant helps reduce the constant friction that may result between your foot, sock, and the boot. Lubrication helps your feet slide in your socks, which is preferred to your feet rubbing against the socks and boot insides.

Apply the lubricant to your blister problem areas or general blister hot spots like the heel, sole, ball of your foot, toes, instep, and back of the ankle. 

Your lubricant options that creates an invisible barrier or protective layer on your skin to help prevent blisters are: 

Tip #11. Keep Your Feet Dry and Clean

The last step to preventing ruck march blisters when you are on the trail is to keep your feet clean and dry. It’s common for our feet to get sweaty – the merino wool socks will help wick moisture away – and to get dirty if your boots aren’t water-resistant. 

Carry an extra pair of socks with you, so when your feet are wet, you can change into dry socks to prevent blisters. 

Final Thoughts on Ruck March Blisters 

Preventing blisters is better than treating them after a ruck, and since you are here, reading this article, I know you agree with me! 

So, make sure you have the right boots and size and the best moisture-wicking socks. Cut your toenails and remove calluses, cover problem areas where blisters are a high possibility, and then find what works best for you. This could mean double socking and/or lubricating. And always keep your feet dry on the ruck march. 

Now that you know how to prevent blisters so you can enjoy your ruck marches and up your rucking game, did you know you can use fitness apps to keep track of your rucks and progress? Check out our guide on the top 5 rucking apps for Android and iOS devices!

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