Melbourne Podiatry Clinic

How Serious Can A Blister Be In Footballers?

When we think of foot and ankle injuries, we commonly jump to ankle sprains as being one of the most commonly seen injuries during football games and training sessions. However, if we look beyond the musculoskeletal system, there are many pathologies that we wouldn’t deem as significant, that truthfully may be impacting game day performance. If you’ve been following the season of Clayton Oliver from Melbourne FC, he experienced such a bad blister that he ended up in hospital…

Blisters, calluses, and toenail pathologies can be painful and irritating, and will often be left untreated before and after football participation. With more education about these specific conditions, we can understand their cause and learn how to prevent them from occurring.


Blisters are caused by repeated stretching and distorting of a layer in the skin called the epidermis. The mechanical cause of blister formation is when two moving surfaces rub against a still surface. In a football setting, this would translate to the movement of foot bones and the surface of football boots, rubbing against the skin. The excessive movement of the foot inside the football boot will lead to increased shear forces against the skin, and therefore, we will see an increase in blisters in football boots that might be too firm or ill-fitting to the footballer’s foot. To help reduce the risk of blisters, ensuring football boots fit well in all areas of the forefoot, midfoot and rearfoot can help stabilize the foot, and reduce any excessive movement against the skin. Specific lacing techniques can also be adopted to help heel slippage and offload blisters in the midfoot and forefoot. Interphases that can help reduce loading against the skin during football games, include blister pads, lubricants, powders moisture management strategies including moisture-wicking socks.


Skin calluses, also known as hyperkeratosis, is a thickening of one of the epidermal layers of the skin, this is known as the stratum corneum. The increased thickening of hard skin is the body’s response to repeated skin pressure and is often related to the person’s unique foot movement and gait patterns. As a result, factors including high training volumes, footwear fit and cushioning properties for boots and runners, can contribute to the build-up of callus formation. If the callus is left untreated it can become painful with movement, or anecdotally result in a burning and tingling sensation in the skin. Regular debridement of callus can provide immediate short-term relief. Long-term management strategies to offload joints under high-pressure areas, such as footwear modifications and custom foot orthoses, may help reduce the frequency of callus build-up.

Toenail Injury:

As podiatrists, we also see many toenail pathologies originating from trauma-induced activities. In AFL, our toenails are exposed to high volumes of load when we kick the football, or by an accidental stud to the toenail from an opponent. Whilst incidents like this can be unavoidable, these events can create trauma to the nail plate, and therefore, we can start to see changes to the quality of nail growth, including ingrown or thickened toenails. Toenail pathologies can cause discomfort when wearing football boots, due to the limited width and depth available in toe-boxes of football boots. Podiatrists can find the most optimal solution to resolving toenail injuries, including the removal of ingrown toenails and filing of thickened nails.

Seek help:

Simple podiatric interventions stated above can be a game changer to improving performance on the football field, by making those small niggles a thing of the past!


Written by Addy Barrett – Podiatrist at Melbourne Podiatry Clinic

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