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Keeping happy feet while traveling questions

First, someone I knew said backpackers would first put on nylons, like knee high hose, and then their socks to prevent blisters. Has anyone else heard of this or am I crazy? Next, are those blue rippled gel insoles TSA accepted? Last, has anyone tried the orthotics that you get at the Dr. Schol's measuring machines that are near in-store pharmacies?
Painful tootsies can really ruin my trip. And my husband refuses to pull me around since our little red wagon will not fit in the overhead compartment.

Posted by
16893 posts

I have some socks that have two thin layers and work well with many shoes; I think they're Wrightsocks. I understand that many hikers wear a thinner "sock liner" under a heavy sock. The two layers can slide against each other, instead of causing more friction on your foot.

In addition to having good padding and arch support in the shoes to start with, I also like shoes that are adjustable (Velcro or laces instead of zippers, for instance) and having at least two pairs so that you can change when your foot is tired of one.

I don't believe you'll have any trouble with shoe inserts with TSA. See also

Posted by
3580 posts

I use Superfeet insoles in all my shoes and I wear Keens or Merrells shoes. It is important to have a comfortable shoe and the right shoe-sox combo. When you walk at home (a couple of miles a day would be good) break in the shoes you want to wear. I go for comfort before looks, but find that some of the Merrells are good-looking in a sporty way.

I've heard of the nylons first deal but have never tried it. Backpackers usually are carrying a lot of extra weight and are walking over uneven terrain some of the time. They have needs that a typical tourist doesn't have.

Carry moleskin or tape to slap on those hot-spots that sometimes develop before an actual blister. It's good to wear your shoes enough at home to be aware of any tight or rubbing spots. It is sometimes possible to stretch shoes using a special device or your hands. I think wearing the right sox and having a clean pair available will take care of lots of potential problems. I usually carry an extra pair of insoles to switch into if my shoes get wet.

When touring you may walk 5 miles a day or more. Work a few long walks into your routine before you go. And do it while wearing your touring shoes.

If your comfortable walking shoes aren't "cute" enough, take along some sandals or other "cute" shoes to wear when not walking far. It makes a good rest for your feet to have a change of shoes at the end of the day. I've even taken Crocs as my extra shoes.

Posted by
13904 posts

You might try Smartwool socks. I have found that I do not get any kind of hot spots, which is where blisters form, when I wear them. I do see you live in Tallahassee and have lived in Florida in the past so understand about heat and humidity. I wore the thinnest Smartwool no-show socks for 8 weeks last year in Europe and had nary a problem. This included a really hot few days in Florence, Rome and Cinque Terre. Yes, it felt like FL in the summer.

I have also been thru layering socks, socks with built in double layers, vaseline on my feet, runner's friction stick, etc. My take on it, for my feet, is that my shoes need to fit well to begin with. I have had some shoes in the past, usually athletic shoes and not inexpensive brands, that always rubbed my feet in a certain place. Now make sure I can walk 10 miles pre-vaca in my shoes to make sure they do not rub and I have found a brand of shoe that works for me along with the Smartwool socks.

Posted by
4407 posts

kathleen, gel inserts are forbidden in carryon luggage, or carried on in your shoes. For a crude idea of what can be carried in carryon luggage, checked luggage, and/or absolutely forbidden on the airplane anywhere, the TSA has this little tool to use. It's a very rough guide, though, so keep that in mind.

Now...if you're talking about those rubbery, silicone, wavy insoles, those should be fine. Liquids-wise, if you can pour it, squeeze it, spread it, smear it, pump it, spill it, or spray it (Whew!), it's not allowed in the cabin in carryon luggage, unless it's in a container with clear markings showing 100ml/3.4oz or less and in your 3-1-1 bag. Pointy/sharp/explosive items are another story...

If you want to wear non-gel silicone insoles, I'd bring the original packaging in case you need to plead your case, if need be. Remember that the TSA agent has The Last Word on what s/he allows. Of course you can always challenge it later, but you probably don't want to miss your flight over shoe inserts. You might want to consider a foam-style insert, and bring an extra pair to delight your piggies halfway through your trip!

