Top Causes of Blisters on Feet, According to a Podiatrist

Is there anything worse than being blind-sighted by a painful blister on your foot? Once one forms—usually as you’re out and about minding your own business—you’re basically limping back home in pain. That’s why a podiatrist says you should always be prepared by knowing the top causes of blisters and how to prevent them.

According to Jacqueline Sutera, DPM, a podiatrist and Vionic Innovation Lab member, there are two top causes of blisters on feet: friction and rubbing. “Blisters are fluid build-ups under the most superficial layers of skin and can form in areas of motion, such as joints,” she says. “They also typically form near bony prominences, which make contact with the shoe while running or walking. That friction causes the layers of the skin to pull apart and form a little bubble, which in turn, fills with fluid.” Ouch.

Dr. Sutera says excessive moisture, like sweating, can also encourage new blisters to form. And if you’re wearing shoes that are new, too tight, or too big, you may experience blisters on your feet, too. Luckily, as annoying as blisters are, there are some things you can do to keep your feet free of the painful skin irritations. Here’s how to fix the most common causes of blisters on feet.

The most common causes of blisters on feet (and how to fix them)

1. Your shoes don’t fit properly

The first step in preventing blisters is ensuring that you’re wearing shoes that fit properly. “Shoes that are too big create too much room for the foot to move around, causing friction. And shoes that are too small cause pressure point blisters. Shoes should fit just right with enough room in your toe box,” she says. Also important: “Choose natural fabrics over hard or stiff synthetics, and check straps for nicks or other imperfections that might cause abrasions.”

2. Your feet are sweaty

If your feet get sweaty, causing your socks to become moist, you could experience some blisters. Ditch cotton socks and use non-cotton material like polyester, nylon, wool, and any other options you spot that claim to have sweat-wicking capabilities. You can also grab some foot powder. “Using it on your feet can help absorb perspiration and moisture,” says Dr. Sutera.

3. Your favorite shoes are rubbing

If your favorite pair of shoes tends to rub your skin raw whenever you wear them, don’t toss them to the back of your closet just yet. Dr. Sutera has a hack that can help. “Slicking on products—such as a thin layer of an anti-blister balm like Gold Bond Friction Block Stick or Vaseline on your heels and toes—can also help prevent your favorite shoes from rubbing you the wrong way,” she says. “There are also moleskin and padding products you can purchase to put over delicate and blister-prone areas.”

How to deal with blisters when they happen

Sometimes you can do everything on your blister-prevention checklist and still wind up with a painful blister. If one does pop up, Dr. Sutera says the best thing you can do is leave it alone. “In a few days, it will break and the fluid inside will drain on its own,” she says. “But if the blister is causing you discomfort—and depending on where they’re located, and how big they are—you can take action to express the liquid, very carefully.” Here are her instructions for going about it.

How to pop a blister the right way:

  1. Clean the area and your hands with soap and water.
  2. Wipe down a safety pin or needle with rubbing alcohol or Betadine ($13), a topical antiseptic you can buy in any drugstore.
  3. Gently pierce the top of the blister with a single pin prick, keeping the skin intact. Oftentimes, there’s so much pressure built up inside the blister, that the fluid will drain out on its own. If that doesn’t happen, press the blister very gently.
  4. Once the blister is flat, apply a dab of triple antibiotic ointment ($5) or cream, and cover with a bandage ($6 for 30 in your skin tone).
  5. Change the bandage every day for the next 3 to 5 days, until the blister has healed. If the areas gets red and swollen and you see pus, those are signs of infection, so call your doctor for advice on what to do next.

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