Blisters suck.  They can turn a nice day out with the family into an incredibly uncomfortable circumstance, and can kill any enjoyment that you are having.  If you’ve ever had a blister on your foot, you know that it can be a literal pain.

Blisters actually come in two forms: One comes from friction and the other comes from burns (like in severe sunburns).  Friction blisters are what I want to talk about today.  Friction blisters come from, well, friction.  Rubbing caused by poorly fitting shoes is probably the most common cause of blisters, especially on the feet and toes. but friction blisters can happen on the hands as well.  Using hand tools or garden implements (like shovels or rakes) when your hands are not used to the work is a common cause of blisters on the hands.

I haven’t had blisters on my feet in many, many years. I even avoided them when I was in the Army, by insisting that I had boots that fit right. Tight footwear is a no-go. I’ve been wearing Merino wool hiking/walking socks by both Smartwool and Wigwam for a long time. They help keep my feet dry even in the summer and are very comfortable. Seriously! They don’t itch. In fact, they are more padded in the heel and toe than regular cotton socks, and they control moisture and “foot funk” odor.

The good news is that blisters are entirely preventable if you know what to look for. The first sign of blisters is often a reddening of the skin in one area, while the surrounding skin is normal. This “hot spot” comes from the skin rubbing and can turn into a blister if steps aren’t taken right away. Sometimes you can feel the hot spot forming on your feet or hands, where the skin feels raw or irritated. If you get this feeling, stop what you’re doing and check things out.

When using hand tools, wear gloves. If you’re walking, make sure that your shoes and socks fit well and that they are dry. This will minimize the rubbing of the skin, which will prevent blisters. If you start getting a hot spot, cover the area with some sort of protection. The blister cover that lots of people know about is “moleskin” which is a adhesive-backed flannel that can be cut to size and shape with regular scissors. My favorite blister protector, though, is the SAM Medical “Blist-O-Ban” which has the added benefit of being waterproof and has a multi-day life. There are other products on the market, as well, but I can’t speak for any of them. I’ve used moleskin and Blist-O-Ban, though. The real key to preventing foot blisters is to make sure that your shoes fit well and your feet are kept dry. Uncomfortable shoes are a good way to give yourself problems, even if they look good.

The preferred treatment for blisters is to stop the rubbing and leave them alone. Blisters should not be “popped” or punctured for the most part. However, if they are causing pain, they can be opened if necessary. Wash the blister and your hands with soap and water. Sterilize the blister by swabbing it with rubbing alcohol or iodine. Take a sharp needle that has been sterilized in rubbing alcohol and gently puncture the blister in a few places as close to the edge as possible and let the fluid drain out. Leave the skin in place, put some antibiotic ointment on the blister (especially where you opened it) and cover securely with a bandage or gauze.

There is no reason that blisters need to ruin a trip to the theme park. Take care of your feet and they will take care of you.

Have a great weekend!