Blisters, parkrun 3 min read

The importance of proper footwear in blister prevention: how to choose the right shoes

The importance of proper footwear in blister prevention: how to choose the right shoes The importance of proper footwear in blister prevention: how to choose the right shoes The importance of proper footwear in blister prevention: how to choose the right shoes

Your shoes provide your feet with invaluable protection, support and comfort – assuming they fit correctly and you are wearing appropriate footwear for the occasion. Unsuitable or ill-fitting footwear, however, can actually increase your chances of blisters, discomfort and even injury.

So whatever your age or level of activity, not giving the necessary amount of thought to choosing your footwear is always a bad idea – and one that is likely to see you going through an awful lot of Compeed plasters! Save your feet from discomfort by heeding our top tips and choosing the right shoes for you.

What are blisters?

First, it can help to understand blisters and what causes them. Blisters are small sacs of fluid that form on your skin, usually as a result of frequent pressure or friction. You may have noticed them when you’re wearing in a new pair of shoes – or if you’ve made the mistake of buying shoes that are a poor fit.

Whether your shoes are too loose, too tight or not made of sufficiently breathable material, any or all of these factors can create an ideal environment for blisters – and, subsequently, a nagging pain that can be felt with every step, sometimes to the point of becoming debilitating and limiting your mobility. Not to worry; the right shoes can reduce your risk of blisters, or even prevent them entirely.

A good fit

A shoe that doesn’t fit well is liable to rub. Too tight, and your shoes will create pressure on your feet where they shouldn’t. Too loose, and they will slip and rub on your feet, creating friction. Both possibilities lead to blisters. So how can you ensure a good fit?

  • Measure your feet

Don’t just assume that your feet are the same size as when you last bought shoes! Your feet can change size and shape over time. Measure your feet regularly, and make sure you’re wearing socks when you do. Also bear in mind that your feet may be different sizes and, if so, you should opt for shoes that accommodate the larger foot.

  • A spacious toe box

Make sure that there is enough space for you to wiggle your toes! Cramped toes are a surefire shortcut to discomfort, because squeezing them together will cause friction that can result in blisters. You’re looking for approximately a finger’s width of space between your longest toe and the front of the shoe. 

  • Width and arch support

Feet can vary significantly in width, which is why some shoemakers offer narrower or wider options, and these brands are more likely to have an option that guarantees a perfect fit. The correct width and suitable arch support (i.e. not too flat and not too high-heeled) will help distribute your weight evenly and minimise the dreaded friction.

  • A little extra space…
    Remember – especially if you are buying shoes you plan to use during physical activity or in warm weather – that feet have a tendency to swell under certain conditions. Bear this in mind when selecting a shoe, and try to make sure there is enough room for a little swelling without the shoe becoming too tight against the skin.

A material difference

What material will your shoe be constructed from? Ideally, it should be something breathable that allows moisture to evaporate, thereby creating a comfortable environment where sweat isn’t leading to excessive rubbing and friction. Keep an eye out for the following features when on the hunt for a shoe:

  • Natural fibres

One way to ensure breathability is to wear shoes made of natural fibres like leather or canvas. As well as being breathable, their flexibility means they tend to better adapt to the shape of your foot and gait over time, becoming more comfortable as you wear them in.

  • Moisture-wicking

Synthetic materials like nylon and mesh are often used in activewear because of their moisture-wicking properties, meaning they draw (i.e. wick) moisture away from the skin and then dry quickly. This enables sweat to evaporate from your feet more easily, again reducing friction and the likelihood of blisters. 

  • Say no to plastic

Steer clear of shoes made of plastic and other non-breathable materials – these will keep moisture in and create a damp environment that is more likely to cause blisters.

Running shoes

Perhaps you’re thinking of taking up running, have downloaded the Couch to 5K app or are planning to get involved with parkrun on Saturday mornings. Good for you! But it will be even more important that you choose the right footwear to protect you during this high impact activity. A shoe that doesn’t fit correctly can lead to poor form while running, and poor form can lead to injury.

While there are a number of things that will factor into choosing the best shoe for you, the one at the top of the list is something called pronation:

  • Pronation

This refers to the way your foot rolls when it hits the ground, so as to distribute impact and reduce shock on the lower leg. Some people (supinators) don’t roll (i.e. pronate) their foot enough when it hits the ground, causing a large amount of shock to the leg, while others (overpronators) roll their foot too much.

Whether you pronate too much, not enough or just the right amount, there’s a specific type of running shoe that will suit you best. Use this guide to figure out what you’re looking for.

  • Weight

The more you weigh, the more impact there will be on your legs when your feet hit the ground. Typically, a heavier runner might want to look for a shoe with more cushioning, and a lighter runner might want less.

  • Speed

If you have a time target for your runs, then you may want to opt for lighter shoes to optimise your speed.

  • Climate

Will you be running in the warmer months or the cooler months? You’ll be generating a lot of heat by running and you won’t want to overheat, so if you’re planning to be active during summer then you should definitely be looking at shoes that incorporate a breathable mesh.

Remember the breaking-in period

Whatever shoes you get – and however well they fit – there will most likely be a breaking-in period during which your shoes gradually lose their stiffness and become more flexible. Start by wearing your shoes for just a short period each day until they conform to the shape of your feet – and keep a pack of Compeed blister plasters handy, just in case!