Blisters are one of the most common sports injuries.
They can significantly impair performance and result in discomfort, pain
and infection. However, they will only rarely result in a serious
interruption of training. An online survey (Pribut, 2002, Internet
http://www.drpribut.com/) revealed that only about 0.5% of all injuries
which resulted in a one week interruption of training were caused by
None the less, prevention and treatment of blisters is
an important issue. From fingers to toes blisters can interfere with
performance. From a baseball pitcher with a blister on his hand to a
runner with a blister in the arch, these unwelcome skin injuries can
cause a missed start for a pitcher or a slow and painful run for the
Blisters in athletes are almost always caused by
friction. Friction combined with excessive moisture sets up the right
combination for blister formation. Sweaty palms and fingers need to be
avoided as much as possible with those participating in pitching or
racket sports. For runners - avoiding soggy socks and ill fitting shoes
will be the best means of preventing blisters. Performing endurance
sports in new shoes or new socks can also contribute to blisters.
Blisters occur most often in areas of friction and
rubbing. Make sure this is minimized where ever you can. For chafing
from clothing, try to avoid the clothing that rubs. Even jock straps can
cause chafing in hot weather on a 20 mile run. Try alternative clothes.
Thighs that rub together can cause chafing, irritation or blisters. Body
glide is one of the products that can help with this problem.
What is a blister?
A blister is actually a separation of the epidermis from
the dermis or a separation within the epidermis itself. Vesicle is the
term applied to very small fluid filled bubbles and may occur in
conjunction with athlete's foot. Bulla is the medical term used for
"blister". Most often the fluid within the blister is clear, but on
occasion there is bleeding into the blister ( a blood blister) and it is
|Break in your shoes and socks carefully. |
|Make sure your shoes fit well. Try them on in the afternoon and
with the type and thickness of the socks you intend to wear them with.
|Gradually increase your activity level. |
|Do not wear cotton socks for sports. |
|Socks that have material to wick moisture away from your feet will
be the best ones to wear to prevent blisters. |
|Keep your feet dry. |
Vaseline or other moisturizers are recommended to use to prevent
blisters. As a gooey and occlusive (non-breathing) material I do not
recommend this, but it is true that many have successfully used it. I
would not recommend trying it for the first time in a marathon. Go with
what has worked in the past - and in particular good fitting, broken in
shoes, with socks that wick moisture well.
If you are running or hiking and notice a "hot spot" you may apply
moleskin or other padding to decrease friction.
Diabetics should not self-treat blisters, but should seek
professional care. (Likewise those with impaired circulation). The rest
of you should be careful to try to avoid infection and to observe
carefully for signs of infection, such as redness or red streaks around
the periphery of the blister, pus within the blister, and increasing
pain or heat. The cardinal signs of infection are redness, heat,
swelling, and pain.
The skin over the blister itself does provide protection from
bacteria in the environment and does not always need to be punctured. A
small blister may just be allowed to heal by itself. Sometimes you will
need to have a blister punctured to reduce pressure on the underlying
skin. (If you are diabetic this is often important and should be done in
a doctors office or emergency room.)
The suggestion most often given is to heat a pin or needle over a
flame until it glows red, allow it to cool and then carefully puncture
the blister close to its edge. Apply gentle pressure to allow the fluid
to drain. After you have punctured the blister and drained much of the
fluid, you should not remove the protectective cover of skin. This skin
acts as a biological dressing and will also reduce irritation on the raw
tissues beneath. You should then apply an antibiotic cream or an
antiseptic such as Betadine (povidone-iodine) and a sterile gauze as a
dressing. Moleskin or tape applied to a blister will cause all of the
skin to peel off along with the dressing.
If there are bony prominences on your foot either on the toes or the
heels, padding may be used to minimize repetitive friction and pressure