While blisters aren’t the most serious injury in the world they can be one of the most debilitating. Think about the last time you had a blister on your foot. You basically had to change the entire way you walked so that it would not hurt this messes with the kinetic chain and Can likely cause other problems. In a wilderness medicine class I took they mentioned that Blisters are the number one reason many people have to call for emergency evacuations.
Preventing blisters is probably one of the more difficult things to do. But it can be done, for the most part. The most important thing is to get shoes that fit. Don’t look at the price tag! Try on everything that looks like it would fit and wear them for a while. If price is you concern there other options, but go for the shoe and not the tag. An expensive shoe might not be the best fit for you anyway.
If you are going to be running in these shoes, go for a run just prior to trying on the shoes. Your feet swell a bit from running and therefore might change the way a specific shoe fits once you start running in them.
You also want to make sure you are running in the same type of socks. I highly recommend a thin wool sock. But the sock really doesn’t matter, just as long as it is the same. The same sock when you run and the same when you try on new shoes.
So what do you do once you have a blister?
Well there are many treatment option. According to the Boy Scout manual you are suppose to use mole skin; Cut a doughnut shaped thing; stack them around the blister; and then pad it so it takes the pressure off. This rarely works because you actually are putting pressure on the blister, because it is trapped and can’t escape the cave you made it.
Others say to not pop it and let the skin keep it protected.
In my opinion, I say pop it. Skin is thick, really think. (I took a cadaver class where we had to cut through it). So by popping the top layer of skin you aren’t really going to get an infection. Secondly it is quite possible for the blister to actually irritate more of the “good” skin around the area because of the fluid sack moving around.
There are two methods I used for popping blisters for athletes.
1) If it is small, maybe the size of a nickle or less, you can just pop it with a sterilized needle. Then using sterilized scissors you can just cut the loose skin off. If you do this you MUST cover it! As the new skin will burn when anything touches it. So to keep it from burning you have to cover it with tape. Get some of the spray adhesive they sell at Walgreens, spray it on the blistered area. (PS THIS IS GOING TO HURT LIKE CRAZY) Once the adhesive has dried you want to put white athletic tape over the area. I use 7 strips (don’t know why I chose 7 but it seems to work) I will lay one down covering the exposed skin. Then the next piece of tape will cover half (length wise) of the tape that is down. I then alternate them as if the tape was a shuffled deck of cards until I have used all the pieces of tap. At this point you just leave the tap on until it falls off on its own. You have basically built yourself a callus.
2) If the blister is bigger than a nickle I would typically pop it with a sterile scalpel. I would make a whole in the blister big enough for a little syringe to fit inside the whole. I would fill the blister with zinc oxide (the white stuff surfers put on their noses). This seems to be great at absorbing the moisture as well as protecting the area. After the blister is filled, I would put a band-aid or some type of covering on it and send you on your way.
Both of these concepts are a little bit more involved and take some planning and usually another person, but I have seen them work for burn victims as well as the typical athlete. In any case it is VERY important to take care of a blister as it is happening. You really don’t want it to through off your gait or ruin an awesome adventure you have planned.
If you have an awesome blister story let us know about it!
Tim is the CEO of CoolEFitness. He has a degree in Athletic Training from Northern Arizona University and a Master's in Sports Medicine from the University of Utah. He has work as an Athletic Trainer, as different roles, with Northern Arizona University, University of Arizona, University of Utah and the San Fransisco 49ers.
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