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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Foot Blisters

After a major disaster (think Hurricane Katrina), chances are you'll have to walk a long distance. If you haven't prepared, you may end up with a major blister-and-blood situation.

A blister is irritating at best, and when they get advanced, they can be crippling, taking days to heal (while you sit still, unable to continue your travels). It will take even longer to heal if you have to walk in knee-deep in sewage water (again, Katrina).

What is a blister? According to Wikipedia, "A blister is a small pocket of fluid within the upper layers of the skin, typically caused by forceful rubbing (friction), burning, freezing, chemical exposure or infection. Most blisters are filled with a clear fluid called serum or plasma. However, blisters can be filled with blood (known as blood blisters) or with pus (if they become infected)." If they become infected and are left untreated, it could actually be life-threatening.

They often show up on heels or toes, but can occur anywhere, especially if you are wearing new shoes or boots.

How to Prepare:
  • Shoes: Choose shoes that are strong, lightweight, and sturdy enough to walk miles and miles and miles. Break them in as soon as you get them, but don't wear them out. I often walk around the house in my new shoes for days before they even hit the streets. This includes boots, sneakers, and casuals. I do NOT recommend flip flops or thongs for use during an emergency.
  • Socks: You really need socks that will wick away the sweat, keeping your feet dry and clean. Keep several changes of socks in your supplies, and change whenever they get wet. Some people wear thin tight socks directly on the foot (to minimize any rubbing), then a heavier pair on top of those.

The instant you discovered a blister, deal with it. Leave it alone and you'll regret it. Your goal is to stop the rubbing.

  • Stop walking.
  • Take off your shoes or boots.
  • Dry out or get out some clean dry socks.
  • Apply to the blister a piece of first-aid tape, "second skin", duct tape, or something else that's just for blisters, like moleskin. Cover a larger area than hurts so that if the dressing comes off, it will pull off the tender skin. Do NOT use a regular bandage because the non-stick part will keep rubbing the bad spot (I had been doing this wrong for a long time!).
  • Put your clean/dry socks on.
  • Don't leave the bandage or tape on too long. It's a good idea to change it every hour or so, to prevent moisture accumulating under the tape, which will cause even more problems.
  • If it gets really bad, make a little doughnut from moleskin and apply to the blister, keeping the blister inside the hole in the doughnut. This will even more minimize the rubbing.


  • If you can rest for a couple of days and not keep on walking, don't pop the blister. The liquid inside will reabsorb and will heal naturally.
  • If you can't rest and blister hurts, clean the area gently but thoroughly. Carefully pop around the edge of the blister with a sanitized/sterilized (tip in a match flame) needle. Gently press the liquid out. Leave the flap of skin in place, and cover with a large bandage and moleskin.
  • If your blister pops, stop and clean gently. Make sure all dirt and grime gets cleaned out. Lift off the flap of skin if necessary, replacing after it's clean and dry. Cover with a sterile banage then cover than with duct tape or other first aid tape or moleskin. Watch for infection (redness).

I've had my share of blisters, and have often treated them incorrectly, leaving scars in their wake. Here's just a tidbit of info that I hope makes your travels easier and painless.


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