How to prevent and or treat a ski boot blister
Skiing and ski boot blisters are very common, but what's the best way to treat a ski-boot blister?Without listening to your feet and ignoring the tell tale signs of a blister rather than sitting down and dealing with it, the boot blister can result in a nasty wound or worse still an infected foot. Gavin Baylis gets out the needle...
Over 35 or so years I have had some truly horrible blisters from walking both in snow board boots and ski boots, I've bought the most expensive guaranteed blister proof socks on the market and spent a small fortune on Compeeds and still end up with nigh on holes in my feet from red raw and painful blisters.
In March 2017, I ended up in emergency in Briancon hospital with an infected foot, although it was not a blister infection but an infected ankle bursa the doctors said with another day without antibiotics there was a high probability I could have lost my foot or worse due to sepsis blood infection taking hold.
A simple blister untreated can quickly manifest into a worse problem in just a few days!
However there is a way to treat them if caught early before they burst.
Obviously the most common way to get a blister from your boots is from walking in them for long period of time and that ticks the box when ski touring be it with ski or snowboard boots.
However, I do suffer from soft feet as I used to get blisters when running and almost dreaded getting new running shoes because of the subsequent blisters that would appear.
I Googled ways to prevent getting blisters and used Witch Hazel / Surgical White spirit to harden my feet, bought 1,000 mile socks as well as silk liner socks and woollen walking socks, but they still came.
Even before the ski season started I used to walk the dogs bare foot along the promenade on the South Coast where we live, as well as hike on the South Downs in my ski touring boots in an attempt to harden my feet or get a blister in advance of a ski trip so by the time I went skiing I'd have a good callous of hardened ski scar tissue, which is still the best way to prevent blisters.
Over the last five years of spending winter seasons out in the mountains I usually get blisters at the beginning of the season and all is then well ski touring from January to March in cooler temps. However, when ski touring in classic spring touring conditions when feet can sweat, so the blister problem would resurface.
Before you read on, I'd like to give credit to the person who advised me about this, after I'd run a x-country half marathon over the South Downs a good few years ago I commented on my Weather Blog that I'd sustained some bad blisters and fellow kitesurfer, Judy Tonkinson messaged me about this way to treat blisters, so thanks again Judy!
HOW AND WHEN TO TREAT THE BLISTERS?
I had already knocked up four early season ski tours with just one tiny hot spot from the first tour. After further ski tours, I had no problems and I was feeling fairly confident that my feet were OK.
I then decided to go out for a training climb, on my own and at a much faster pace than the previous tours, climbing the closed but groomed pistes in front of where we live in Serre Chevalier in the winter, which are quite steep in places.
And after about 90 minutes I knew that I had a blister coming on each foot! I carried on for another 30 minutes or so to reach where I was aiming for.
However, what if I was with a group of other skiers and we still had another couple of hours to go, what to do then? The trick is to recognise when best to stop and treat them.
First tell / insist to your friends that you have to stop, Do NOT bravely persevere in silence especially if it's the first day of a multi-day trip! And more often than not people like a break.
Probably if you're reading this then you, too, are prone to blisters and will be carrying the likes of Compeed, but maybe not the all important piece of equipment, the needle.
For sure dealing with the blister(s) is far easier back where you are staying than on the mountain, but you have to make sure that you treat the blister before it bursts. This is when the problems start as it's far more difficult to treat, especially if you have consecutive days of having to walk ahead of you.
A burst blister can rapidly go from a very sore euro sized one with red raw skin to a far more serious open wound that could become infected.
If on the hill then be sure to take your time, make sure your feet are bone dry and not at all sweaty, as once you've treated your feet you'll have to apply a Compeed or some type of dressing.
The offending bubble
So carefully insert a sterilised needle 3-4mm into the good skin and push the needle into the bubble.
Withdraw the needle and the fluid will escape. Then squeeze out all the fluid. If the blister is quite large you may well have to repeat the process the next morning but the skin quickly settles down.
The skin will quickly heal over the blister where the bubble of fluid was, and if there is no open wound it stops the blister from becoming red raw and, at worst, infected.
If on the mountain and you're treating the blister and you still have to carry on then really you have no option to apply a Compeed. Make sure that you do not stick the adheesive part of the Compeed to the skin of the blister.
And a word of advice about Compeeds. As I already mentioned make sure your feet are really dry, if at all damp the Compeed will not stick and come off after half an hour. It really is worth spending some time applying it well.
Once the Compeed has bonded to your skin then it should be good for at least four to five days.
DO NOT PANIC when after a few days the Compeed goes white and you suspect you have a massive puss bomb* brewing below it, as that's what happens with the healing process. Also it does help not to get it wet when showering - and at night it's worth sleeping with a sock on so as you turn over the edges of the Compeed do not catch.
*Though if the whole area is inflamed and sore you probably do have an infection!
Nothing like air circulating, if I'm not touring each day, I personally prefer not to apply a Compeed and instead I use sterile gauze and adhesive tape as I find this helps the healing process and I can still comfortably ski without damaging the healing skin.
And a big shout out to Hypafix Tape, hard to find in pharmascists but really easy online, such as Amazon.
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