Every soccer player knows the pain of blisters. Small but mighty, these little fluid-filled sacs are a massive irritation when trying to train or play a match.
Hydration is said to be an important factor in the prevention of blisters. Being adequately hydrated means that your feet will not swell and your toes will not rub against one another.
If you are dehydrated this leads to water retention and swelling, so it is important to drink plenty of water.
Before playing soccer it is important to keep an eye on your sodium intake. This is because sodium causes water retention and more friction is likely to be felt.
What else can be done to prevent blisters? We have compiled a list of the best tips to avoid blisters from soccer cleats to help you out. We have also included some information on treating and protecting blisters for gameplay.
What are Blisters
Blisters are small pockets of bodily fluids that form under the surface of the top layer of skin. They are generally caused by friction between more than one surface, for instance the skin of your foot and the inside of your soccer cleat.
Blisters can also be caused by burning, freezing, infection, and chemical exposure. These are unlikely to be the cause of blisters on soccer players. They are generally filled with serum or plasma to give a clear appearance. You can also develop blood blisters (which are filled with blood) or pus if the blister becomes infected.
As friction is one of the key causes of blisters, the easiest way to avoid them forming is to lubricate your feet well. Now we’re not suggesting you douse your entire foot in KY jelly, but adding a small amount of lubricant to blister prone areas could stop sores from forming.
A good and cheap lubricating agent to use is Vaseline, although there are specific blister lubricants available on the market. The only issue with this method is that the lubricant is prone to spreading during game play. This can become messy and could be an inconvenience.
If you are going to lubricate your foot for playing, you should cover the blistered area, your sock, and the inside of your cleat. This is the most effective way to reduce the friction build up.
Try Before You Buy
One of the easiest ways to tell if a new pair of cleats are going to give you trouble is by trying them on before you purchase them. This ensures you can check the fit and give of the cleats, and means that you can walk around and see how they feel during movement.
If the cleats seem tight or appear to be pinching anywhere on your feet, this is often a good indication that they will give you blisters. Take the time to wander around, maybe do some jumps or practise intricate footwork. This will give you the most realistic impression of how the cleats will feel when you are wearing them during gameplay.
Remember that there is no chance the new cleats will be anywhere near as comfortable as your old pair. Those have been worn in and have molded perfectly to the shape of your foot. New cleats will be stiffer and less form fitting, but they should not be uncomfortable.
Keep Your Old Pair of Cleats When You Buy New Ones
Cleats need wearing in when you first purchase them. This is so that they can mold to the shape of your feet for a much better fit. There is no quick fix for this and the best way to wear them in properly will always be walking around and playing games in the cleats.
It can be hard to rein in your excitement when you get a new pair of cleats as all you want to do is to get out and play in them. This is not a bad idea, but you should be prepared to get at least one or two blisters.
You are likely to feel what is known as a hotspot - a sore area that is a precursor developing a blister. Keep wearing these cleats and you will definitely develop blisters everywhere.
We suggest keeping an older, broken in pair of cleats handy for the first few weeks after buying a new pair. Switch into this more comfortable pair when you feel hot spots forming to prevent full on blisters developing.
It is a good idea to have more than one pair of cleats in rotation if you are playing regularly. Each pair will fit your foot slightly differently, leading to pressure points forming in different areas.
If you only have one pair, this means that the same areas are rubbing all the time and blisters will form. If you can switch them out, it is less likely that you will develop blisters as the pressure is taken off sore areas.
Wear Your Cleats in Properly
It is not advised to wear new cleats to soccer matches or practices to begin with. Instead, we suggest putting them on and doing some jogging and warm-up exercises. After this, switch into your broken in cleats for the actual practice.
Begin slowly and gently, building up speed and agility over time. It is wise to only wear your cleats for about 20 minutes at a time when you first purchase them. Wear your cleats for a longer period of time every time you wear them. Soon enough, you will be able to wear them for much longer. Eventually, they will be fully broken in.
The hot water trick was popularized by Christiano Ronaldo but has been used for years in the soccer community to break in cleats faster. This is commonly used by professionals as they get a new pair of cleats almost every match and must rapidly break them in.