On preventing blisters, my main problem is moisture and not solely (Ha!) friction. Therefore, I wear a true sock liner like this one , for instance. They wick any moisture from my feet through to the outer sock, and my feet stay nice and dry (and in the winter, much warmer). Liners can be easily swished in soapy water every night and dry in just a few hours, so 1-2 pairs are all you'd need. Definitely try them out at home, first! They add some thickness to your footprint (and actually hosiery does, too, to a lesser extent). You may need thinner 'regular' socks to compensate.

And for your husband: a collapsible, little red wagon . Tell him that he's most welcome ;-)

You are a wise woman to take care of your feet! If they ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

Posted by
2081 posts


in my opinion, using gel insoles and such are avoiding the issue and are band aids. As far as nylons go and such, i do know of many workers on the Alaskan pipeline that used them to keep warm. As far as preventing blisters, who knows.

If youre not in the back 40 or at 40k feet to your destination, you can try some of those band aids at home, now. That way you can determine how they work for you. I sold alot of shoes in my lifetime and everyones foot is different. what can work for you may not work for someone else and that can go the other way too.

The gel insoles can be a bandaid, but dont count on them being a permanent fix. again, its something you will need to try. Preferably at home, before you go on your trip.

this is how i see it, most people are issued a pair of feet. even though you can get replacements, i think the OEM are better.

Also what you may want to look into is wool sox. I have bought for my travels marino wool sox and have used them ever since, just for my travels. I find that they dont feel wet even when they do get wet and they dont smell bad if i have to wear them more than one (1) day. By the way, i have done testing them at home and wore them one (1) week without washings day in, day out. They werent as fluffy as washed, but they held up. you can hand wash them and squeeze as much water out and then roll them up in a towel to squeeze out more water. They will dry, within reason (humidity wise) over night. At home i wear cotton sox but i have a boat load of them and a washer handy. not so on my travels.

If this is your first trip, know that there is alot of cobble stone in use in Europe. I dont know about other parts of the world, yet. But get something that is COMFORTABLE.

If you dont know, then head out to your local travel/sporting good store and start trying on some shoes/boots/ or whatever floats your boat. Remember COMFORT is job #1, #2 and #3. Style will be down the list and along with price. Remember that the streets/sidewalks of the world isnt carpeted, so test those shoes out on hard concrete/stone or whatever you can get your feet on. Stand in them for hours and determine how your feet like them. Once you find a pair(s) you like, then head out with the sox you plan on wearing and pound some pavement. Do it for at least 1 ~3 days and see how your feet likes them. If at all possible, wear them for at least a week daily and see again, how your feet do.

Also, if you can swing it, bring along a 2nd pair of COMFORTABLE shoes to swap every day.

one comment. Your feet will adjust to your weight. So if you loose/gain weight, expect your feet to adapt to your weight gain/loss. If that happens, dont blame the shoes.

Remember the saying...."if momma aint happy, no ones happy".? same goes for your feet.

happy trails.

Posted by
16170 posts

I have been backpacking and doing strenuous hikes for 45 years and while I may have heard of the nylon trick, I was never persuaded to try it. Back when wool sox were much rougher thanntheybare now, I wore them with a thin liner sock inside---and I still got blisters. I changed to synthetic Thorlo and Wrightsox when those came out---and I still got blisters. Had to hike out of the Grand Canyonnwith duct tape on my feet because of the blisters. And this was with well-broken in boots.

Since I switched to Smartwool sox plus Bodyglide on my feet, I have not had a single blister.

The Smartwool sox can be quite thin ( like the PhD line) and still work wonderfully well. I have thin ones to wear in my travel sneakers, and thicker ones for hiking. We recently completed a 33-mile trek in New Zealand where our feet were constantly wet ( generally a sure recipe for blisters) but still no blisters.

Icebreaker ( a New Zealand brand) makes similarly good merino sox. You can find both brands at a discount at Sierra Trading Post or

For insoles where needed, I love Superfeet. They provide support and stability, but not a cushiony feel.

Posted by
11507 posts

I seem to travel ( to Europe) mostly in warm summer months.. I can't imagine wearing heavy socks at all when its 90 degrees out.. I usually pack like 3 pairs of cotton shortie socks to wear when I wear my runners. I wear my runners when I know I am going to do some walking in ruins( they are alw yays so uneven) or doing a hike, or a marathon museum day.. also sometimes on train travel days since I know I will be walking a lot ( to train to hotel etc.. and dragging a bag).

