Author: Taylah Danaë Baggs Date Posted: 26 July 2019
- - Tips and tricks to prevent and heal blisters - -
Blisters can sideline the most race-ready athlete or have you hobbling during your hiking trip. They’re caused by your skin stretching (shearing) too far, too long, which breaks down the connections between your skin cells. These tiny tears are filled with fluid, forming a blister. Heat, moisture and friction can all contribute to blisters too. So what can you do to prevent blisters in the first place?
Here are some helpful tips to make sure your shoes feel just right:
- Pull out the insoles of your shoes and put your feet on them to see how much room your toes have. You should have around a thumb’s width of space between your toes and the end of the toe box, so you have enough room to move on downhill sections.
- While wearing your shoes, make sure you have a little extra room at the sides. Your feet swell during long runs, so this extra room will ensure your swollen feet don’t rub and pinch. Careful, though: shoes that are too big create too much room for your feet to slip around in, which causes friction.
- Iffy about your size after all that? Visit a specialty running store like Wildfire Sports & Trek to make sure you’re wearing the best fit.
- Break in your running shoes and hiking boots before racing or going on multiday treks in them. This is especially important if the race is particularly strenuous or if your boots are mainly composed from leather.
- Try a ‘shoe rotation’: swapping out your running shoes every run. This can allow sensitive spots to recover before turning into blisters, since these spots often depend on the build of different shoes. 2 to 3 pairs of runners seem to be the best bet.
- Learn to lace your shoes to get the best fit possible with our handy guide.
Your socks can prevent the tiny irritation that’s inevitable even with the best-fitting running shoes. Here are the phrases to look for when searching for your perfect socks:
- Sweat-wicking – this will keep your feet dry, making it harder for blisters to erupt
- Seamless – no seams = fewer friction points
- Anatomical shape – helps prevent bunching and wrinkling, which leads to rubbing
- Synthetics (e.g. CoolMax) / wool / nylon – these are much better options than cotton, which retains moisture and introduces additional friction.
- Achilles tab – essential on no-show length socks to prevent rubbing.
Remember, water is the enemy here, so carry an extra pair of dry socks to change into if you know you’ll be splashing through streams.
- Run-specific socks: Steigen, Injinji, Balega, Feetures, Falke, Wrightsock
- Hike-specific socks: Smartwool, Wigwam, Le Bent, Bridgedale
- Compression socks: Compressport, CEP, 2XU, Cycology
- Waterproof socks: ANTU
FootGlide & Chamois Cream
These footwear-safe lubricating balms provide an invisible barrier against moisture and friction.
Acti-Bliss Wool is highly-carded, lanolin-rich Australian sheep’s wool that prevents blisters.
Lanolin is a natural lubricating wax found in high-quality sheep wool that prevents sticking.
Pop this wool into your shoes to eliminate rubbing. It’s particularly handy for long hikes.
The jury’s still out, but some athletes find that preventive taping hot spots can help do away with blisters before they appear.
Apply the tape smoothly, with no wrinkles, and ensure it isn’t too tight.
Moleskin immediately reduces friction, preventing hot spots from developing into blisters.
These include GlacierGel: a waterproof, breathable and adhesive cooling gel designed for dressing blisters for instant pain relief and aided healing.
Already stuck with a blister? Don’t ignore it OR pop it if possible. Take a break for a few days and let your blister settle down itself, using a soft dressing for comfort. That blister is trying to protect raw and healing skin by providing it with nutrients and forming a barrier to infection.
If you HAVE to pop your blister, wipe a safety pin or needle with Betadine or rubbing alcohol. Swap the blister and wash your hands too. Pierce the top of the blister with a single pinprick, but keep the skin intact. The fluid will probably drain on its own. If it doesn’t, very gently press the blister. Next, apply a dab of antibiotic cream/ointment. Cover with a band-aid and change every day until healed, but leave the blister uncovered when you’re at home for an extended time.