Friction plays a big part in making blisters. So is friction bad?
No, friction isn’t bad. In fact friction is necessary.
You need friction for traction. Traction within the shoe is important. Without it, your foot would slide around too much and cause problems.
Problems like bruises and bleeding under the toenails (black nails) as your toes hit the end of the shoe. This is painful. But it's also the type of trauma that over time causes nails to get thicker and thicker. This change is irreversible so worth avoiding.
And it's not just local foot trauma and deformity you need to consider. The lack of in-shoe traction will make your proximal muscles work harder to stabilise the rest of your body, predisposing you to musculoskeletal injury further up.
Not to mention its effect on your functional efficiency. If you reduce friction all over, accelerating / decelerating and changes of direction are harder to perform. It's like when you run around in your socks on a tiled floor - it's the lack of traction (friction) that makes you slip and slide. You're noticing the loss of efficiency and added energy expenditure required to get you where you're going. Now imagine your foot doing this in your shoe!
Friction Management in Blister Prevention
When foot blisters are a problem, you legitimately want to reduce friction in your shoe (in order to minimise blister-causing shear). There are lots of ways to reduce friction. Just look at the Blister Prevention Infographic - skin drying strategies, lubricants, ENGO Patches, tapes and double socks.
Global vs Targeted Friction Management
To avoid the problems of inadequate traction, the aim is not to reduce frictional all over. The aim is a targeted approach to friction. Targeted friction management allows you to minimise 'bad' friction in discrete areas to avoid blisters. Whilst maintaining 'good' friction elsewhere to maintain necessary traction.
An example of global friction reduction is the use of lubricants over large areas of the foot, particularly the plantar surface. An example of targeted friction reduction is ENGO Patches. By targeting high friction areas only, normal in-shoe friction is maintained, leaving foot and lower limb function unaltered and unimpeded. This is super-important to podiatrist, sports medicine professionals and anyone concerned with your functional efficiency and performance!
Think about Targeted Friction Management the next time you're dealing with a friction blister.
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".