It happens when you least expect it. You're running the field in your new kicks, dodging opponents left and right and scoring points for your team. But then you start to sense a piercing pain in your foot. Thinking it will subside, you shrug it off, but the pain increases. "What's going on?" you wonder. The answer is unwelcome: a blister has formed.
Believe it or not, a blister is the most common athletic injury [even more so than a sprained ankle], reports sportsinjurybulletin.com. "Friction and torque created during athletic activity generate shearing forces between the skin and sock/shoe surfaces," according to aapsm.org. The pressure causes the outer layer of skin to separate from the inner layers and the space between to fill with lymph fluid. What's more, friction from blisters could result in a higher incidence of overuse injuries, such as stress fractures or shin splints, due to adjusting your form to compensate for the pain.
What to Do
For short-term relief, sportsinjuryclinic.net recommends changing socks, because you want to keep your feet as dry as possible. Use petroleum jelly [e.g., Vaseline] to cover the affected area. It provides a barrier between your skin and the friction—and it can help relieve pain.
If it's not too painful or in a weight-bearing area on your foot, try to leave the blister unopened, recommends the American Podiatric Medical Association. Apply an adhesive bandage or moleskin to the blister to protect it. If it happens to break naturally, wash the area and apply an antiseptic, then cover with a bandage [read more about blister treatment and prevention here].
If the pain is too severe, the Mayo Clinic suggests draining the fluid, but leaving the overlying skin. Follow these mayoclinic.com steps when busting a blister:
- Wash your hands and the blister with soap and warm water
- Swab the blister with iodine or rubbing alcohol
- Sterilize a clean, sharp needle by wiping it with rubbing alcohol
- Use the needle to puncture the blister. Aim for several spots near the blister's edge. Let the fluid drain, but leave the overlying skin in place
- Apply an antibiotic ointment to the blister and cover with a bandage or gauze pad
- After several days, cut away all the dead skin using tweezers and scissors sterilized with rubbing alcohol. Apply more ointment and a bandage
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