Blisters can be described as protective bubbles over the top layer of your skin. If you get a cut, or your skin gets irritated in some way, these blisters can form to protect you from infection or further injury whilst your body heals itself. Blisters can come from various sources, such as cold temperatures, burns, illnesses and allergic reactions, but in this article, we will focus on friction blisters.
“Blisters are caused when there is shearing stress on the skin, so when the bone and the skin do not move in sync with one another,” says the specialist from the Royal College of Podiatry.
“This causes damage in between the layers of the skin which results in tears in the tissue and sacs of sterile fluid forming. Sometimes these are superficial and will easily rupture, other times they are deeper into the tissue and stay intact.
“Many people will associate blisters with an area that is rubbing them, which is true to a point. It’s more that it is an area that isn’t lubricated enough to reduce the shearing stress. This is why certain materials or skin lubricants can help reduce the chance of blisters.”
“Certain motions that we put our feet through will increase the likelihood of blisters forming. However there are multiple other factors including the footwear, socks, skin moisture level and temperature,” adds the specialist.
“Most sporting activities carry the potential for blisters, although we tend not to see too many swimmers with them! Sports that feature a lot of twisting and high impact, such as tennis or running, or have a prolonged duration, such as hillwalking, all increase the risk of blisters forming. However, in the right circumstances, a blister can form within minutes of starting your activity.”
Running, cycling, skiing, ice skating, football, rugby, racquet sports, weight-lifting, hiking and rowing are among the sports most likely to cause blisters, as they often create friction between your skin and another surface.
“Many sports require excessive physical activity such as running, jumping, throwing, or swimming,” says trainer Farren Morgan.
He adds: “These physical activities are also required in the military, or if you compete in marathons or triathlons. The repetitive motions as you conduct the physical activity can cause the fabric of your clothing to rub against your skin repetitively as your body heat increases due to the exercise taking place which is why blisters are common in the military, sports and fitness industries.
“When you’re doing sports, it’s important to make sure you’re wearing the right clothing – which includes but isn’t limited to footwear. If you’re running, you can get blisters around your chest (especially if you’re female and you’re not wearing a sports bra), legs, ankles and feet.
“Sports such as weight lifting and rowing cause blisters on your hands due to the excessive use of the equipment used to conduct the sport. While those that do volleyball, tennis, football, or compete in marathons tend to experience blisters on their feet due to the rapid shifts in movement that cause your socks to rub against your feet,” Farren continues.
What you can do to prevent blisters?
“The best cure is preventing them from occurring in the first place. If you’re looking to prevent the occurrence of blisters you have to consider the type of clothing you wear. Loose clothing increases the likelihood of friction so it’s best to switch to fitted clothes,” Farren says.
“If your hands are at risk of blisters then it may be wise to consider wearing gloves. Another way to help prevent the occurrence of blisters is by applying cornstarch powder or petroleum jelly to the areas most vulnerable to blisters to help prevent the friction from taking place to begin with,” he continues.
Sports that cause friction between your skin and another surface – like running, weightlifting, football and so on – can cause blisters, especially if you’re not wearing the right gear.
Moist skin can blister more easily, so it’s a good idea to wear moisture-wicking socks and to regularly change your clothes. Hot weather, poorly fitting shoes, debris inside shoes and doing a new activity that you’re not used to can also make blisters more likely. If you have an existing blister or another skin ailment, wearing a cushioned plaster, like Compeed, or otherwise covering the area to protect it from harm can stop it from getting worse.
“Moisture is another major contributing factor to blisters that needs to be considered,” notes Farren.
“By switching from cotton to nylon fabrics that don’t absorb moisture you’ll reduce the likelihood of blisters occurring on your feet.
“In the military, we make it a habit to keep our feet as dry as possible while conducting physical activities in our boots, and marathon runners such as myself use soft bandages when training for a marathon to protect the problem areas from having to endure the problems that come with blisters,”
If you have a blister, Compeed’s blister plasters absorb moisture and cushion the affected area so you can heal while going about your day.