All About Foot Blisters – Prevention and Treatment
Studies show that 7% of adults over the age of 18 get blisters every year. Those little fluid filled flesh pockets can be terribly painful. Blisters on the foot are caused by friction – by ill-fitting shoes, poor sock choice or just excessive use. The bubble forms and fluid fills it to protect the skin underneath from further damage. Blisters form more readily when skin is moist and can, in rare cases, become infected.
High heels, dress shoes, stiffer shoes and those not properly worn in are more likely to cause blisters. And once a blister forms, if the fluid sac ruptures, it can become infected. Blisters are best left alone and allowed to heal undisturbed. When you feel a blister forming, it’s best to stop what you’re doing, address the cause of the irritation then allow it to heal.
Treating Foot Blisters
If the blister has not popped, leave it alone. Most of the time, the blister will reabsorb and heal on its own. If it is painful, the blister can be drained, but should be done hygienically to prevent infection.
Here’s a quick three step process to deal with a blister that’s too painful or large to be left alone:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap. Sterilize a needle using a flame then allow it to cool.
- Use the needle to puncture the blister then gently press to drain the fluid out but leave the skin of the blister intact.
- Apply a bandage over the blister, preferably with Neosporin or an antibiotic ointment to discourage infection.
Preventing the Dreaded Foot Blister
Blisters can be painful and can keep you from enjoying your favorite activities or wearing shoes you love. Fortunately, you don’t have to live with blisters – you can prevent formation of blisters. Because blisters are caused by either excessive friction and/or pressure, once you determine the cause of the blisters, you can prevent them from happening again.Below are our best tips for preventing blisters followed by tips for blisters with specific types of shoes that are more prone to blister development as well as sock tips and blister travel tips.
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General tips for preventing and treating blisters
- Use orthotics or arch supports – Inserts can reduce excessive motion that causes friction. The more the orthotic limits motion, the less likely you are to get a blister. For over-the-counter arch supports, we recommend the FootChair Podiatrist Designed Orthotic. The FootChair orthotic has an adjustable arch via pads that can be inserted under the cover to further reduce foot motion.
To stop even more motion, see your podiatrist about a custom orthotic designed specifically to eliminate the friction that causes blisters.
- Keep feet clean and dry – Moist and/or unclean feet are more likely to form blisters. Every morning, dry your feet then apply a foot antiperspirant/deodorant. We recommend Kleinert’s Dry Feet Clinical Antiperspirant. It has the same primary ingredient that we prescribe for our patients who have excessive sweating of the feet. Safeguard against foot odor and excessive foot perspiration with this antiperspirant – deodorant roll-on.
- Avoid cotton socks – Cotton holds moisture next to your skin and can increase friction and blister formation. Instead, wear socks that wick moisture away from your feet. Instead, look for socks that wick moisture away from your feet. See more below on choosing socks to prevent blisters.
- Use blister pads – Blister pads can decrease friction by preventing the rub between sock and skin to try and prevent formation of blisters. These work better than standard treatments such as moleskin. Some blister pads are made to be worn adhered to the skin while others, like ENGO blister prevention patches, adhere to your shoe to prevent blisters.
- Consider shoe modifications – If your shoes have “hot spots” that consistently cause blisters, having your shoes stretched over that area can help. You can stretch them yourself with a ball and ring shoe stretcher or have them professionally stretched to prevent rubbing.
- Ensure shoes are a proper fit – Find a shoe store with well trained shoe fitters to fit your shoes. Check out our Shoe List for a list of recommended shoe, shoe stores in the Seattle area and fitting tips. A good shoe fitter can help you find the best shoes for your feet and can modify the shoe to fit better and more comfortably.
Tips to prevent blisters in flip-flops
Flip-flops are summer shoe favorites, but can leave you with sore muscles, low back pain, plantar fasciitis and, of course, blisters. The lack of cushion is an issue and the toe-gripping action needed to keep them on throws off your gait. In addition, the rub of the thong piece makes it more prone to blister formation between the toes.
One of the best ways to eliminate blisters with flip-flops is to wear an orthotic or arch support flip-flop to reduce motion. The arch support helps the foot stay firmly in the flip-flop, preventing the likelihood of friction resulting in a blister. Here are some of our recommendations for flip-flop choices to protect your feet and prevent blisters:
- Orthaheel flip-flops – Some of best flip flops for preventing blisters are Vionic brand. One of our favorites is the Wave flip-flop which works for both men and women. It has very high arch supports to stabilize the foot and keep it in the proper position. These feature deep heel cups and foam cushioning to prevent blisters. Some models also have adjustable straps.
- Blister prevention patches – To prevent blisters in specific areas, try the new Blister Prevention Patches, made of extremely low friction material. These can be used on any area that is prone to blistering.
