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Published on September 21st, 2011 | by Papa Doc


Ask A Doctor: De Feet Of Roller Derby (Blister Prevention And Treatment)

Derby women are tough, but their feet aren’t always as tough as they are. Blisters are a common problem for roller derby: because of ill-fitted new – or old – skates – however cool they may be; because of stressors (heat, sweat, harder training) put on feet; and because some feet are not naturally built to deal with rough use.

We see a fair number of skaters who have inflexible, high arched feet; this puts wear and tear on the front part of the foot, especially the big toe joint. These “special” feet sometimes need special gear in the skate, such as metatarsal pads or orthotics. This gear often requires the assistance of orthopedic or podiatric doctors.

Below is advice for first aid for tough skaters with tender feet for the usual type of blisters. Prevention, as in so many areas of life, is easier than dealing with blisters.


1. Be sure your skates are fit well in first place. This is
really important for those awesome “New skates”. Get skates (new or old) stretched if they have tight fit areas.

2. Keep your feet dry as you can – use talcum or corn starch powder inside your socks to reduce friction on skin. Use cotton socks next to the skin if possible. If you can get your skates off and dry out your feet several times during practices or bouts without grossing out your team, this helps reduce friction.

3. When redness or soreness starts, use a doughnut pad (a gauze, moleskin, felt, or foam pad 1/4 inch thick with a hole to fit over the sore area to keep friction away from the sore area) before the skin blisters or breaks down. Prewrap and tape are the best way to keep the doughnut on so no adhesive is used on the skin. Some skaters find a gel blister pad under the doughnut helps as well. Use the doughnut even when not skating if you are on your feet a lot until the redness or soreness is gone. Self-sticking doughnut pads may cause injury to the skin from the adhesive.

Treatment (if blister has already formed):

1. Protect the blister with a doughnut of felt, foam, gauze, or moleskin – you must have at least 1/4” deep doughnut – to keep direct pressure off the blister area. You may use this over a gel blister pad. Again, try to avoid adhesive directly on the skin by using prewrap and taping on the prewrap.

2. You should wear the doughnut all day when you are in shoes or skates until the blister heals – usually 7 – 10 days. You may leave the padding off when barefoot or at night.

3. If the blister is broken, keep the area clean and covered to prevent infection. Generally, we don’t recommend opening blisters until they break on their own. Washing the area with antibacterial soap and water 2 – 3 times a day is all you really need. You can use an antibacterial ointment as well – just watch out for allergy to neomycin (quite common); neomycin is an antibacterial found in many combination antibacterial products such as triple antibiotic and Neosporin.

4. For severe blisters, Domeboro soaks may be recommended – see your medical support team for advice.

5. On occasion, we advise use of Tincture of Benzoin or skin toughening agent to toughen the skin where a blister has formed previously. See your medical team for advice about this.

Bunions and calluses are a separate and more troublesome problem. These are more often the result of foot structure and/or skate fit. Dealing with them is more complicated – involving special pads, taping, and orthotics. You should seek advice from your medical support team or doctor.

Papa Doc Vendetta, Windy City Rollers, Chicago

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  • Maiya Collier

    I usually just roller skate at the rink. And every time I do skate I usually get a really bad blister on my right side big toe! And I have to leaves early:( can I use baby powder to help my toe while I skate so it doesn’t get a really bad blisters? Or would putting a bandage on it help before I go out to skate?

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