Why are blisters a problem?
Every walker, bush walker or hiker knows the perils of painful foot blisters. Something so seemingly insignificant can turn your journey into a very uncomfortable and unpleasant experience.
What causes foot blisters?
The answer is shear. Shear is the excessive stretching and tearing beneath the surface of the skin that leads to blisters. Shear is influenced by three things: the nature of your skin; your foot posture or function; and the amount of skin friction.
How can I protect my feet from developing blisters?
Here are some blister prevention options that may help to keep your feet safe from blisters:
Proper Shoe Fit
If your shoes don’t fit well to start with, you’re fighting an uphill blister prevention battle. Footwear that is too loose, too tight or too narrow increases the likelihood of blisters. Laces are always the best choice and allow you to adjust the fit of the shoe to accommodate swelling, slight inadequacies in fit, and any movement of the foot within the shoe. So, always take the time to adjust your laces so your shoes fit just right.
If you suffer from foot blisters, always avoid elasticised laces, velcro straps or slip-on shoes as your feet are more likely to slide within your shoes, creating increased skin friction.
Foot Posture and Biomechanics
The way your feet function can predispose you to blisters. Tight muscles, bony prominences and abnormal foot function can increase shear forces. Foot calluses develop in areas of increased pressure and shear and are a sign of abnormal foot biomechanics. If you suspect there is a problem with the way you walk, it’s a good idea to get your foot function analysed by a Podiatrist. You might need to do specific stretches or strengthening exercises or get orthotics to fit inside your shoes to improve your foot posture.
ENGO Patches are self-adhesive high-tech stickers that have a very low friction surface that is able to eliminate shear and therefore blisters. The patches are applied to the shoe rather than the skin, so it takes sweaty skin out of the equation. ENGO patches are very durable, lasting for 500kms of wear. They are super-thin and do not affect shoe fit. ENGO patches are very effective and are guaranteed to work, or your money back! For more information on ENGO patches, click here.
Managing Skin Moisture
Blisters can be prevented if you keep your skin either very wet or very dry. That’s because friction is low in these conditions. When you are exercising, your feet will perspire inside your shoes, making the skin moist. Using moisture-wicking socks (eg. coolmax, injinji) can be very helpful in reducing the risk of blisters. If you are planning a long hike, make sure you change socks during the hike, so that your feet don’t become moist.
Some tapes and dressings reduce friction, but some don’t. It can be a challenge keeping tapes stuck firmly to the skin. As the skin sweats and we continue to walk, tapes tend to loosen from the skin.
Cushioning in the form of thicker socks, cushioned insoles or gel toe covers might help keep your feet blister-free. But it is important that you don’t put so much extra cushioning in that you make your shoes too tight.
For more information on silipos gel toe covers, click here.
Condition your skin
Build up to it. Just like building up your endurance, fitness and strength, you also need to condition your feet to new shoes and to the rigours of new terrain. Conditioning helps your skin build up a slight resistance to the shear forces that cause blisters.
Double Sock Systems
Literally wearing two pairs of socks can reduce friction levels. But not just any old socks. The combination that tends to work best is a thin synthetic inner sock (liner sock) and a thicker outer sock. Injinji toesocks can be considered a double sock system for the area between your toes. For more information on Injinji toesocks, click here.
When it comes to blister prevention, different things work for different people and you need to find something that is effective for you. Painful blisters can make a bushwalking trek very unpleasant. If you are having problems with painful blisters, talk to our experienced Podiatrists at Foot Health Clinic for professional advice and care.