How to Treat Blisters From Hockey Skates

Lacing up hockey skates

All the stopping, starting, and changing direction during hockey practice or play can push your foot around inside the rigid skate boot, creating friction. Blisters can form at these points of friction—making skating uncomfortable, and affecting your ability to focus on the game and get the most out of each stride.

If you end up with painful blisters, here are some strategies for treating them and avoiding blisters in the future.

Blister Treatment Options

A blister usually starts off as a “hot spot,” where the skin is irritated, but the blister has not yet formed. Once the blister becomes raised and fills with fluid, it is usually more painful, so it pays to attend to the hot spot as early as you can. Treating a full-on blister correctly is important to avoid infection and to allow the skin to heal properly.

The traditional method for dealing with blisters is applying moleskin or a similar product directly to the affected area to protect the skin from coming in contact with the skate and making the irritation worse. If the blister is raised and tender, you can cut a hole in the moleskin, so the material surrounds and protects the blister. 

Here are a few simple rules for blister care:

  1. Do not pop the blister yourself unless it becomes so painful you can’t stand it.
  2. Create a “donut” of moleskin or similar material, surrounding the blister.
  3. When the blister pops on its own, wash the area with warm water and soap (not alcohol or hydrogen peroxide). 
  4. Apply antibiotic ointment to the area.
  5. Cover it loosely with a sterile bandage.

If the blister becomes too large and painful, you can drain it yourself:

  1. Wash the area with warm water and soap.
  2. Sterilize a needle with alcohol.
  3. Make a single, small hole at the edge of the blister.
  4. Gently press the fluid out.
  5. Do not remove the skin flap. Instead, simply smooth it out.
  6. Apply antibiotic ointment to the area.
  7. Cover it loosely with a sterile bandage.

Why Are My New Hockey Skates Causing Blisters?

The answer lies in the stiffness of the boot and the movement of your foot inside it. Hockey skates are designed to provide a stable base for the blades that connect the player to the ice, so the boot needs to be fairly rigid. Although modern developments in boot construction and materials mean that today’s skates offer better fit, comfort, and performance than ever before, the rigors of playing hockey put a lot of different stresses on the player’s feet. 

Blisters most commonly occur with a new pair of hockey skates you haven’t yet broken in. Problematic friction can occur anywhere—from the toes, to the back of the heel, to the point where the ankle exits the top of the boot—and there are usually one or two places where it’s most painful. As you break in the boots, the material softens and molds better to the foot, which usually offers some relief.

How to Avoid Getting Blisters From Your Hockey Skates

The key to avoiding most kinds of blisters is to get the best fitting hockey skates you can. Have a professional measure your foot, and then find a model that best fits the contours of your foot. The better the skates mold to your feet, the less friction there will be. (We will discuss options for molding skates in a later post.) Also, make sure you aren’t tying your skates too tight or too loose, as either can increase friction in spots; experiment with different degrees of lacing tightness if pressure from your laces is causing friction inside your skate boot.  

The best way to deal with blisters is to avoid them in the first place. Pay attention to your feet, and treat hot spots as they occur. Apply moleskin to the hot spots, or use one of the excellent gel pad products—for the ankles and achilles/heel area, for instance—that you can attach to the inside of the boots to provide some cushion. These gel pads are an excellent way to relieve hot spots while you’re still breaking in your skates.

There’s no need to suffer the pain of blisters: As long as you’re aware of the problem and stay on top of the pressure points that cause hot spots, you can continue to skate comfortably until the skates mold to your feet.