10 Ways to Reduce Pressure from a Blister?

John's Question: 

What are some ways of reducing pressure from a blister? Would this involve donut pads, silicone sleeves or ENGO patches? 

My Answer: 

There are quite a few ways you can reduce pressure from a blister. It depends on where it is on your foot. What gear you have on you. And what you're activity will be.

1. A donut pad to lift the shoe off your heel blister; or to reduce weightbearing pressure from a blister under the ball of your foot.

 
Donut aperture pad for a blister on the ball of the foot

Donut aperture pad for a blister on the ball of the foot

 

2. A cushioned insole for a blister under the ball of your foot (cushioning reduces the force per unit area by spreading the load over a larger area). Read more here.

 
Cushioning reduces peak pressure Image credit

Cushioning reduces peak pressure Image credit

 

3. A silicone gel toe sleeve to cushion a blister between your toes, on top of your toe or on the side of your toe.

 
Silicone gel toe sleeves, toe caps and interdigital wedges cushion and absorb shear.

Silicone gel toe sleeves, toe caps and interdigital wedges cushion and absorb shear.

 

4. Toesocks to cushion a blister between your toes.

 
Toesocks have a double layer between the toes - that acts as cushioning

Toesocks have a double layer between the toes - that acts as cushioning

 

5. Orthotics to reduce pressure from the underside of your big toe. Read more here.

 
A functional hallux limitus puts more pressure under the big toe. Orthotics can change this.

A functional hallux limitus puts more pressure under the big toe. Orthotics can change this.

 

6. Wearing shoes that don't press on the blister (at all or as much) - like scuffs for a heel blister; or a deeper toebox for a blister on top of your toe, or a wider toebox for a blister on the outside of your little toe, or cutting out the toebox of your shoe for a blister on the top of one of your toes!

Wear shoes around camp that won't put any pressure on your blister Image credit

Wear shoes around camp that won't put any pressure on your blister Image credit

7. Lacing your shoes tighter to stop your toes (one of which has a blister under its nail) from slamming into the end of your shoe when you're going downhill.

 

The Lace-Lock Lacing Technique [video] https://youtu.be/LXjOLWgWq9k

 

8. Walking or running differently to reduce weightbearing pressure on a blister. For example, avoiding a heel strike if you have a blister under your heel. Or if your event allows it (and you have them handy), using poles can help you adjust your gait to reduce the propulsive force required from your foot, reducing pressure on the ball of the foot and toes.

 
Walking with poles image credit

Walking with poles image credit

 

9. If your feet are swollen and this is putting extra pressure on a blister somewhere on your forefoot (toes / ball of foot), put your feet up when you can, to allow fluid to drain.

 
Put your feet up Image credit

Put your feet up Image credit

 

10. Non-weightbearing, including pulling out of the race if it's painful enough or if there is significant risk to your health (eg: deroofed, blood blister, infected). While I'd love to put up a picture of a DNF-worthy blister, I get complaints about such images. If you want to see a few blisters I'd consider too difficult or risky to manage mid-race, check out Cape Wrath Ultras blister article.

 

Before you jump in ...

When choosing a pressure-reduction strategy for your blister, be aware of its potential downsides. For example:

  • A donut pad on your heel might push your foot too far forward in your shoe, jamming your toes into the toebox.
  • Toesocks might squash your toes because there's not enough width in the toebox.
  • Silicone gel toe sleeves might make your skin too sweaty.
  • Changing your gait to avoid a heel strike, when you normally run with a heel strike, is very likely to make something else hurt and possibly cause injury.

Weigh up the pros and cons!

PS: ENGO patches and lubricants do nothing for pressure. They deal purely with friction [pressure is a vertical force; friction is a horizontal force]. Friction management is super-important in treating blisters for these reasons


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 "The Blister Prone Athlete's Guide To Preventing Foot Blisters".

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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".