Beating Bad Blisters

We’ve all been victim to a foot blister- that small bubble of skin filled with fluid that appears after an intense workout or a day spent in a brand new pair of shoes. Small as they may be, most people find blisters to be debilitating; they can make it hard to walk or perform normal activities without causing a burning sensation of pain. Athletes and shoe-lovers alike should be aware of what causes blisters, how to prevent them, and of course, how to treat them when they do form.

Though blisters can form anywhere on the body, the most common place is the feet. Blisters are the result of a tear in the skin that causes a gap between the top layers. This gap then fills with a clear fluid secreted by surrounding tissues. The most common cause of a blister is friction, though moisture from perspiration may be a contributing factor.

Knowing what causes a blister should give some insight as to how to prevent the formation of one. Footwear selection is key. You should choose a shoe that is appropriate for any given activity. Athletes should opt for sport-specific shoes instead of cross-training shoes. Shoe-lovers should keep in mind comfort and practicality when planning to spend a day on their feet or walk far distances. Along the same logic, breaking in shoes is another important step. Everyone loves new shoes, but wearing them for too long, too quickly is almost certain to result in excessive friction. Shoes need to be worn for increased time increments gradually so that the inner structure can wear and mold to the natural contours of your foot. Many shoe materials also need to soften before they can change shape.

Specific to athletes, there are extra measures to take when preparing to workout. Special lubricants and taping methods can be used to protect the skin and diminish the amount of friction that occurs during activity. Wearing socks designed for sports is crucial; these socks are designed to lessen moisture accumulation that can increase the chance of a skin tear. Finally, padded insoles can also help to reduce friction.

Despite our best efforts, sometimes blisters win the battle and plague our feet. In the event of blister formation, there are several options for treatment that can help reduce pain, the chance of infection, and the time of recovery. The main issue is deciding whether or not to drain a blister.

No Drain Treatment

Smaller blisters can be left alone- they will heal on their own. The best tactic is to prevent further friction and relieve some of the discomfort. Use a protective cushion (preferably a moleskin pad) that will keep the blister away from surfaces that will cause irritation. Use tape to secure the pad in place, and wear shoes that do not cause additional discomfort.

Drain Treatment

Draining a blister is a delicate task that must be done with caution, as it can increase the risk of infection if done improperly. You may choose to drain a blister if it is too large or too painful. Firstly, wash your hands thoroughly or wear gloves. Use a sterile needle to create a small opening in the blister that will allow the fluid to drain. Do not remove the flap of skin covering the blister unless it becomes visibly dirty. Apply an antibiotic ointment, and take measures to reduce friction against the newly opened skin.

If the fluid leaving the blister during the draining process is white or yellow, consult a physician about a potential infection. Additionally, if pus leaks from the blister or you see red lines leading away from it, consult a physician.

In the event of blisters, the best offense is a good defense. Take care of your feet with proper footwear to avoid the trauma of painful blisters.