Friday, July 29, 2005

Mail Bag - Blister Prevention

Today's installment of Mail bag comes from Jason Becker, coach of Francis Howell High School's Seven Sages Ultimate in St. Charles, Missouri.

Jason writes:

I have a question that I'd like to see addressed on the blog, although it doesn't specifically pertain to coaching, really.

I've heard lots of tricks and tactics that players use to avoid turning their feet to hamburger during hot summer tournaments. Everything from careful boot selection to a coat of Vaseline has been advanced--but what really works? As someone who is sick of sitting around for a week after tournaments, waiting for my poor little feet to heal, I'd really like to know how people deal with this annoyance.

Thanks for the blog. It's a fantastic resource for coaches in a sport with very little to go on (as of yet).

It is always nice to hear we are reaching the community, Jason. Now, on to your question.

Foot care, like sun protection, is an underrated part of tournament preparation. While the right footware is a topic worthy of its own discussion, there are many other things one can do to prevent blisters over the course of a grueling weekend of ultimate.

In high school, when I was doing six-mile cross-country training runs in the middle of the Atlanta summer, I would often develop blisters between my toes. My father, a long time runner himself, suggested I use Vaseline to reduce the friction on my feet, and it has never let me down for running or for ultimate. Before cleating up, I apply the Vaseline to all sides of my toes, the ball of the foot and around the heel. In addition, a little Vaseline is often more effective than a tape or bandage if you feel a blister coming on, because it won't come off when cutting or create additional friction in a new area.

Wearing proper socks, along with changing them regularly, will also aid in blister prevention. I prefer using Thorlo brand, specifically those made for tennis, as they have a lot of padding in the front of the foot that helps with the friction created by ultimate's footwork and cutting movements. Additionally, I often choose to wear a thin pair of liner-type socks underneath my thicker main socks (something I ported from playing soccer). While not only providing more cushion, this technique can also lead to a more secure boot fit which will prevent the foot from slipping inside the cleat, another problem that leads to blisters.

Changing your socks before every game can also help. A clean, dry pair of socks will go a long way towards avoiding the damp conditions that often cause blisters. If I am beginning play early in the day when the grass is still wet, I will also change my socks (and sometimes my cleats) in between warming-up and playing.

Some players will use a product such as Gold Bond Medicated Power to combat the potential dampness within their socks and shoes.

Finally, your blisters may be caused by a lack of padding and support in the cleats themselves. If your cleat has a flimsy insole, or one that has broken down over time, you may want to look into purchasing a pair of athletic insoles (I use those manufactured by Sof Sole) and fitting them into your boots. Athletic insloes can also improve cleat fit.

Jason, I hope I have touched on enough different methods of blister prevention here that you will be able to find one that works for you. Thanks for the question! I look forward to hearing comments from other visitors about what they have done as well.


Jason Becker said...

Thanks for addressing my question. I was doubtful about the Vaseline fix. Seems as if it might make one's foot move around in the boot--but I'm willing to try anything at this point! I'll also pass these tricks along to my HS players . . . at Francis Howell CENTRAL High School. Not that the mistake bothered me so much, but my kids would probably string me up for confusing us with Francis Howell--rivalries, you know.

Thanks again.


heacox said...

You guys have a Francis Howell and a Francis Howell Central? Weird. My apologies for the omission.

Actually, I've been asked numerous times about my foot "moving around" when it has Vaseline on it--I almost mentioned it but couldn't figure out a good way to phrase what I wanted to say. I have never had a problem with my foot moving around unnecessarily or slipping inside my boot due to the Vaseline, although I do prefer a snug fit to my cleats.

Congratulations on receiving the Spirit Award this year and good luck to your program in the future.

Tarr said...

A couple comments:

- a good fit in your shoe is crucial. I have some cleats that I blister in MUCH more easily than others. I find a stiff sole helps, as does a good replacement insole. And of course, tie your shoes as tight as you can comfortably. Don't forget to lace all the way up. If your shoes fit perfectly well and snugly, you can probably go sockless and not blister up.

- I have experimented with so many different sock and sock combinations, it's hard for me to remember them all. Of late I have settled on the following combination:

1) A thin nylon liner sock. The key is THIN and form-fitting. I like the Wigwam Ultimax, but there's lots to choose from. A silk liner sock could work too.

2) A wool or synthetic outer sock. I like the Fox River hiking sock, a thick crew-length wool/polypropylene blended sock. I sometimes use a smartwool hiking sock in stead. But any good medium-weight hiking sock will do fine.

The key here is no cotton or other absorbent materials. Sure, your feet get hot, but they never get wet, no matter how wet it is or how much you sweat. Most of the friction gets transferred to the sock/sock boundary, so your skin avoids most of the rubbing.

Hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

Make an investment and buy a book entitled "Fixing Your Feet" (the name of hte author escapes me at the moment).

It contains many solutions to this and other common sport-related foot injuries.

It really is an invaluable resource.

Jon said...

I've had good luck with WrightSock™ brand socks. I get good calluses, but generally avoid blisters altogether. They've got a no-blister guarantee, and as they've got a patent on it, they're the only dual-layer sock on the market.

Tarr said...

That sock sounds quite nice - of course it's quite similar in effect to the two sock system I encourage above.

Anonymous said...

My solution is a sort of variation on the vaseline fix.

1) I put vaseline on the areas I think will blister/are already starting to blister. For me and my particular cleats right now, this is the outside of both the big and the small toes, plus the inside of my foot.

2) Put tape over the areas you vaselined. I buy the standard athletic tape, but in a pinch even duct tape will do.

3) Put vaseline all over the tape.

4) Put on your sock(s).

5) Put vaseline on your sock over the areas where the tape and vaseline is.

All of this seems a bit excessive, and might be, but is sure does prevent blisters. All of the vaseline reduces the friction in whatever the problem is. If it's between the sock and the cleat, there is vaseline there. If it is between the foot and the sock, there is vaseline there, and an extra layer of tape to prevent that.

DouMing said...

Thanks a lot for these tips, recently I've bought new cleats and after the first use I developd a blister on my ankle and a little bit lower but above the heel, and I was wondering if there was any way to prevent it without buying new cleats. Anyways, I'll be sure to try some of those, and if you guys know why I'm getting that blister, please let me know!



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Anonymous said...

Helpful information on Hiking

Paul said...

I'm glad I stumbled upon this. I'm having a lot of problems with the blistering. I bought some under armor socks that claim to wick away the moisture, but I don't know if that's necessarily working. I think my cleats need to be replaced too. I'm trying everything, but I'll try applying a thin layer of vaseline in between the toes!

hl67 said...

I do endurance walking (100 miles plus) and have found the following helpful in preventing or delaying blisters:

1. Vaseline.
2. Double-socking
3. Seeing my physiotherapist regularly to ensure I am moving properly
4. Cushioned inner soles
5. Changing shoes each day.
6. Synthetic socks, not cotton socks.

I plan to look at Wright Socks before my next endurance walk.