You will need a large bowl or sink of hot water and your boots. Ensure that the water is not too hot as this could melt the glue that is holding your cleats together.
Lower your cleats into the water up to where the laces are threaded through. Leave them here to soak for around 10 minutes. Remove them from the water and put them onto your feet. Walk around the house and go about your daily life wearing the cleats. This will allow them to mold to the shape of your foot better and wear them in quickly.
Wear Good Socks
This is one of the best tips you will ever hear. Good quality socks will vastly enhance your playing experience. You should wear socks that are designed for playing soccer in.
Soccer socks are likely to have grip pads on the underside and edges of the sole. They are designed to prevent the sock from slipping as you play. This reduces the friction between your foot and the shoe, meaning that blisters are less likely to form.
Soccer socks will often go above the knee, allowing you to secure your shin guards in place for matches. These leg areas will also commonly have a slight compression element. This helps the blood to circulate around your limbs, something that is absolutely vital for muscle function.
Soccer socks are also much thicker than regular everyday socks. This provides additional padding for your foot, making the cleats more comfortable and reducing the chance of getting blisters.
Soccer socks are designed to absorb moisture from sweat. Thinner socks allow moisture to build and your foot to come into direct contact with the sole of your cleats. This is the perfect environment for blisters to appear.
Keep Your Feet Clean and Dry
As we have mentioned repeatedly, moisture is one of the key components required for blisters to appear. By keeping your feet clean and dry consistently, there is less chance of injury.
Good foot hygiene will also be a benefit if you do contract a blister. Keeping the affected area clean greatly reduces the risk of infection. This could potentially cause a much larger problem that results in many weeks off playing.
A good suggestion to help you maintain high levels of cleanliness is to wear sandals or other comfortable shoes to the locker rooms. Minimizing the time you spend wearing your cleats will help your feet to stay clean and dry.
In a similar vein, be sure to dry your feet thoroughly after playing a game. If the weather is wet, you could even consider bringing an additional pair of socks to change into halfway through.
A cheap and easy way to help keep your feet dry is by shaking some talcum powder over them. You could also add some to the inside of your socks to further increase the moisture resistance.
Pad Blister Prone Areas
There are many commercially available blister plasters you can get from drugstores. It doesn’t need to be that complicated though. Grab some surgical tape and a small section of gauze.
Use the gauze to pad any areas on your feet that you commonly get blisters, securing in place with the tape. The only downside to this is that as your feet begin to sweat, the adhesive often comes loose. This means that your padding may not stay in place for very long and can become irritating.
A good, more durable alternative is moleskin. This is a type of padding you should be able to find in most pharmacies. It is a cotton fabric that has been sheared to replicate the feel of a mole’s skin.
It is often used by soccer players to reduce friction between your skin and cleats. Moleskin is a great fabric to use when you are breaking in shoes.
Spray Antiperspirant on Your Feet
Antiperspirant and deodorant are often confused, but they are not the same thing. Deodorant is only designed to prevent odors, whereas antiperspirant prevents you from sweating as profusely.
This is achieved through the use of aluminum salts. These prevent access to some of the sweat glands by blocking some of the pores. This makes it harder for sweat to be released from your body, resulting in less total sweat excretion. The aluminum salts also work to minimize the number of bacteria that cause odors.
The most sweat prone areas of your feet are around the toes, in the center of the sole, and around your heel. We recommend getting an aerosol antiperspirant and spraying these areas before matches or training. Allow the spray to dry before putting your socks and cleats on.
Check the Sizing of Your Cleat
Incorrectly sized cleats are the cause of many different issues. They can lead to injuries much worse than blisters.
If your foot slips in your cleat as you are running you could potentially sprain an ankle or even tear something. This could result in you being out of the game for months, which no one wants.
Equally, cleats that are too small can be problematic. These can pinch your feet tightly and cause pressure sores and blisters as they rub during games.
We recommend going to a physical sports store and having your feet measured by a member of staff there. This will ensure a more accurate fit than your guesswork would.
