Of all the things that go wrong on our Gold DofE expeditions in the Lake District and the Peak District, issues connected with feet are right up there at the top of the list! Most people don’t have these problems, but when they do, it takes over the every waking minute! So we thought we’d produce an article with some points about how to take care of your feet and ensure a comfortable, pain-free walking experience..


Boots for DofE Expeditions

Running repairs!

There’s nothing like having your expedition spoiled, or even curtailed, by having painful feet, and a little bit of preparation and thought goes a long way towards having a successful Gold DofE expedition Here’s our guide to avoiding that and having a pleasurable and fun trip so that you look back on your Gold DofE as a great life experience and not a trial!

If you’re buying new boots for your DofE expedition make sure that you spend enough time researching and trying on boots, and wear them in before you start your holiday. That means buying them well ahead of your expedition and going out for a few walks in them – don’t get them the week before and just walk around the house a few times!

There’s a huge amount of choice now –walking boots used to be made of stiff, heavy leather. Waterproof materials like Gore-Tex have meant that modern walking boots can be flexible and lightweight, and are a bit more like chunky trainers. However it is still important that your boots still give you foot and ankle support you’ll need for expeditions, especially in places like the Peak District and Lake District where our Gold and some Silver expeditions take place.

When you go to an outdoor shop don’t think you have to spend a fortune and buy great big boots – go for the ‘trekking’ type of boot which has fabric on the outside, maybe GoreTex or similar. If they’re light, they will be easier to walk in, and boots not made of leather are much more flexible so they don’t need the same amount of ‘walking in’ that leather boots need.

Top tip – don’t use an old pair that your parents have had in the attic for years – these are usually the ones that fall to pieces because the glue has degraded. We’ve seen some real boot disasters because of this!

Don't use boots like these from your parents for your DofE!

Don’t use boots like these from your parents for your DofE!


At the end of each day you’ll want to get out of those walking boots to give your feet a rest, maybe dry your boots and have a stroll around the campsite. Some people like to bring trainers, but these can be heavy and can get wet so if you do bring them, keep them in a carrier bag and bring the lightest pair you can. Trainers with a good grip on the sole can also be useful if you do have a boot disaster, as a substitute to get you to the end of a day.

Crocs are a great solution too, mainly because they’re so incredibly light and are designed to get wet so will dry off in seconds.

Flip flops are not so good; people often stub their toes on the rocks around the campsite which has at least once meant an abandoned expedition and a hospital trip. They’re also useless as back-up shoes for walking.


There’s a lot of nonsense talked about socks for walking. First, they don’t need to be knee-length red socks! Nobody has worn those since 1975…

The main aim with thinking about socks is to avoid blisters. Blisters are caused by your foot rubbing on the inside of your boot, but soft moist skin makes this ten times worse. So you should make sure your boots fit properly, go very slightly on the large side but so much that your foot is moving about inside the boot.

You may read that wearing two pairs of socks is the answer, because they glide over each other. This can work, but it means buying very big boots for your foot size, and socks can fold and ruck up – it can be a real problem. Modern walking socks may talk a lot about ‘technology’ but they do work – just one pair of medium socks that are specifically made for walking will be fine. Some great brands are Bridgedale and Smartwool, but there are others. Best not to go for a store’s own-brand socks, these tend to be very cheap and of poor quality. If you want your DofE expedition to go comfortably, the best thing is to bring several pars of socks and change them regularly, during the day, so your feet always have a dry pair next to them. Your feet will get sweaty and that sweat will stay inside the boot and keep your feet wet, making the skin soft and vulnerable to blisters.


  • Buy good brand socks
  • Bring several pairs (at least 4)
  • Don’t buy store-brand socks
  • Only one layer, not two
  • They don’t need to be thick – your expedition will be in the summer so not too cold
  • Try to ensure that your socks get properly dried out each night.


There are many types of blister tapes out there, but the best ones these days are made from the same material you sometimes see sports stars wearing on various parts of their body to help protect and stretch muscles. This type of tape is moisture resistant, so the tape won’t come away from your skin if your feet get a bit damp.  Compeed make great blister prevention plasters which do the same type of thing.

You can use these as prevention for blisters on the areas of the feet that receive the most pressure – the ball, the heel, the bottom of the big toe. But really, as everyone’s feet are different, you can put tape on any parts of your feet that you know might rub against the inside of your boots.

DofE Expedition feet

Trainers can get overwhelmed on DofE expeditions


DofE Gold expedition participants often start to feel pain on a particular spot when walking, but decide to carry on until the end of the day – sometimes because they don’t want to feel like they’re holding up the rest of the team. But blisters can develop very quickly, and a few minutes treating the early signs of a blister, or ‘hotspot’ can save a huge amount of time, and pain, in the long run.

If you feel a hotspot start to develop, take off your boots and socks and try and dry your feet as much as you can. Make sure the area is clean, and put a plaster or piece of tape on to the spot depending on where it is on your foot. If it looks quite bad, put Compeed on. Change your socks! Then the instant you finish at the end of the day, get those boots off, take the plaster off and dry your feet.


If the blister has come up and you’re wondering whether to pop it, you have a dilemma. The problem with popping a blister is infection, so if you decide that it’s too big and is catching and you need to pop it, heat a needle in a flame or wipe it with an antiseptic wipe, and make the tiniest possible hole at the side of the blister where the blister meets normal skin. Squeeze out the liquid but leave the blister surface in place. Then apply antiseptic to the area and put on a plaster.


Resting your feet on an expedition

Rest and dry your feet when you can

Every time you stop for a longer break, take off your boots and air your feet. Make sure they’re dry and blister-free, and if damp change your socks. It’s worth the effort!





We have no commercial links at all with any outdoor shop or supplier!

We recommend:

Your local outdoor shop – support local stores where you can. They’ll usually have the best level of expertise and experience.

Established outdoor shops in outdoor towns can be great. We particularly recommend Needlesports and Fishers in Keswick, Outside in Hathersage, Nevisport throughout Scotland, LD Mountain Centre in Newcastle, Joe Brown in North Wales, The Climbers Shop and Gaynors in Ambleside.

Cotswold – Cotswold do try to support the outdoor community, and they have a very wide range of kit as well as specific DofE Expedition equipment. They also have an advice page for expedition participants.

Recommended links

This blog/website seems to offer good advice from the parents’ perspective when buying kit – the writers both did Gold DofE and they have their own teenage children doing it now: https://www.littlestuff.co.uk/teen-dofe-kit-list-budget/