When we talk about blister prevention, it's all about taking action in advance of any hint of a blister. This is best done (and tinkered with) over the weeks and months leading up to your event.
If you're a bit lax on blister prevention, or if something unexpected happens, there's one last chance you have to prevent a blister from developing. It's called ... a hot-spot!
A hot-spot is a pre-blister state. It feels like a bit of an irritation to your skin, like something's rubbing. It might be red. It's a sign a blister is on the way unless you do something about it NOW!
It's a brief window of opportunity for blister prevention. Take it. Be thankful you've received it. Don't ignore it.
A hot-spot is a pre-blister state
A hot-spot is a brief sensory warning that a blister is on its way. This is what Joseph Knapik and his colleagues (1995) have to say about how blisters develop and the entity of the hot-spot.
"Studies using (rubbing) techniques have demonstrated a predictable series of events that lead to blister formation. First there is a slight exfoliation of the stratum corneum and a reddened region (erythroderma) forms in and around the zone of the rubbing. The area encompassed by the erytheroderma is referred to as a 'hot-spot', presumably because the study participant experiences an increased sensation of heat. With continued rubbing of the area, the participant may suddenly experience a stinging or burning sensation with a pale, narrow area forming around the reddened region. This pale area enlarges inward to occupy the entire zone where the rubbing is applied. The area becomes elevated over the underlying skin as it fills with fluid."
It's your tiny window of opportunity
There are two things you need to do to stop a hot-spot from becoming a blister:
- Do something!
You won't want to stop - I get that. But you need to.
Empty any grit from your shoes and socks. Check your insole isn't crinkled. Firm up your laces. Place some tape over the area or whatever it is you have in your blister plan to deal with this exact scenario.
Here's an example of the importance of hot-spot treatment:
"When I've been able to work intimately with a group of trekkers or runners (ie: having opportunities for one-on-one time and supervising hotspot detection, blister prevention and treatment) I notice a very high success rate of blister avoidance with hot-spot taping with Fixomull. Up to four or five layers sometimes. I've had trekkers on Kilimanjaro, trekkers in the bush and the Simpson and other places and pretty much zero blisters due primarily to immediate hotspot taping."
Do something and you might just remain blister-free. Do nothing and you will get a blister. Get a blister and you'll be mucking around with antiseptics, dressings, donut pads, changing all these things a few times a day and monitoring for infection.
Oh, and you'll be treating this blister for about a week until it heals.
If only you'd stopped and treated the hot-spot!
Note: If you feel stinging or burning, you've probably missed the blister prevention boat. You will get a blister. It might not have formed yet but it will. Researchers have found it can take up to two hours for the blister to fill with fluid.
WRITTEN BY REBECCA RUSHTON
Rebecca is an Australian podiatrist with over 20 years experience. She has spent a lifetime dealing with her own blister prone feet in her sporting and everyday life. Rebecca specialises in helping athletes and sports medicine professionals figure out how to manage foot blisters with ease. And for kicks, she enjoys providing blister care at multiday ultramarathon events.
Rebecca is the founder of Blister Prevention and author of both "The Blister Prone Athlete's Guide To Preventing Foot Blisters" and "The Advanced Guide to Blister Prevention".