It’s time to burst some bubbles, pop the stigma and talk about the really irritating problem of blisters. They’ve been in the news recently with South Korean tennis superstar Hyeon Chung having to retire from his Australian Open semi-final clash with Roger Federer (heard of him?). It has to be a serious blister to cause someone to retire from playing in a grand slam semi-final, but it goes to show how important blister prevention and management can be!

If blisters are left untreated and not offloaded they can eat away at the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin) and reveal the dermis; a part of the skin that is easily prone to nasty infections. The last thing we want to happen after developing a blister, is to see an infection take over the region on the foot and lead to time off your feet.

With the new football season about to kick off (pun intended) and with events such as the 100km Oxfam Trailwalker happening soon there is a lot of blister talk around the clinic at the moment.

As most people know, a blister can really ruin your day.  In fact for the Oxfam walkers, blisters are the most common reason that participants seek medical attention or even pull out of the walk, so managing them is super important if going ahead with the challenge.

Tips for Avoiding Blisters

  • Wear good quality socks: that form well to the foot and size well.
    In vigorous situations, having a sock too small can increase the area of pressure due to the seam contacting with the foot. Likewise, socks that are oversized can increase the friction over bony landmarks and cause a “hot spot.”
  • Wear in your footwear!
    Seems simple, but testing your shoes and gradually wearing them in before vigorous exercise is the best way to avoid blisters. Hiking, construction and leather boots are the main culprits. Preventative taping using sports tape or underwrap (Hypafix or Fixomull) will decrease the friction caused and leave your feet a lot happier.
  • Manage hotspots early.
    If you feel the blister starting to form, cease activity and inspect the area. If a fluid sac has not appeared, commence management involving a non-stick dressing over the area and tape it well. Your podiatrist can also help by applying felt offloading padding, particularly for those pesky blisters in the arch and under the big toe.

Managing Blisters Once Formed

  • Don’t pop the blister unless you can do in a sterile manner, apply an anti-bacterial agent (such as Betadine) and an appropriate bandage. If not, protect using blister packs for protection and reabsorption.
  • If these can be achieved, create a small insertion to the fluid sac and the most distal point (lowest gravity point) using your sterile implement. Use gauze (or similar products) to absorb the fluid as you gently drain the blister. Once the region is inspected, apply Betadine and dress.
  • This is a great time to adjust the lacing on your shoes, or change shoes all-together to protect the area going forward.

Blisters can be detrimental to the best athletes and for the weekend warrior. If you have any further questions, or want advice and strategies to protect yourself in whatever challenge you face, pop in (pun intended) and chat to the Podiatry team at CSSM.