Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Magazine
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Sinful Sally, Rockford Rage Women’s Roller Derby (retired)
I have a new blister. Its name is Beatrice. I’ve gotten to know Bud, Bruce, Buzz and many others over the past few years. When I was in college, I played volleyball and was an Athletic Training Major (division of sports medicine). My fellow athletic training students dreaded my visits to the athletic training room for daily practice and got sick of looking at my feet during our care and prevention of injuries class. My feet were horrible. At one point, during volleyball season, I had deep “holes” in both balls of my feet from blisters that had ripped open. It was awful and awesome at the same time.
Eight years later, I have come to terms with having “Frankenstein” feet. Just 3.5 years of derby have taken a serious toll on my once beautiful and well manicured footsies, and the aforementioned “friends” I have made have taught me more than I ever wish to know about blisters. I’ve been through an endless amount of padding, blister care supplies, and athletic tape. I have bunions, bunionettes, calluses, and of course, the dreaded blister. I’ve tried everything to help prevent them and to heal them quickly once they appear. You could say I’m somewhat of an expert, so I thought I would share with all of you.
Blisters are simply caused by friction, which ends up separating layers of skin from one another and can fill with fluid. Blisters typically form anywhere there is extra friction, added moisture, or “hot spots.” Moist/warm conditions are perfect for blister harvesting, and anyone who skates derby knows that we could make millions in the blister making business.
Blood blisters are more bothersome and irritating. They appear when all layers of skin are irritated and affect the deep tissue, causing blood vessels to rupture. In my case, my past few “friends” have all been blood blisters. They aren’t pleasant, take longer to heal, and are just plain irritating. So what’s a girl to do when prone to blisters?
keep your feet clean, dry and well kempt
Easier said than done, but it really does wonders. Dry feet will cause less irritation to the skin than moist feet. Change your socks frequently. Sounds like a chore, but if you keep your feet dry, you have less of a chance to create a spot that will have excess friction.
When we do off-skates training at practice, I bring a change of socks to put on before we start skating, and recently, I have started changing my socks at half time of bouts. I’ve discovered that my hot spots don’t develop until close to halftime, simply because my feet are hot and sweaty. With changing socks midway, there is less of a chance that another nasty blister will form.
Baby power, skin lube, deodorant or Vaseline lightly rubbed on one of your hotspots before putting socks on will reduce friction. Other friction fighters that work well include (believe it or not) duct tape, Blist-O-Ban (SamMedical.com/blistoban) and Engo blister prevention pads (GoEngo.com) and items like Silipo Skate Bite Protector sleeves (Silipos.com) or Clear Clouds sleeves (SkatingSafe.com/ClearClouds) have special gel pads to protect hot spots.
wear the appropriate socks
The right socks can make or break you. We all want the newest, most badass socks from our favorite derby apparel website, but many of these socks are made from materials that increase the chance of forming blisters. A study out of the University of Missouri-Columbia showed that 100% cotton socks are the worst for holding moisture and causing blisters. In fact, the study further found that nylon socks help prevent blisters the best. Any runner, marathoner or triathlete will tell you not to wear cotton socks. A blended sock of nylon, wool or polyester will wick away sweat and keep your tootsies dry. My new fave socks are made by SmartWool (not trying to sell the socks, it’s just what has worked for me). I’ve owned these socks for a few years for hiking but just started wearing them for derby within the last six months and have seen great results. If you still want to wear your fun, new knee highs, cut off the foot at the ankle of the sock and make them into “leg warmers”, leaving the foot part open for whatever socks suit your feet best. You can still look cute, but have blisterless feet.
wear properly sized footwear
If your skate boots are too big, your feet will move more inside of them and cause more friction and hotspots. Make sure, when purchasing your next set of skates, they fit properly. Also, lacing your skate boots properly (based on your own unique foot issues) can be a big help. You can find some great lacing techniques online at IAN’s Shoe Lace website fieggen.com/shoelace.
So you have already developed the “Blister from Hell” OR “Beatrice”; what should you do NOW?
There are so many products out there to help with blister treatment. What works and what doesn’t can really depend on the person, their skin, their blister (size and type) and your skate boot. I’ve tried it all and below are some of my favorite items that have worked well me.
• 2nd skin burn pads (Spenco.com). My number one choice. These come in rectangular, square and circle pieces and can be found at some drug stores. They can be cut to size to fit your blister. They are a bit pricey, but they really cushion a hot spot or existing blister.
• Mole skin (DrScholls.com) or felt/foam pads. A contender for best item to use. Both work great if used correctly. Make sure to cut a hole in the mole skin or padding just slightly larger than your blister. The blister will sit inside of the padding and be protected from the inside of your skate boot.
• Blister Band-Aids/Advanced Healing Band-Aids (BandAid.com). These work great on minor blisters, but not well with your more involved blood blister. These dressings have a breathable center that will fill with air and cushion your blister as it heals. They are waterproof and meant to stay on the area for several days. Be careful with these though, as you don’t want to have to peel them off before the healing process is completed. If you do, you can end up ripping the blister and making blister treatment more complicated.
should I lance the sucker?
My personal/professional opinion = NO. It can lead to infection, ripped blisters and more problems; however there are some of you who will do it anyway. Read as: “I’m not condoning this, however if you do here’s what to do” (you can find it on the internet anyway).
• Clean the area thoroughly.
• Sterilize a needle and allow it to cool.
• Create a SMALL pinprick, as you don’t want to create an open space for infection or cause any tearing of the top layers of skin.
• Drain the fluid by pressing on the blister with a sterile gauze pad.
• Dress the newly deflated blister with antibiotic ointment and cover with a Band-Aid or other sterile dressing.
Remember that the above is only a last resort. I’ve been a Certified Athletic Trainer for eight years and I’ve lanced a blister only once or twice when really needed.
Take care of your hooves... happy blister free skating.