If you cannot make it to a physical store, there are many tutorials online for measuring your own feet.
Maintain Your Cleats Well
Your cleats will be put under a great deal of strain from regular use. In order to keep them in the best possible condition you should be cleaning and maintaining them often.
Storing a shoe tree, or loosely packed newspaper, inside the toes of the cleats will help them to retain their shape. The newspaper option will also help to draw any residual moisture out of the interior of the cleats.
If you are playing on real grass, it is important to clean your cleats after every use. Knock the cleats together to shake off any excess dirt and then use a stiff brush to get the bulk of the debris off.
Use a toothbrush or soft sponge to wipe away any remaining dirt and debris stuck to the underside. Do not use a wire brush for this as the material will damage the soles of your cleats.
Do not use detergent or any chemicals, water will be sufficient. If there is really stubborn dirt, use a mild dish soap diluted with warm water.
Wipe away any loose residue using a damp cloth.
Remove the laces from your cleats and prepare a small bowl of soapy water. Submerge your laces in this and allow them to soak for 10 minutes. Gently scrub off any excess dirt using a toothbrush.
Rinse the laces thoroughly under running water and lay them out flat to dry.
You can use a toothbrush to clean the upper side of your cleats too. Scrub with mild soapy water and then wipe down with a damp cloth. If they are in need of a deep clean, you could use a cleaning eraser to wipe the fabric too.
Gently dry off any excess moisture with a dry cloth or towel. It is important to allow the cleats to dry naturally. Do not be tempted to stick them on the top of a radiator or in the sun to dry faster. This can cause the material of the boot to become stiff and can even lead to the adhesive drying out and weakening.
Additionally, direct heat could cause the soleplate to warp, meaning your cleats no longer fit correctly. We suggest stuffing them with newspaper as they dry.
Be Aware of the Playing Conditions
In 2019 there was a study conducted to ascertain whether more knee injuries were suffered on artificial or real grass. It found that across all sports, athletes playing on artificial turf were 58% more likely to injure themselves than on real grass.
The temperature of the environment will directly impact the amount of sweat produced by your body. Hotter floor surfaces mean that friction burns from skidding are more expected, and you can even get blisters in this way too. This is such an issue that some manufacturers now make heat-shielding insoles to protect the sole of your foot from developing blisters.
In the winter, we recommend warming up your cleats before you put them on. Place them under your car’s heater on your drive to practise or warm them in your college’s thermolator heating unit. The heat and steam will soften the material of your cleats, making them much more comfortable.
Regularly Buy New Cleats
Through usage over time, even your best pair of cleats will break down. No matter how comfortable they were, wearing broken cleats is a dangerous idea. They can cause you to slip and become injured as a result.
It is important to regularly buy new pairs of cleats to ensure your feet are getting a correct level of support during gameplay.
Some soccer players swear by wearing 2 pairs of socks underneath their cleats. This provides a great deal of padding and insulation. Many people believe that this is a highly effective way to reduce blisters.
Some people will cut off the feet of their match socks. This allows them to wear a pair of shorter, grip socks underneath their cleats to ensure their foot is stable.
They will then slide the leg section of the match sock over their foot to ensure the correct uniform is being worn and to keep their shin guards in place.
Some professional players use this method too. In 2012 Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham Hotspur manager made headlines when he found out his players were doing this!
Not only was this providing the players with increased grip inside their cleats, but it allowed them to claim sponsorship fees too.
How to Protect a Blister for Playing
If it is not completely necessary to do so, we do not advise playing with a blister. This is because you can potentially pop it, leaving the wound open to infection. If you are intending to play with a blister, we recommend padding it well.
The suggestions mentioned above, such as gauze and moleskin are good ways to protect a blister for gameplay. We suggest rubbing some Vaseline over the top of this to minimize friction even further.
Do not feel ashamed if you need to ask for some time to re-cover your blister, or if you need to be benched for the end of the game if the pain becomes too much. It is much better to act preemptively and prevent your blister from getting worse than to soldier on and really injure yourself.
