TIPS FOR KEEPING BLISTERS AT BAY
Aahh, blisters, the adventurer’s worst enemy! At best, blisters can be a minor inconvenience, but at their worst, they can bring your outdoor endeavours to a swift halt. As benign as they seem, blisters can be a gateway to more serious issues and should never be left untreated.
First things first:
Before looking at ways to treat the symptoms, let’s start by identifying the cause of the problem. Whether you’re hiking, running or climbing, make sure you are choosing shoes that fit properly. This may seem obvious, but most people tend to under estimate their feet by half a size. Shoes that fit comfortably when walking around the store, can often be problematic after a few hours of use. Given that feet swell with exercise and heat, you should aim to have at least the length of a thumbnail between your longest toe and the front of the shoe, without your heel lifting out of the back of the shoe or sliding forwards.
The length of the shoe isn’t the only factor to consider; when choosing shoes for your outdoor activities, bear in mind that the width, toe box and heel cup are also in constant contact with your foot. When trying on shoes, check for pinching, rubbing or seams that could become problem areas. If blisters occur when using shoes you’ve worn regularly, consider that wear and tear change the shape and fit of your footwear, so it may be time for an upgrade!
It is important to mention that climbing shoes can be trickier as they are made to fit more snugly than hiking boots or runners in order to squeeze into tight spots, hence may take a little more time to adjust to. Take extra care when breaking in your climbing shoes by wearing them around your house to stretch them out and slowly start to climb in them, preferably alternating with your old shoes. Remember that the rubber on the shoe will not stretch with time so if your shoes are still causing hot spots after a few weeks, they may just not be the right fit!
Socks will play an important role in keeping you blister-free; synthetic socks will wick away moisture and models with thicker padding on the heels and toes will protect blister-prone areas. You can help create a protective shield between your skin and the sock by using lubricant such as Vaseline. Products such as Second Skin or moleskin can be used as preventive measures on recurring problem areas. Ensure you always disinfect and treat blisters in the days following their appearance and give them time to dry out to prevent further worsening.
As much as wet skin is blister-prone, so is dry, cracked skin. Make sure you moisturise your feet on a regular basis to keep your skin healthy. More serious skin issues such as bunions, ingrown toenails and calluses can also be the cause for painful blisters (blisters underneath calluses are extremely difficult to get rid of) and should be treated by a podiatrist. Isn’t adventure just so glamorous?!
Treating blisters on the go:
If you start to feel a hot spot coming on whilst you’re out and about, don’t panic! Time for some damage control. First of all, address the issue immediately. If you push through the pain of an oncoming blister, you could end up with a really nasty, painful situation on your hands (well feet). Identify the problem area and the cause of the friction so you can manage it. Wet or damp skin will be sensitive and susceptible to tearing, so if you can, change socks or apply talcum powder to your feet. Hopefully, you’ve caught the blister before it accumulates fluid. If you haven’t, you will need to drain it with a sterilized sharp point, so that it doesn’t rupture by itself. Avoid draining blood blisters at all cost to prevent bacteria from entering your bloodstream. To prevent further friction, wrap it tightly with either a bandaid, sports tape, bandage or whatever dressing you may have on you, whilst avoiding any direct contact between the adhesive and the blister to avoid tearing any additional skin. Finally, refresh the dressing regularly to ensure no further damage.