Blister Prevention - Cover the Problem Spot

Toes Bandaged for Blisters
Toes Bandaged for Blisters. Holly Harris/The Image Bank/Getty Images

When you consistently get blisters in the same place despite trying all the tricks -- shoes, socks, drying agents, lubricants -- the best thing to do is to cover those areas before you start walking. Also carry some supplies along to use if new hot spots develop en route.

When you begin to feel a hot spot on your foot while walking, stop immediately and apply a covering to it in order to prevent a full-scale blister.

Bandages: A simple adhesive bandage can often do the trick. But for larger areas or already blistered areas, a blister-block bandage with Compeed gel or a similar gel can protect the area even further. Band-Aid produces Compeed blister bandages, and Dr. Scholls has their own version, the Cushlin bandages. These are expensive but work very well. You usually find them in the footcare section of the store rather than with the regular bandages.

Moleskin and Molefoam: You can cut these self-adhesive products to fit the area you want to cover. They are available from Dr. Scholls as well as other producers and can be found in outdoors stores or the footcare section of stores.

Second Skin and New Skin: These products come in a couple of varieties. One is a liquid that dries to form a protective coating over the area. It is often used in tandem with another covering. The other product is a moist pad containing the gel product.

You cover it with a dry dressing and tape over the area.

Sports Tape: Tape the affected areas with sports tape, such as Leukotape, to prevent the friction. Golfer's grip tape can work well. Ultrarunning foot care expert John Vonhof did a comparison test on an ultrarunner's feet and validated that Kinesio-Tex tape worked better than Elastikon or duct tape.

  Two Tape Test

It takes some skill and experimentation to see which of these works best. It is important to cover enough area so that the bandages and tape doesn't pull on the surrounding skin and create even larger blisters.

The key to long distance walking is to experiment constantly with the various products on your longer walks, to see which ones work best. Very important to do this before the "big event" if you are attending a marathon or a multi-day walk.

Unusual Remedies for Preventing Foot Blisters

Duct Tape: A walking friend of mine uses duct tape on his feet to prevent blisters on the ball of the foot. He says the key is to get the soft tape that doesn't have the strapping threads in it, and to always use it whenever you walk, not just on the long walks. Benefits are that it is cheap -- a giant roll doesn't cost much, and you may already have some in the house.

The drawback could be getting a skin allergy to the adhesive. Be alert for signs of redness and itching and discontinue use if these develop.

Duct tape can also work by making it into a bandage so that the adhesive is not over the sensitive area. Take a piece of duct tape and trim it so it is slightly larger than the sensitive area. Then stick it on a larger piece of duct tape, the sticky sides together. Now apply it over the area -you have the slick, non-adhesive side next to the skin, with the larger piece sticking it all in place. Sounds like a complicated way to make a Band-aid, but works in a pinch when you don't have a Band-aid or don't have one large enough.

Cautions: The adhesive on duct tape has NOT been tested on human subjects and you could have a nasty reaction to it. Likewise, using it on open wounds may mean that the chemicals in the tape can enter your wounds and may contribute to infection or bad reaction.

Dubbin: This is a waxy product used on hiking boots to keep them soft and waterproof. A walker wrote to me about her friend whose feet were so blistered after long walks that they "looked like bubble wrap." Ewwwwwww! While on a two-day (80km) charity walk on the Comrades Marathon route someone told her to rub Dubbin on her feet.

Guess what? Not one blister! I give this the same warning as duct tape: Try it if you must, but look for any signs of skin irritation as this is not approved for human use. But, then, what is skin but living leather?

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