Watching the spring hard court swing has brought to the front of my mind how troublesome blisters on your feet can be. Hard courts are notorious for causing blisters on the feet due to the friction and heat produced by the conductivity of the surface combined with the rubber of your outsole interacting with the court.
Blisters are a product of three things: Heat, Moisture, and Friction.
Common places for blisters on the feet are the balls of the foot, the toes, and the arch (in players with flat feet or over-pronation).
To treat these stubborn annoyances we have to tackle each of these causes.
Heat – Since no one has cracked the tennis shoe air conditioner, we are left with trying to dissipate the heat that is created by your feet-sock-shoe-court. This starts with your socks. White socks will cool your feet better than black. Poly blend socks will exchange air and prevent moisture buildup. Most people have the misconception that cotton is king with socks but this simply isn’t true. Acryllic/poly blend socks also are stronger so the weaves can be more open allowing better air exchange, this is important when doubling up on socks, which we will cover in the next section. The next sock idea is a little…odd. If you have an insulated lunch bag, get your socks refrigerated. Use some reusable ice packs and put a few spare pairs of socks in an insulated lunch bag. They wont stay cold for long but if you are starting to get hot spots, this can stave them off. Your shoes can also be causing heat build up if they are too small for your foot or too narrow which will crowd your toes and not allow for air exchange between the toes.
Moisture – Once your feet are soaked, that’s the ball game so its better to prevent the waterworks before they start. Once again, lets start with the socks. First, make sure you are using a poly blend; cotton will soak up moisture and then hold onto it for dear life. If you don’t have moisture wicking socks, get a can of powder to soak up the moisture so your socks don’t have to. Secondly make sure you are wearing a crew length sock, this will stop the sweat from flowing down your leg into your shoe. The next step is stopping the sweat from happening with antiperspirant- NEVER EVER put scented antiperspirant on the bottom of your foot. Unscented, antiperspirant stick deodorant is your best bet, stay away from aerosols, which can cause dermatitis, much like the scented antiperspirants. Usually one swipe on the bottom of the foot will do it. If none of this works, consult your local plastic surgeon or dermatologist to discuss Botox. This is a quick procedure that will shut down your sweat glands for a time.
Friction – Friction is the root of all evil when it comes to blisters. Friction will cause heat which causes swear which will cause blistering. Most runners will tell you to use petroleum jelly, this is fine for them but for a tennis player who needs to stop and start quickly this will ultimately lead to sliding and falling if used too liberally not to mention the risk for athletes foot if using jelly too much between the toes. You are better off with antifungal cream if you are going to go the route of lubricants. For your socks, two are better than one, this will give you a second layer between your feet and the insole of the shoe. I also like wearing two socks versus one very thick sock, namely because it helps prevent friction, but also because it diminishes the risk of holding onto moisture and heat given the tiny but substantial air pocket between the socks. Friction can also be caused by having too much room in the shoe or too much pronation of the foot while in the shoe. An orthotic will go a long way to addressing both of these. Over the counter is fine but just make sure you aren’t spending more than 40 dollars, no orthotics you can get at a store that come in a box are “custom”. The 30 dollar pair of Powersteps or Superfeet are just as good as the “custom” ones at high priced shoe stores selling for 200- 300 dollars. The very best orthotics
I have seen for blisters have been diabetic inserts which are relatively cheap.
So you already have a blister, now what?
Most blisters on the toes should be treated with gauze and a self-adhering bandage like Coflex NOT bandaids. Moleskin can be used but make sure to cut out some prewrap, gauze, or use a small amount of jelly in the area of the actual blister because you don’t want to rip the skin anymore when you take it off.
Blisters on the bottom of the foot or around the ankle/ achilles tendon should be treated with gauze + self-adhering bandages or moleskin. Once again use some barrier with the moleskin.
No matter what the cause, blisters can be debilitating, so stop them before they start and your feet will certainly thank you.