Tips for Treating and Preventing Foot Blisters

A savage blister erupts from the bite of a Jumping Jack Ant on a toe. Credit: Jason Edwards / Getty Images

Getting a blister on your foot is usually just an annoyance, but in some cases, it can be a real problem. This is especially true if the blister has been rubbed or popped open, leaving skin painfully exposed and at risk for infection.

Blisters are a common problem for anyone involved in endurance activity, such as running or hiking. This is not just because of the amount of motion but also because of sweat, which increases skin friction.

However, blisters are not just a problem for athletes -- an incorrect shoe size can lead to a blister even with just regular activity.

Blister Care and Prevention Products

Stock your first aid kit with these items that can help prevent a blister or be used to take care of one you have developed.

  1. Blister Pads - These can be used as soon as sore areas develop, protecting skin from blistering. They can also be used when a blister or wound does develop to promote healing and reduce irritation. One brand of blister pads is 2nd Skin, which contain a hydrocolloid layer that cushions and protects a wound from excess moisture.
  2. Foot Powder - Since excess moisture against the skin can increase the chance of a blister, it helps to apply foot powder in shoes to keep feet drier. If you are prone to athlete's foot infections, you can opt for athlete's foot powders, which contain anti-fungal ingredients. Some medicated powders contain menthol, which has a cooling effect.
  1. Light Hiking Socks - Light hiking socks are made from wool or synthetic materials, such as polyester, which allow sweat to evaporate away from the skin, unlike a cotton sock which will hold moisture against the skin. Some light hiking socks also have extra padding around the heel and toes for extra protection against blisters. If you prefer a lighter sock material, liner socks are made of thinner synthetic material and can be used alone or under another pair of socks.
  1. Anti-Chafe Balm - Anti-Chafe balm by BodyGlide is a product that is applied to skin areas that experience friction, such as the toes or heels. The balm decreases irritation from rubbing and excess moisture, which can help protect against blisters.

Shoe Problems that Lead to Blisters

An important part of blister prevention is assuring that you are wearing the right sized shoes. Have your feet sized for length and width the next time you buy. For more tips, see: How to Fit Shoes

Wearing an arch support, or orthotic, in your shoe may help decrease rubbing by keeping your feet from slipping around in the shoe. Be sure to try a "test run" with the arch support in your shoe, wearing it for a hour or two a day and increasing the time if it feels good.

Children often develop blisters because their shoes are too loose or tight. A child in a hurry will often slip their shoes on without tying the laces tight enough -- this allows the foot to slip around in the shoe.

What To Do If You Get a Blister

  • When a blister does occur, it's important to not peel off the top part, or roof. Peeling the roof of the blister off will only further increase irritation and the risk of infection. It's best to cover it with a blister pad.
  • With the right supplies, you can drain large blisters before they get rubbed open. First, clean an instrument from a first aid or nail grooming kit with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer. Then puncture the roof of the blister, being careful not to touch the delicate skin at the base of the blister. Use gentle pressure and sterile gauze to drain the fluid out of the blister. This keeps the roof intact to protect from further irritation. Apply antiseptic ointment and a bandage, then cover with a blister pad.

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