Influence of an antiperspirant on foot blister incidence during cross-country hiking

J Am Acad Dermatol. 1998 Aug;39(2 Pt 1):202-6. doi: 10.1016/s0190-9622(98)70075-1.


Background: Rubbing moist skin results in higher frictional forces than rubbing very dry skin. As friction increases, the probability of activity-related blisters also increases. Therefore reducing moisture may reduce blister incidence during physical activity.

Objective: We examined whether an antiperspirant can reduce foot blisters during hiking.

Methods: In a double-blind study, cadets attending the US Military Academy were separated into two groups that used either an antiperspirant (20% aluminum chloride hexahydrate in anhydrous ethyl alcohol) or placebo (anhydrous ethyl alcohol) preparation. Cadets were told to apply preparations to their feet for 5 consecutive nights. On day 6, cadets completed a 21-km hike, and their feet were examined for blisters before and after.

Results: Because of dropouts, the final sample size was 667 cadets with 328 in the antiperspirant group and 339 in the placebo group. There was a high rate of noncompliance with the treatment schedule: Cadets used the preparations from 0 to 5 nights before the hike. For cadets using the preparations at least 3 nights before the hike (n=269), the incidence of foot blisters was 21% for the antiperspirant group and 48% for the placebo group (P < 0.01). However, reports of skin irritation were 57% for the antiperspirant group and 6% for the placebo group (P < 0.01).

Conclusion: A 20% solution of aluminum chloride hexahydrate in anhydrous ethyl alcohol may be effective in reducing foot blisters during hiking; however, the side effect of skin irritation should be considered and preventive measures studied to reduce this irritation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aluminum Chloride
  • Aluminum Compounds / adverse effects
  • Aluminum Compounds / therapeutic use*
  • Astringents / adverse effects
  • Astringents / therapeutic use*
  • Blister / epidemiology
  • Blister / etiology
  • Blister / prevention & control*
  • Chlorides*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Combinations
  • Drug Evaluation
  • Ethanol / adverse effects
  • Ethanol / therapeutic use*
  • Exercise*
  • Foot Dermatoses / epidemiology
  • Foot Dermatoses / etiology
  • Foot Dermatoses / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Military Personnel*
  • New York
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Refusal
  • Walking / injuries*


  • Aluminum Compounds
  • Astringents
  • Chlorides
  • Drug Combinations
  • Aluminum Chloride
  • Ethanol