While blisters can be a common occurrence for those leading an active lifestyle, they can be prevented. Sports medicine experts at Baylor College of Medicine offers tips for blister prevention.
“Getting blisters is common in active people and in those trying new footwear for the first time,” said Dr. Theodore Shybut, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Baylor. “They are caused by friction and heat, and many times, they are caused by improperly fitting footwear.”
To prevent blisters on the feet, Shybut recommends ensuring that footwear fits properly. The foot should not be sliding around in the shoe.
Moisture can be another factor that enables blister formation. Moisture-wicking fabrics, changing socks and using gloves on hands can help.
Athletes should be sure to break in new footwear for an activity by slowly integrating the shoe.
“For example, if your child is going to start football in August, they should wear cleats for an hour, then two, then three every day while running in the backyard for a few weeks prior to when their practice begins,” said Meghan McKay, athletic trainer with Baylor. “Shoes of all kinds are made for different purposes. For example, cross training shoes are made for high-agility rather than walking, which are made for padding and straight line activity. Cleats are made to be worn in grass, versus turf shoes or court shoes for sports. For classes such as Zumba, be sure to get cross-training shoes rather than walking shoes.”
If you notice a “hot spot” it is a good indication that a blister is forming. A “hot spot’ is often red, painful and can feel hot to the touch. The activity should be stopped and the “hot spot” should be treated to prevent a blister from completely forming. Treating this involves applying a lubricant such as Vaseline, adding a bandage or an extra pair of socks.
While proper precautions to avoid blisters are important, early recognition and activity modification are the best forms of treatment, according to Shybut.
If a blister develops but is not open, it is best to leave it alone if tolerable. If it is open, leave the top layer of the blister on to help protect the wound against bacteria and infection. Use a thin layer of topical ointment such as Vaseline and a non-stick bandage or gauze pad.
If the blister appears to be infected – if it’s red, hot or swollen – or it is too painful to walk, get it evaluated by a physician.
Even when all precautions are taken athletes can develop blisters; sometimes there is not time to allow them to resolve before competition. In those cases, working with an athletic trainer to pad around the area may help minimize discomfort, but competing may still worsen the blister and monitoring for signs of infection is important.