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Ok, I admit it, I am writing this opinion under duress. How can I possibly continue to justify my user-name if I don't at least add my meagre views on this most blissful addition to the resources of the hiker?
To feel the need to write about a blister plaster strikes me as more than a little sad…and I'm doing so…so please, be sympathetic.
OK let's get real.
Those of us who walk, get blisters. Doesn't matter whether you hike the hills, pound the pavements, schlepp the shops, or simply slowly wander your city streets, parks and byeways. Sooner or later you'll do it in shoes/boots that don't fit too well, and you'll suffer for it.
I know this.
I have been there, and done that.
Thanks to M&S trainers, Merell all-terrain sandals and Brasher GTX boots it's not a phenomenon I have much contention with…but occasionally, you know, those office-wallers that pay my way insist I wear proper shoes. Being female, this tends to involve heels or narrow styles that my barefoot clompers just aren't designed for. So I end up walking a mile or two in unsuitable shoes.
You know the symptoms. PAIN….first sign. Before you even look, it hurts, but in a sort of squelchy way…either you're blistered or you're bleeding. BUBBLE…yes, you've got away lucky - only a blister. BLEED…If you're bleeding, don't stop reading…despite what the professionals say, I still use Compeed in these circumstances, and they're still better than any of the other options I've tried to date.
Time to break out the COMPEED*
* Actually, my personal view is that this is a little late to break out the Compeed. I find these little helpers work far more effectively as a pre-emptive strike. If you're going out in shoes/trainers/boots (whatever) that you know 'rub a little' - do yourself a favour. Plast on the Compeed and let it take the friction. There is obviously a cost involved here, but believe me, in terms of foot comfort and the all-round well-being that results from not thinking about your feet while you're sight-seeing, bopping the night away or hiking the hills…it is most definitely worth it.
Manufactured and sold in the UK under the Johnson & Johnson brand name, they are readily available in most chemists and supermarkets with pharmacy or 'health' sections. They come in three main sizes: the original 'large' suitable for the heel or 'bunion' area, 'medium' suitable for most areas of the foot, and the most recently launched 'small' which is ideal for the smaller toes.
Usage instructions come with the product, as required by English law.
Apart from the referral to your GP if you suffer from diabetes (sorry I cannot advise on why that should be so) you can take heed of these or not as you see fit. The consensus of whether you should burst a blister or not shifts with the weather. In using Compeed it doesn't really matter which school you adhere to. My personal view is that blood blisters should be punctured if you have a sterile implement with which to do so, and the area cleaned, treated with antiseptic and allowed to dry before applying any dressing. Normal 'water' blisters, I instinctively feel probably should NOT be punctured, whether I do so depends entirely upon circumstances (or possibly whim).
If the blister has already burst (be it blood- or water-) simply clean the area, allow to dry and apply anyway. It will seal the area from bacteria and provide a buffer zone against further rubbing.
Compeed plasters come double-backed i.e. both sides have a protective paper coating. It's important to read the instructions to know which to remove first…if only, because these things don't come cheap, come in very small numbers per pack & you're likely to waste the first one if you get it wrong.
The instructions recommend you 'warm' the plaster in your hands before applying. Except in real chilly outdoor territory I've not found this makes any difference. Remove the advertising side first. Then remove most of the white backing, to enable you to place plaster around affected area. A small amount of backing remains to enable you to do this without touching the sterile plaster itself.
Hold in place, while continuing to warm with the hands. This, I've found, does ensure a more effective 'take'.
The instructions also say, leave in place until it falls off (or words to that effect). Well, you can. Maybe, even, you should. But like all plasters it will start to peel away from the edges and those unstuck edges will still be slightly sticky and attract dirt. This possibly isn't a health hazard - and if you're a bloke it probably doesn't even matter - but if you're female and it's summer and you're into sandals…it can detract from the "discreet" selling point of Compeed.
One of the product's upsides for we vain females is that in use it is not obtrusive. "Invisible" would be stretching a point, but it is far less eye-catching than anything else you might use when you swap from your hiking boots to your girly sandals.
In-use plasters come away quite easily when soaked in warm water (i.e. during an average bath). They do also tend to bring away that 'don't burst' layer of skin…which leaves you questioning the received wisdom. No worries. Dry off the effective area…allow a little air to get to it if possible and then re-apply. In place Compeed provides a sterile, bacteria-repelling barrier. In that it does work.
It also works in the other, possibly most important function: pain relief. Blisters are caused - and hurt - because of the friction build-up between shoe/sock and foot. [This hiker is an advocate of the age-old two-sock mechanism for avoiding this on proper walks…but obviously it isn't really an option with the sparkly stilettos.] So, to prevent blisters…and or relieve the pain if you failed to do so…you need something to absorb that friction. That's where Compeed comes into its own. Fixing to the foot like a second skin, it brings along its own 'absorption pad'…an integral gel substance which reacts to the rubbing so that the blister forms on the plaster, rather than on you. Cool, huh?
Keep using until the foot has healed and/or the shoes have adapted to your shape (or you've come to your senses and thrown them out!).
Price: this is the stinger. These guys do work out at about 70p-£1 a shot. Personally, they work for me, so I think it's worth it.
I do have one objection though…they are sold in a plastic boxette - which is great - I'm going to stick them in my rucksack, I want them waterproof - but at about four or five to a box this is appalling (cost aside). On environmental grounds, I'd really like to see other packaging options. I buy various sizes and only carry one 'boxette' around, containing a mixture of sizes (itself usually in the depths of my daypack first aid kit - so triple/quadruple wrapped). So if J&J are reading this: my pleas are: - can we have larger boxes? - can we have mixed-size plaster boxes? - and can we please buy in bulk - so far as I can see they do not degrade and at present the environmental packaging cost per product is dire. We walk because we love the planet, and we'd rather not wreck it any more than we have to in doing so. Great product. Lousy packaging. Get your act together Johnson's! [Otherwise would have got a full 5-stars]
This is just the thing that I want. I could have used this some time ago but now it is going to be a part of my kit for any future walks. John
Silverback 05.05.2006 09:20
Remarkably comprehensive, fair and penetrating review. On more than one occassion I've had to go and buy plasters and take off shoes and socks outdoors to apply them after walking too far in new shoes. Next time I'll buy a pack of these in advance. Paul
patriciat 02.05.2006 21:19
Oh bleeding blisters, I'm in pain just thinking about them. Pat.t x