The Complete Tennis Player’s Guide to Preventing Blisters
As a competitive tennis player, you train hard, eat right, and invest in high-quality shoes and equipment. The last thing you want to worry about is getting a painful blister when you’re training or, worse, during a big match. Fortunately, preventing blisters is easier than you might think. Follow the tips below to help reduce the risk of blisters during your next match.
1. Get a Good Fit
With all of the online shopping options available, it’s tempting to simply skim the reviews and order a pair of tennis shoes online. Don’t do it—at least not until you’ve had a proper fitting. One of the biggest causes of blisters is shoes that are too small, too big, or have seams in the wrong place. It’s important to go to a local sporting goods store at least once every few years to have your gait evaluated. Get a good shoe recommendation and buy your tennis shoes there. Save online shopping for replacement shoes when the pair you bought in the store wear out.
2. Buy the Right Socks
When it comes to causing blisters, cheap cotton socks rank right up there with shoes that don’t fit. Select socks that are recommended for tennis or running to ensure they’re high-quality and will withstand hours of heat, moisture, and friction. Some athletes prefer moisture-wicking or nylon socks, while others swear by double-layer socks designed to reduce friction. Do your research and buy socks that are highly recommended online or by a sales professional at your local sporting goods store.
3. Shake Out Your Shoes
This one might seem obvious, but you would be surprised by how many athletes “power through” and ignore a pesky pebble—or even a large grain of sand—in their shoe and end up with painful blister. Before you lace up, shake out your shoes, then stick your hand inside and do a quick sweep. If you feel something in your shoe when you’re on the court, stop and remove it as soon as possible. If you happen to be diabetic and have sensory loss in your feet, this step is critical.
4. Kick Friction to the Curb
The primary cause of blisters for tennis players is friction and shear. When running and pivoting on your feet, your skin is pulled in different directions, known as “shearing”. If you’re not using a blister prevention product like ENGO Blister Prevention Patches, the ongoing pressure, friction, and shear that your skin experiences, can quickly lead to blisters.
5. Break in New Shoes Gradually
It’s exciting to try out a brand new pair of tennis shoes, but take it easy at first. Don’t plan on spending an entire day on the court in your new shoes. Give your feet time to adjust to your new shoes by alternating between your old tennis shoes and your new ones. (The same goes for new insoles.)
6. Lace Up Just Right
Some athletes are in the habit of lacing their shoes up so tight they almost lose circulation in their feet, while others tie their laces so loose they could slip their shoes on. Neither is a good idea as both too-loose and too-tight laces can cause blisters. Be mindful of how tight you’re tying your shoes. If you’re having problems you suspect are caused by your lacing technique, learn alternative ways to tie your shoes to relieve pressure and foot pain. Ian’s Shoelace Site offers more than 50 different ways to tie your shoes – check it out to master tying your shoes.
7. Check Your Feet for Bony Protrusions
If you’ve done everything listed above and are still getting blisters, you might have a foot deformity that needs to be addressed. Some common protrusions are bunions, hammertoe, Morton’s neuroma, Haglund’s deformity (Bauer bump). If you suspect you have any of those conditions, a podiatrist can help you troubleshoot to make tennis and other athletic activities more comfortable.
Bonus Tip: Avoid any products that add moisture to your skin, such as lotions and creams. They reduce friction in the short term, but over-hydrate your skin, making it more prone to blister formation. Sticky substances, like lotions and petroleum jelly also attract dirt, which can also cause irritation.
8. STOP if Something Doesn’t Feel Right!
It’s very common for an athlete to sense a hot spot (a warm, reddened area on your foot that may produce discomfort) before it forms a blister. If treated early enough, by reducing friction in that area with a friction-reducing shoe patch, you’ll likely be able to resume your match with decreased discomfort and reduced risk of developing a blister (we call this “strategic friction management”).
9. Oh, No, I’ve Got a Blister… Am I Too Late?
If you’ve missed your opportunity to address a hot spot before it formed into a full-blown, excruciating blister, don’t fret. If you didn’t prepared yourself properly to deal with any foot issue that might arise, there are a few things you can do to get back in the game without causing further pain or skin trauma:
- Treat a deroofed or torn blister with an antiseptic before covering
- For a covered (not deroofed or torn blister), use a simple wound dressing to cover the area, then apply stretchy self-adhesive tape to keep it in place
- For a defroofed or torn blister, apply a hydrocolloid dressing to help draw fluid away from the wound to support healing
- Apply an ENGO Blister Prevention Patch to your footwear or insole to reduce friction in the surrounding area; reducing discomfort and supporting a better wound-healing environment
10. Prepare Yourself for Future Events
Here are some essential blister care supplies we recommend having on-hand:
- Wound care dressing pads
- Hydrocolloid dressings (for defroofed/open blisters ONLY)
- Adhesive felt (for reducing pressure in the blister area)
- High quality, stretchy tape, such as Cover-Roll Stretch or Fixomull
- ENGO Blister Prevention Patches (to reduce friction on footwear & insoles in the surrounding area)
Also, we recommend downloading Rebecca Rushton’s Blister Treatment Blueprint so you know exactly how to win the battle against blisters.
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Do you have more blister prevention tips? Let us know and we might add them to this list!
*Notice: This information is not intended to replace the advice of a licensed medical professional. If you have any questions or concerns about blister management, consult your primary caregiver, athletic trainer, or a podiatrist.