Keeps You on Track
Don’t Let Blisters Hurt Performance
It’s triathlon season, which means it’s also blister season. And while blisters might seem like a rite of passage – who doesn’t have a great story about finishing a race with an oozing heel – blisters can be just as painful as a shin splint or twisted ankle, affecting your performance.
Triathletes are especially susceptible to blisters because of repetitive motions — feet pounding the pavement or pumping bike pedals — for miles on end. That means tens of thousands of opportunities for shoes to rub against heels, toes and foot pads. Add perspiration from exertion, and you have the ideal environment for blisters to form.
Understanding how these fluid-filled bubbles form and what you can do to prevent or treat them can help spare you the mess and possible race-ending pain of a blister.
USA Triathlon doesn’t want blisters to derail the training or race day performance of any of its nearly 500,000 members.
That’s why we are partnering with Compeed to help members understand how these fluid-filled bubbles form and how you can prevent or care for them. USA Triathlon members get an exclusive discount on the purchase of any Compeed product on Amazon. These bandages are superior to ordinary bandages by providing 10 times more pain relief and 3 times more cushioning than ordinary bandages. Compeed also stays in place 50% longer and heals 20% faster than ordinary bandages.
Birth of a Blister
The most common type of blister for a triathlete is the friction blister. That’s that pesky pocket of fluid that forms in the upper layers of skin after too much stress and friction, typically from shoes or socks rubbing and rubbing and rubbing. As the top layer of skin is separated from the lower layers, fluid fills the gap, cushioning the tissue from further damage.
Here’s a more detailed explanation (not for the weak of stomach): Called mechanical injuries, blisters occur due to excessive shear force between the surface of the skin and the rest of the body. The layer of skin most susceptible to shear force is the stratum spinosum. As this layer tears away from the tissues below, a plasma-like fluid leaks from the cells and begins to fill the gap that is created between those two layers. This fluid encourages new growth and regeneration. If the top layer (the roof) tears, plasma will leak out of the blister, and eventually the entire roof will come off. At that point the risk of infection is at its highest.
Guide to Prevention
The goal therefore is to prevent blisters. This is actually easier than it sounds. Elite athletes are used to using equipment that keeps them safe while competing. That means running shoes, for example, that fit well -- not too snug -- and provide the cushioning and support appropriate for the way an individual runs. As for socks? Forget what you were told as a child. Cotton socks might “breathe,” but the material actually keeps moisture on skin. This increases the friction -- and boom, blister time. A better option: moisture-wicking socks, typically made of synthetic fabrics (and worth the investment!). Some athletes even change socks during competition to keep their feet dry and minimize the opportunity for moisture to get trapped on their skin.
Foot powder can help by absorbing moisture, but it also can clump and create friction. So this requires trial and error to determine the right amount.
- Be Prepared
One easy way to beat blisters is to keep blister cushions on hand, particularly during training and competition. When you sense a blister coming on – skin is tender, hot, maybe itchy -- apply a specialist blister bandage such as Compeed Advanced Blister Care, which is waterproof and sweatproof. This could out and out prevent a blister from forming, or at least stop one from worsening.
What makes Compeed superior to the seemingly trusty bandage you grew up with?
Compeed Advanced Blister Care uses hydrocolloid gel to absorb moisture and helps heal 20% faster than an ordinary bandage. The pad itself is extra-cushioned to protect tender skin and prevent additional friction from damaging it. Compeed also stays put 50% longer than an ordinary bandage. This means it won’t scrunch up, even while running and biking. Ordinary bandages, on the other hand, can get crumpled and fall off, often taking some skin and creating even more discomfort or pain. Compeed won’t come off until it’s ready to come off -- typically in a few days.
- Plot Twist
If, despite your best efforts, you still get a blister, proper care is the key to a quick recovery.
Clean the area immediately, if possible. The best course (see what we did there?) is to keep the blister from tearing so the skin underneath can heal on its own. Therefore, eliminating or reducing the source of friction is necessary. A Compeed Advanced Blister Care bandage has that special, deep cushioning to reduce pressure, and it creates a moist environment, thus optimizing the time for the blister to heal under this protective second skin.
If there are any signs of infection -- pain, swelling, redness, warmth, red streaks leading away from the blister or pus coming from it -- see a doctor, immediately.
- Just Say No
We know it’s tempting. You might even have been taught to do it. But today we know better. Resist the urge to pop a blister.
Blister fluid encourages new growth and regeneration of the underlying skin. The best way for a blister to heal fast is to keep it intact under a protective moist environment like a Compeed cushion. That said, popping a blister may be unavoidable if it is interfering with your ability to compete. It also could burst on its own. In either case, use an antiseptic to clean the area or rinse it with salt water or clean running water, then cover with a clean blister bandage. A hydrocolloid pad such as Compeed is particularly well-suited for this situation because it will absorb extra liquid, alleviate pain and promote faster healing.
People often make the mistake of removing a blister bandage at night so the wound can “air.” Again, we know better now, and air actually slows healing. That’s because the cells needed for wound healing grow more slowly in a dry environment.
And try not to pick at the bandage. It will start to peel away on its own, an indication the blister is healing. Once it is healed, replenish your supply of Compeed blister bandages so your next experience with a blister is a short one.