Montana Jones

Montana n: A state of the northwest United States bordering on Canada. Admitted as the 41st state in 1889. The fourth largest state in the union, it includes vast prairies and numerous majestic mountain ranges.
Syn: Treasure State, Big Sky Country, Last Best Place.

Jones n: slang. An addiction or very deep craving.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

How to fix a blister

The Montana Jones guide to blisters.

Prevent them.

The first best way to deal with a blister is to not get one in the first place. Choose good footwear and avoid shoes that rub or pinch; that should be common sense. You also have to pick a good sock. A thick wooly sock can help sometimes but be careful, pressure causes blisters too. If your shoe has a tight fit thick layers of socks can sometimes aggravate the problem. If you have the comfiest boot in the world but the fit is snug, get a thinner sock. I have seen people hike with dress socks for the ultra thin feel. Personally I would just go and get a good pair of running socks. Sporting good stores sell some nice hiking socks but my personal favorite sock is the all purpose plain white tube sock. You know those ratty tube socks you wear in your day to day? Don't hike with those. For some serious footwork go and get a brand new pair that doesn't have the life trampled out of them. I typically get only two or three washings out of a sock before I retire it from hiking duty. Secret happy foot trick: wear them inside out with the smooth side next to your skin.

Tape on the heel can stop a blister before it starts.

When the footwear is as good as it's gonna get and there is still a chance of a blister I use this great stuff called 'Sports Tape.' This is all purpose cloth tape commonly used to tape up a sprained ankle. I keep a roll or two in my backpack all the time, it is the best blister preventative I know. About two inches across the heel is all it takes. If you get blisters on your toes or the sides of your feet be sure to tape there too. Once you are taped up you have to be careful putting the sock on or you will rip all your handiwork off. (footiework?) Roll the sock into a sock doughnut and starting from the toe unroll it onto your foot.

Stop it before it starts.

If you are out hiking, playing, having fun and you feel a hot spot on your foot you are in blister trouble. Either you are going to get a blister or you already have one. Stop right there. Sit down. Get that shoe off and check your foot. If you do nothing and keep walking you are doomed to blisterhood. Tape up that hot spot, and smooth out your sock before you keep going. If you didn't bring the roll of sports tape with you now is the time to improvise. A band-aid from the first aid kit will do the trick. Change socks if you can. You might even try using some of that cellophane you wrapped your lunch with as an improvised band-aid.

A minor blister.

A minor blister. So you have a sore spot on your foot, it's red, tender, and possibly even starting to fill with fluid. There is almost nothing you can do about this blister. Clean it, tape it, protect it, and live with it. I like to clean the foot with wet naps for dirt and alcohol wipes for germs. There are some pretty good off the shelf blister band-aids that work well on this sort of blister. If it is super painful, try treating it with a dab of pain relieving Neosporin. For serious pain, try my secret weapon: Preparation H. Get out of those shoes the first chance you get. If you go easy on your feet this will heal on it's own in a day or two. If you keep hiking it won't heal until after the irritation stops.

A big blister.

A puffy fluid filled blister.

So that blister got all big and now it is a puffy blob of fluid filled skin. If it is small or only loose skin without a lot of fluid you can tape it just like the minor blisters. I actually prefer to do this whenever I can because as soon as you lance the blister and break the skin you have created an open wound. Your shoes and your stinky feet can be host to all sorts of interesting bacteria and fungus. Your feet will be happier if there were no open wounds in your shoe. But sometimes the blister is so big and nasty that the fluid will create more pressure or putting your shoe back on will break the blister. A needle is the best tool for lancing that bad daddy. In a perfect world your needle would be sterilized in an autoclave before you used it. In our imperfect world clean the needle the best you can with alcohol and be ready to treat the foot with Neosporin or other antibacterial ointment. First clean the blister and surrounding area with alcohol wipes and have some paper towels ready. Make only one small hole in the outer skin to drain the fluid. Don't tear or cut the skin off, your own skin is the best possible band aid so keep it intact. You may have to press on the blister with the paper towels to encourage it to drain. After you have drained it to the best of your ability clean and dry the blister again, apply the antibiotic ointment and cover it with a blister band aid.

A broken blister.

A broken blister. The blister got out of hand and broke before you could treat it. Take extra care with these blisters, you have an open wound on your foot and you need to worry about infections. If you are treating someone else's blister you should be wearing rubber gloves. Those bodily fluids can contain nasties like Hepatitis or HIV. First step again is to clean the blister. When the skin is broken I pass on the alcohol wipes and use a medicated wipe instead; they tend to sting less than the alcohol. Treat this blister with the antibiotic ointment and cover it with a blister band aid. Clean the wound and replace the band aid regularly until it heals.

About blister band aids.

I learned all my blister craft from my grandmother who treated hundreds of blisters in her day. She didn't have the luxury of modern band aids so she used ointment, plastic food wrap and lots of tape. Worked pretty good too. The object of the game is to stop the friction. Make the shoe rub something other than the skin. Nowadays there are several band aids available off the shelf specifically designed for blisters. They are made very thin, shaped for the heel of a foot and sometimes come treated with a pain killer. Modern technology has trumped grandma.