How to Treat a Blister
Generally speaking, it is not a good idea to pop your blister unless advised to do so by a qualified medical professional. If popped, you should not take off the top layer of the blister that will now look like excess skin. This is because the new skin underneath the blister requires the top layer of skin to heal correctly.
Bad blisters can take up to 3 weeks to heal completely, but with proper care and maintenance this time can be reduced. Padding the affected area is one of the key things you can do to minimize the recovery period. Try to allow your blister to breathe when not wearing your cleats.
A home remedy that is favored in the soccer community is doing a green tea soak. Fill a bowl with warm water and add 3 green tea bags and a tablespoon of baking soda. Soak your feet in this solution for 20-30 minutes. Green tea is known to have anti inflammatory properties, and baking soda has antiseptic properties. Combined, these make a great soak for blistered feet.
Aloe vera is another natural anti-inflammatory. Commonly used for sunburn, it is also highly effective as a blister treatment. Many drug stores will sell aloe vera gel. Simply apply this to your blisters and allow it to absorb into your skin. This will reduce the pain, redness, and swelling.
How to Drain a Blister
While not advised, in rare instances you may need to drain your blister. We would always recommend contacting a health professional and asking them to do it for you. In the worst case, you can do it yourself but please only as a last resort.
Your first step is to wash your hands and feet with antibacterial soap and warm water. Wipe the blister and the skin around it with iodine or another antiseptic.
Use this antiseptic to sterilize a sharp needle as well. Poke a few holes in the upper layer of the blister, close to where it meets the skin. You should then allow the liquid to slowly drain from these holes, applying gentle pressure if you need to.
Take great care not to tear off the top layer of skin. Use an antibiotic cream or liquid to sterilize the wound. Cover it with some clean gauze to prevent any foreign bodies entering the open site.
Monitor the blister for the next few days. If you see redness, pus, or inflammation, or notice itchiness and increasing pain, please contact a medical professional. These are all signs of an infection which could become very serious if left untreated.
If you do not notice any of these and the wound appears to be healing well, that’s good. Sterilize a pair of tweezers and scissors, then use these to carefully remove the top layer of skin.
How do you tape a blister on your heel?
If your blister has not burst, you should find a piece of adhesive felt or moleskin that is 2-3.5 inches bigger than the blister.
You should make a hole in the center which is just larger than the circumference of the blister itself.
Put some antibiotic ointment on the blister and then place the moleskin over it.
Cover this area with gauze and cover with surgical tape to secure in place.
How can you reduce the pain from blisters?
The first thing to do is remove anything that is putting pressure on it. Take off your cleats and any other tight footwear.
You should leave it open to the air to breathe as much as possible. If you know it is likely to come into contact with things, we recommend covering it with a blister plaster or moleskin.
If it is very painful, you can soak your blister in cool water for around 20 minutes every few hours. This is particularly useful if the blister is itchy or sore. The best way to do this is to make a flannel damp and wring out the water before placing over the blister.
You could also consider applying aloe vera gel at this point to aid the healing process. Vitamin E is also an effective home healing agent. If you have capsules of Vitamin E at home, empty out the contents and mix with an equal quantity of calendula oil. Apply this to the blister.
Should my cleats be tight?
When buying cleats for soccer it is recommended to opt for a more snug fit than you would in other shoes. Many experts recommend sizing down half a size. For instance, if you normally buy size 11 ½ shoes, you would purchase size 11 cleats.
This will help your foot to stay still inside the shoe as there is less air between your foot and the cleats. Do not worry too much, as the material will naturally stretch to mold to your foot over time.
Generally speaking, your cleats should not be more than ¼ inch longer than your biggest foot. This is because cleats that are too big for your foot pose a greater risk of injury.
Can insoles be worn inside cleats?
It is absolutely vital for your cleats to feel comfortable when playing soccer. Adding an insole to your cleats will provide an extra layer of padding on the sole of your foot making it easier to wear.
You should not be able to feel the stud pressure on your foot, but there should not be too much cushioning either. This can lead to instability and injuries.