Ok, it’s time to get back to what I promised a few posts back – patching heel blisters. If you spend any amount of time with bad feet, you’ll notice that probably 80% of heel blisters are on the sides of the heel, towards the back of the foot. The exact location is easy to see. They start where the shoe’s insole connects with the shoe’s upper. From this point, they grow upward and to the sides. This was explained in my Heel Blisters post on August 5.
Patching them is fairly easy and yet can seem complex. There are several steps basic to all blister patching.
Step 1 – Clean the blister and surrounding skin of all oils with an alcohol sway or wipe
Step 2 – Sterilize a pin or needle with a lighted match
Step 3 – Pierce the blister in at least two places, depending on its size
Step 4 – Apply pressure to expel the fluid
Step 5 – Apply tincture of benzoin to the skin around the blister
Step 6 – Apply either a blister patch or compound
Step 7 – Apply tape over the blister, depending on # 5
Sounds simple, right? Well, let me expand on a few of the steps.
Step 2 – Sterilize the pin or needle? In truth, most athletes skip this step. Will you get an infection from a dirty needle? You could, but in all likelihood you won’t. However if you are doing a multiday event or hike, I would always take this precaution.
Step 3 – Piercing the blister:
a) Common sense says the larger the blister the more holes. For a blister in the photo, I would use three to four holes as shown by the arrows.
b) For the blister to not refill, the holes must be made in several places where either 1) pressure will expel remaining fluid as the foot moves through it foot strike, and 2) gravity will drain the fluid.
c) When you pierce the blister with a needle or pin, apply slight pressure to stretch the puncture hole side to side. Puncture holes are notorious for self-sealing. Expanding the hole will prevent this from happening.
Step 5 – The tincture of benzoin will form a sticky base for the patch or tape to adhere to. Skip this and the patch will usually not hold for long.
Step 6 – Patches and compounds:
a) Commonly used patches are Spenco’s 2nd Skin, Sport Blister Pads, and QuikStik Pads; Blist-0-Ban blister bandages, Syproflex, or any other commercially available patch. Requires a compound as described below.
b) Compounds include antibiotic ointment, zinc oxide, Desitin Ointment, A&D ointment, and any lubricant. Apply only a dab over the top of the blister to prevent the patch or tape from sticking.
Step 7 – Tape tips:
a) Tape can be applied over the blister patch for added protection or by itself directly over the blister (with a compound underneath).
b) Round tape at the corners – square corners will tend to roll
c) Apply a sprinkling of foot powder or a dab of lubricant to the skin still sticky with the tincture. Skip this step and your socks will stick to your skin and cause more problems.
The process is not complicated. My advice is to practice before going into an event or situation where you will need to patch a blister. The skills and tips mentioned above are important for any type of blister, anywhere on the foot.
Next time, we’ll talk about how to apply the tape (Step 7 above). I promise it won’t be such a long wait for the next post.