- Gel pads – To heal and protect blisters that have already formed, try Bandaid Blister Cushions. And to prevent blisters between toes while wearing flip-flops, a Gel Toe Spreader can keep the toes apart so they don’t rub on one another.
Tips to prevent blisters in pumps and high heels
Blisters are a common problem for women who wear high heels and pumps. High heels increase the pressure on the ball of the foot, irritate the skin and causing excessive friction. Also, many pumps tend to squeeze the toes together which causes friction. To prevent blisters, you must first prevent friction. In our Seattle foot clinic, we see blisters more often in women who wear high heels often. To treat recurring blisters, we determine what causes the blister and reverse it for good.
Some recommended treatments include:
- Orthotics for high heels – Custom or prefabricated orthotics can help prevent blisters by limiting foot motion that causes friction that leads to blisters. An arch support is the most effective way to limit this motion. Since heel shoes increase the pressure on the ball of the foot, leading to more blisters, a high heel orthotic can reduce this pressure and transfer it away from the area.
One of the best OTC insert for high heels with a closed back is the Women’s Dress Slimfit Insoles. This arch support transfers the force off the ball of the foot, reducing the foot pain and the chance of blisters. The other arch support for pumps that is even thinner is the McConnel Slimfit Insoles. This product is the best OTC orthotic we have found for heels with an open back (slingback) and dress sandals. It comes with an adhesive bottom that easily fits into pumps, allowing it to “disappear” under the foot.
- Blister prevention patches – Another way to prevent blisters is to use blister prevention patches. These easily fit into a small purse or wallet and take along with you. They fit directly onto the shoe to prevent painful rubbing on the skin. They are sweat-proof, made of extremely low friction material, and can be applied anywhere on a show that may rub and cause a blister. They protect skin and can be worn for weeks.
Tips to prevent blisters when you travel
Many people discover that blisters are more common when they travel – often because you walk more on vacation and while traveling, causing additional friction and skin irritation. If you are planning a trip soon and know you’ll be walking a lot, make sure blisters don’t become a problem. In almost every situation, blisters can be eliminated completely.
Here’s how or reduce the risk of blisters while traveling:
- Be selective about shoes – Orthofeet Shoes for Travel are a good choice as they have a selection of orthopedic shoes that both are stylish and therapeutic for travel. Darker colored leather shoes are ideal for travel to Europe where walking is frequent and can be worn during the day or night.
- Use arch supports – The FootChair Podiatrist Designed Orthotic has an adjustable arch via pads that can be inserted under the cover to further reduce blister causing motion. Custom orthotics are also available from a podiatrist.
- Wear socks that prevent blisters – It is critical to wear the right socks when walking or standing a lot. Socks that wick moisture away from the feet and maintain cushion throughout the day will help prevent blisters. See more about blister-preventing socks below.
- Bring prevention patches – Blister pads can be worn over areas that are prone to blisters. They decrease friction and these pads work even better than moleskin. Bring prevention patches when you travel.
- Traveling with blisters – If you are dealing with a blister that has already formed, leave it alone. Most of the time, blisters do not need to be drained and will heal on their own. But if you have a very large or painful blister, you may not be able to wait. Click here to see our three step instructions on urgent treatment of a blister.
Best socks to prevent blisters
Problems with blisters can usually be eliminated completely using our recommendations, but it is also essential to wear the correct socks. Be sure to avoid cotton socks to keep blisters away. It is crucial to buy socks made from synthetic fibers. Studies have shown synthetic fibers are better than cotton for wicking, cooling, and drying. Also, a thicker sock has also been shown in studies to prevent blisters – the extra padding reduces skin irritation that causes blisters, calluses, buildup, and fatigue.
One of our favorites to prevent blisters is the Juzo Silver Sole sock. These socks decrease friction, wick moisture, have a “pillowed sole” to cushion the foot and are made with synthetic silver fibers. People who walk or run a lot, spend hours on their feet, or who have sensitive feet will want to wear these socks every day because of all the benefits they provide.
If you need a dress sock, try the black Juzo Silver Sole in crew length or knee high length. If you need an athletic sock, try the white Juzo Silver Sole in ankle high length. These socks are ideal for blister prevention during exercise while also naturally eliminating bacteria, odor, and fungi. For more tips on buying the right socks, read our sock guide.
If you have a blister issue not relieved by these tips, make an appointment to see us at the Foot and Ankle Center of Washington in Seattle. We can provide you with conservative treatment options to help relieve your pain. When you come to see us, be sure to bring in a selection of shoes that you commonly wear especially if you have developed blisters while wearing them. Click here to schedule an appointment online or call (206) 344-3808 today.