I find it comes down to my marvelous sandals.. they have CORK removable soles, and just so comfy.. I wear them all day at work( and I work on a tile floor) and my feet never get sore.. have taken them to Europe many times , and they can handle the rough surfaces well also ( they have a platform sole , not high at all though.. just enough to keep your feet out of gravel dust) .

They are called "Paris" Naots.. just a coincidence..but thing is.. what is super comfy for one persons foot will not be for another.. I find many well recommended brands uncomfy.. Keens and Clarks, all too wide and heavy for me.. others swear by them.

I also wear sundresses a lot .. so socks and runners are just not a good look.. but looks aren't my primary reason of course for why I love the shoes I do.

Everyone has to find their own perfect shoe.

Posted by
8421 posts

kathleen try it and report back to us. But good-fitting, well broken-in shoes should not cause blisters.

I buy some foot powder when I get there and use that liberally.

Posted by
507 posts


For specifics of what TSA allows you may want to download (at least temporarily) My TSA app.

According to it you can take gel insoles both in your check-in & your carry-on bags.. It does carry the note "The final decision rests with the TSA."

Posted by
41 posts

Well, thanks all of you for your input. Sounds like nothing else really matters if the shoes aren't comfortable. I have often worn shoes for working in restaurants and they were great. I'll start with some and go from there to see if there is any added benefit from the other stuff. And thanks y'all for not commenting on my mental status.

Posted by
333 posts

I think it's really important to do a serious test with your shoes before you take them to Europe. When I went for the first time 2 1/2 years ago, I brought a pair of shoes that were very comfortable for me at work and they were well broken in. Before I went on my trip I bought an identical pair in a different color and wore them for a few weeks before I left. What I didn't realize was that my "broken" in shoes were not broken in at all. What was comfortable at work all day (even with a lot of walking) was TERRIBLE on the streets of Europe. My new pair rubbed the backs of my heels in a way they never had a home. By day 3 of my 3 week trip, I had bloody blisters broken open on the backs of my heels. When I switched to the well worn pair, they didn't hold up to miles on the street each day and within days I'd worn completely through the soles in several places and added blisters on the bottoms of my feet as well as to the heels. I was miserable for the whole trip and my feet didn't start healing until it was nearly time to return home (thanks to a tour mate who had a large personal supply of moleskin that he generously shared with me). You can bet that when I return to Europe in May, my feet will come first! I bought an expensive pair (I usually refuse to spend more than $30-$50 on shoes) of well made shoes (ecco brand hikingboot/tennis shoes) and I've been wearing them regularly since then along with a good pair of socks! I plan to get a 2nd pair of shoes (a bit more stylish and easy on/off for the plane) this month and start breaking them in as well so I can alternate. I'm starting a serious walking regime and making sure I'm walking regularly on a variety of surfaces to give them a "real world" break in. I've done the bleeding into my shoes bit (literally), so I'm making sure this trip will be completely different!

Good luck with your tootsies!

Posted by
2181 posts

Have you ever tried shiatsu insoles? They aren't gel and they do take some getting used to, but I love them. You can take a look at them on Amazon.

Posted by
796 posts

I second Wrightsocks, they have a double layer that helps prevent blistering. I also love Smartwool. I travel with only those 2 types. The good fitting road tested shoe is also a must. I like baby powder too. After a long day on my feet, I may use an anti bacterial hand wipe sheet to refresh when returning to the hotel, feels good, fights the moisture.

Posted by
2527 posts

Merino wool or synthetic socks both work for for me as long as they are of high quality. A good selection at REI. When traveling in the warmer months, I use ankle height versions. Also, Superfeet insoles are a required complement as they provide great arch support.

Posted by
439 posts

If you have an extremely high or low arch, you may also want to check with a foot doctor. On a trip to Ireland for a wedding, I tore the tendon on the bottom of my foot, needless to say I was hobbling the entire 2 weeks. When I got back to the states, I went to the dr. Those few visits have paid off. He suggested over the counter insoles, aetrax for me (I have a very high arch & neuroma). He also suggested different shoe brands for me that would work, Merrells, Orthoheel (the leather does cut me), abeo, fitflops (short term wear for the neuroma). Everyone is different so go by how your foot feels.