Blisters: What Can You Do?
Blisters on the feet are very common in athletes. Blisters are not only pain themselves, but they can alter an athlete’s running style and lead to more serious injuries and other foot or ankle problems.
Blisters are caused by friction. The superficial layer of skin, called the epidermis, can separate from from the remaining superficial skin. Internal water pressure causes the a build-up of fluid in the space developed. The higher the force of friction and the amount of time the friction is present, will determine how severe a blister will be. Blisters form more frequently on moist skin. However, very dry skin or very wet skin will lower the frictional forces and prevent blister formation.
To prevent blister formation, you must eliminate or reduce friction. Beginning with shoes, they must fit perfectly. It is thought there should be one finger breadth between the longest toe and the end of the shoe. Shoes that are too skinny will cause blisters on the big toe and the pinky toe. A shoe that has a shallow toebox will cause blister on the top of the toes. Shoes that are too loose tend to cause blisters on the toe tips.
Remember to break shoes in gradually. Do not go out and try to run a marathon in a new pair shoes. Wear your shoes for a few days around the house to get used to them.
So, let us say that the shoes fit great. If the insoles of the shoes don’t fit well, or if they are worn or flattened, abnormal friction may occur. Watch for seams or rough regions inside the shoes.
Socks can also prevent foot blisters. It has been shown that synthetic blends or polypropylene blends can wick away sweat and moisture much better than cotton or wool, thus decreasing the chance for blisters. Also, two layers of socks are better than one in preventing foot blisters. Double up your socks for double cushioning. If the socks have a big toe seam, wearing the socks inside out will prevent the seam from rubbing the toes and getting blisters. Those who exercise excessively and have a lot of foot moisture should always carry an extra pair of socks just in case.
Some athletes will put petroleum jelly, dry soap flakes, or bag balm on the feet to reduce friction from moisture. Daily applications of lanolin at night prior to a big running event will also prevent blisters.
Drying agents such OTC products like Zeasorb and spray deodorant can help as well as prescription antiperspirant, Drysol, also helps prevent moisture.
Sometimes the skin needs to thicken up. By gradually increasing activity each day, the skin will be more apt to not developing blisters as rapidly.
When it comes to pads, pharmacies have a number of items to cushion and protect bony prominences and prevent blister formation. There are felt pads, mole skin, OTC silicone pads, and liquid bandages such as New Skin.
If you do develop a blister, the key is to leave the roof of the blister intact. This prevents infections and subsequent problems. If a large blister needs to be drained, puncture the side of the blister with a sterile instrument, apply antibiotic ointment and cover with a compressive bandage.
If the blister roof comes off, cleanse with blister base with antibacterial soap and water and cover with antibiotic ointment and a bandage.
If you are prone to blisters or have a blister that has become infected, please come see Dr. Eric Silvers at Advanced Foot & Ankle Center in McKinney, TX and Prosper, TX.