Applying an Engo patch
A slick and effective new way to handle blisters
By Robert "Just the Factoids" Burnson
Most anti-blister products work either by protecting hot spots with padding (Band-Aid Blister Blocks, Dr. Scholl's Moleskins) or by lubricating sensitive skin to reduce rubbing (BodyGlide, Aloe Up).
But Engo Prevention Patches are different. They work by smoothing out whatever it is that is rubbing your foot the wrong way.
You use them much as you would a Band-Aid. But instead of applying them to your feet, you put them on the inside of your skates, opposite hot spots.
Once in place, they provide a super-slippery surface that slides, rather than rubs, against your skin. The result: a big decrease in friction, which is the stuff that causes blisters.
Engo patches are made by Tamarack Habilitation Technologies of Blaine, MN. The 17-year-old company makes walking casts, prostheses and other orthopedic devices. It developed the patches using its understanding of the irritation caused by artificial limbs.
What Are They?
The patches are thin (.013 inches) blue swatches of synthetic material. The business side is coated with a patented PTFE Teflon, the other side with a pressure-sensitive adhesive.
I found the Engo patches very helpful when breaking in my new pair of off-the-shelf racing boots. I began using the boots without any kind of blister protection and quickly developed a couple of blisters around my ankles. I tried using Band-Aid Blister Blocks, but they tended to rub off after about 30 minutes of skating, at which point my blisters would start complaining.
Then I tried the Engo Protection Patches. The results were dramatic. I was able to skate full workouts without pain or irritation. And my blisters, despite regular skating, healed completely.
The company says each patch, on average, will last four weeks before wearing out or falling off. But I found them to last much longer. Six months later, mine are still in place. (Note: The patches can be removed by heat using a blow drier or heat gun.)
Dry Surfaces Only
The main problem I found with the Engo patches is that they don't stick to wet surfaces. That means they are not much help if you suddenly notice a hot spot in the middle of a workout when your skates are already soaked with sweat.
I also found that the patches do not stick to all surfaces. While they stick well to most of the stuff you will find inside a skate (leather and synthetic fabrics), they do not adhere well to neoprene. (I tried to wrap one around an upper seam on a neoprene ankle bootie, but it wouldn't stick.)
Tamarack charges $12.95 for a six-pack of patches. That's about double what you might pay for a box of Band-Aid Blister Blocks, but still a bargain considering how well they work and how long they last.
Engo Prevention Patches are one of the few truly effective anti-blister products on the market (another is the Ezeefit Ankle Bootie). They do a great job of reducing friction, they are durable, and if applied properly, they stay in place for a long time.
They can be a great help when breaking in new boots. They may also prove effective for preventing blisters that sometimes show up when competing in long-distance races, like marathons. But in that case, you'll need to have a pretty good idea about where a race-inspired blister is likely to appear.