What causes blisters?

Blisters are caused by friction from shoes or clothing which rubs repeatedly on the skin causing friction burns. As the outer layer of skin separates from the inner layers the space between fills with lymph fluid. Blisters are a common problem with athletes wearing in new shoes as well as athletes or walkers who take part in exceptionally long events such as marathons or long hill walks. Blisters do not need to be a part of sporting life and can be prevented.


Blister prevention

  • Ensure that shoes fit correctly.
  • Protect the potential ‘hot spots’ by applying a second skin and / or taping.
  • If you wear boots such as those required for mountain walking ensure all seams are flat inside the boot. Take care of the boots; do not leave them on radiators or near heaters. This may cause the leather to shrink and seams protrude.
  • Keep feet as dry as possible. Wet shoes, boots and socks will cause blisters far quicker than dry ones.
  • Wherever possible changes socks regularly and use foot powder to help keep them dry.

At the first sign of blisters

  • The first sign of blisters will be redness over the skin, possibly at the back of the heel, the instep or toes.
  • Apply a second skin dressing or blister plaster and tape the effected area.
  • Ensure the feet are dry and change socks (unless you are in the middle of a race).
  • A highly effective but short term measure is cover the foot and effected area in petroleum jelly. This should provide instant relief from pain but as the heat from the foot melts the petroleum jelly it will run away and be ineffective.


Foot blister treatment

  • If the blister has not burst then it may be necessary to make a small hole at the edge with a serialized pin or needle, particularly if the blister is on a weight bearing surface. A pin can be sterilized by passing it through a flame.
  • Do not drain a blood filled blister.
  • Drain the fluid but leave as much of the skin as possible covering the wound. This is an important protective layer for the underlying skin and will help to prevent infection.
  • Clean the blister with a sterilizing wipe. Cover the wound with a second skin or blister plaster – take the time to apply it correctly.
  • For additional security apply tape over top.



Blister plasters are an excellent piece of kit for both prevention and treatment of blisters. They can be applied to ‘hot spots’ and areas likely to suffer from blisters such as the heel, instep or toes. Once properly fixed they become a second skin and should remain in place for as long as required, even in the wet! They are also essential for covering existing blisters once drained of fluid to allow an athlete or walker to carry on walking or running with the blister. The plasters ensure that the blister heals quickly without a scab and with the minimum amount of pain Blister plasters if fitted correctly will be more effective than just tape alone, particularly lower quality tape. Warming the blister plaster up in the hands thoroughly before applying to the skin can sometimes help it stick more effectively to the skin.


The following guidelines are for information purposes only. We recommend seeking professional advice before attempting any rehabilitation.



What is the aim of taping?

The aim of this taping is to protect the areas of the foot which are prone to blisters. Prevention is far better than cure. Shown below is a taping recommended for a full day walking in boots over hills. For lesser events the athlete may decide to only apply tape where they know it will be required.

What is required?

A single roll of 2.5cm (1 inch) zinc oxide tape is all that is required.

The normal white zinc oxide tape is easily sufficient for most purposes, however for long expeditions in wet conditions I recommend Leukotape P tape 3.8cm this will stay secure for longer.


The Heel:

Apply two or three separate strips of tape across the back of the heel.

Do not overlap the tape as this will cause a ridge that might rub, or cause the tape to come away.

Do not have any wrinkles or bumps in the tape as these may cause blisters themselves. Make tiny cuts in the tape if needed to allow better fit.


The Instep:

As above apply strips of tape along the inside of the foot.

Again ensure there are no bubbles or wrinkles.

The Toes:

Apply single strips of tape around each toe.

Try not to overlap the tape but finish just short of a join.

Avoid having the joins in the tape where they might rub, for instance under or between the toes.

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