Blisters – Everything You Need to Know for Blister Prevention

Blisters can be painful or become infected! For the average person’s foot and toe, blisters are usually self-healing within five days from them occurring. Blisters associated with medical conditions such as Diabetes or epidermolysis bullosa acquisita (EBA) may take longer to repair.

Nevertheless, blisters can also be a breeding ground for bacteria that can result in serious infections. Hence, taking steps to prevent blisters is highly preferable medically but it also avoids the pain and adverse effects of walking with a blister.

In this post, you can find useful information about the causes for blisters, what you should or should not do to prevent them, and what additional preventative options or treatments we can offer at Orangeville Foot Clinic.

Blisters are all about shearing force and friction! The fundamental action that causes a blister is the repeated sidewards movement of skin layers such that one layer (Epidermis) shears away from an adjoining layer (Dermis).  The body responds by pumping fluid into the damaged area causing the blister bubble we are familiar with.

If the blister is painful or irritating, or if there is a risk that it can burst, we suggest you burst the bubble to prevent uncontrolled bursting and infection. To do this, you need to sanitize the blister with rubbing alcohol first, then you can puncture the base of the blister with a sterile needle. Then gently press the top of the blister to drain the fluid out. Leave the blister skin on as it will still work as a barrier. If you have conditions with compromised immune systems such as diabetes, we do not recommend doing this on your own. We can help you with that to minimize the risk of infection and ulceration.

Two environmental factors can lead to blister creation:

Dampness: During a normal day each foot will produce about 125ml of sweat. If you are exerting yourself by running or hiking that volume can increase dramatically. Dampness in your socks increases the drag of the sock on your skin, thus increasing those damaging shear forces.

The simplest preventative measure you can take is to ensure a good sock choice!

Choose a sock made of materials that wick moisture away effectively, and dries quickly. Merino Wool or synthetic fabrics are the best for this.

Cotton is by far the worst choice as it retains moisture. The sock should also be chosen for comfort taking into account the expected conditions such as temperature and terrain.

Secondly, make sure your shoes are properly sized and fit for purpose. Tightly fitting shoes will nullify the benefit of having a sock acting as a shock absorber between your skin and the solid shoe interior. An internal shoe seam can create a drag point against the skin.

Importantly, for people on their feet for long periods such as hiking, nursing etc. feet will naturally swell. After 10km (2-4 hours) of hiking a foot may swell as much as half a shoe size. Therefore, when choosing footwear for use in these conditions it is very important to size the shoe to allow for foot and toe expansion. An extension of this is to ensure the toe box is wide enough to allow expansion as well. To READ MORE about how to choose a proper footwear CLICK HERE.

Additional precautions for heavy use or special foot conditions:

Some folks are just prone to blisters or maybe undertaking extended activities like long-distance hiking or endurance running. Orangeville Foot Clinic has some additional precautions.

While historically hikers and runners might tape their feet prior to the events, or perhaps apply lubricants, the most effective solution is to use a liner sock, i.e., a thin sock worn under your chosen outer sock.

The benefit of this arrangement is that the two sock layers move against each other offsetting the shearing movement that otherwise could have been transferred to the skin layers.

Our clinic has recently selected ArmaSkin liner socks for this purpose and now has them available in our office or via mail. They have a special silicone inner layer that holds them firm to the skin while having a smooth outer surface thus greatly improving the movement between the two layers of socks.

ArmaSkin Socks

The other area that Orangeville Foot Clinic can assist with is the provision of orthotics for those who may have specific foot shapes or conditions that make them prone to poor foot positioning within a shoe.

If you have any questions, you can contact us at (519) 942-4705 or email us at [email protected]

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