There are various brands of blister band aids and they can be hard to find even in a well stocked drug store. I tend to rely on the Band-Aid brand, get the larger size the small ones are useless with real world blisters. If you can't find the blister band aids look for the "Advanced Healing gel strips" as far as I can tell these are the same product in a different box. Dr. Scholl's also makes a pretty sweet blister band aid. I like to keep a variety of brands around because not all band aids stick to all people. Some peoples skin simply wont let a band aid stick. The different brands will use different adhesives so sometimes one brand will stick while another wont. Find what works for you. I have even gone so far as to hold a band aid in place with complete wraps of sports tape. A hiker once introduced me to a product called "Spyroflex" It was a rubbery material that came in sheets that could be cut to size and would stretch to the contours of the foot. That was some sweet blister treatment stuff but I have never been able to find it again.

Moleskin.

I think Moleskin is overrated and I generally avoid it. It is supposed to be an all purpose blister treatment but it does not work as well or as often as I would like. First of all Moleskin is a thick pad. If your blister is a pressure blister this stuff will only make it worse. Sometimes the padding of moleskin is all it takes to create a pressure blister. Secondly the stuff is not sterile. If the blister breaks or you need to lance it, Moleskin will not protect you from bacteria or infection. The only time Moleskin is ever useful is if pressure is definitely not a problem, the friction is extreme and there is no chance of getting out of those shoes anytime soon. Clean and bandage the blister as you normally would and then cut the Moleskin into a doughnut shape with the inner hole slightly larger than the blister. Apply the Moleskin around the blister with the blister showing through the hole. This is the trick that everyone seems to know and it is not all that useful in most situations.

Whats in Montana Jones' blister kit.

My blister kit
  • Moist Towelettes - Used for cleaning dirt, grime, toe jam and sweat off the feet.
  • Alcohol Swabs - Used for cleaning nasty germs off the feet.
  • Gold Bond Medicated Wipes - Used for cleaning and sanitizing when the skin is broken.
  • Sports Tape - Two sizes for all sorts of interesting uses.
  • Blister Band-Aids - I usually try to keep both large and small sizes and a variety of brands.
  • Moleskin - Just in case that one in a hundred Moleskin treatment is needed.
  • Neosporin - Antibiotic ointment. Use it anytime the skin is broken.
  • Preparation H - A super duper pain killer for those ultra sucky blisters.
  • Cute little scissors - Useful for cutting tape, Moleskin

What ought to be in the blister kit but not shown here

  • A needle - Used for lancing those big blisters, preferably sterilized.
  • Hand Sanitizer - Always wash your hands before and after doing blister treatment.
  • Rubber Gloves - Unless you intimately know the patient you have to assume their bodily fluids are carrying hepatitis. Protect yourself.

Recap

  • Prevent the blister. If you get a hot spot it may already be too late.
  • Clean the blister. Alcohol when the skin is not broken, medicated wipes when the skin is torn. And wash your hands too.
  • Cover the blister. Use thin band aids, tape, whatever it takes to stop the friction without adding pressure.
  • Treat open wounds to avoid infection.
  • Get out of those shoes and rest your feet. The healing won't start until the irritation stops.
Eeew! Ouch! Icky!
Comments:
Ow - those hurt just looking at them. Thanks for all your advice - sounds like you're an expert. Footie work - that's great!


When I first arrived I thought that I had reached your HNT entries.
 
Mmm, blisters. I'm sporting 2, one on each foot; thanks to work boots. :/

My shopping list just got a wee bit longer.
 
I can attest to the sports tape. It turned what could have been a painful trip into a rather entertaining one.
 
a true montanan would suggest duct tape instead of sports tape, no kidding.
 
Thanks Montana Jones! I found this information very helpful.
 
Thanks! This has been really helpful. I've recently gotten a blister on my hand from raking the yard and wasn't sure if I should let it heal naturally or bandage it. Now I know!
 
When I know I'm going on a good hike, I use moleskin religiously to prevent blisters from forming.
 
You can purchase Spyroflex at gorillashoes.com or just google "Spyroflex" for a host of suppliers.
 
just had to drain one, this helped! band-aid makes blister "advanced healing" bandaids i highly recommend them!!
 
I have 4 blisters on each foot I hope this can help!
 
Great advice! I just did four days on the Abel Tasman Track in New Zealand with four severe blisters on days three and four. I thought I had a small stone in my shoe on day one, that should have been a clue. One blister under each of my heels and two water balloons on my second smallest toes of each foot. I used Compeed on the heels but they were too far gone to really help. I didn't know what to do about the toe blisters. Beautiful scenery and no other way to go so I just had to grin, hobble and bear it. I'll be better prepared next time. And the boots weren't new, but the track very hard packed.
 
This really helped! I have two severe blisters on my heels from wearing converse to work without socks before they were broken in -.- BIG mistake!! They hurt like crazy!! The left one hurts more than the right but still... I'm sitting my happy butt on the couch and I am NOT moving... until I have a nic fit...
 
AWWW I have felt the feeling having a blister, it's really hurt and irritating. But thanks for the tips, very helpful.

Kinesiology Sports Strapping Tape

 
This is a must read for everyone. Impressive! I learned a lot of things through reading your blog.

First aid

 
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