How to prevent and treat shoe blisters—one of summer's biggest problems
Keep your feet in pristine condition even during sandal season.
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We’ve all experienced the unpleasant sensation of feeling a blister form on your foot while you’re on a long walk. Or worse, the pain of a pre-existing blister when you’re trying to walk somewhere. Both experiences are total mood killers when you’re on vacation, enjoying a hike with friends, or going about your daily routine. The good news is that blisters are preventable and, if you get one, easily treatable.
4 tips to prevent blisters
- Wear the right shoes
- Wear moisture-wicking socks or powders
- Add lubrication to friction-prone areas
- Cover hotspots on your foot
1. Wear the right shoes
Friction between your foot and shoe is the most common cause of blisters. For this reason, it’s important to wear shoes that are not only comfortable, but that fit properly and are broken in. A pro tip for making sure you’re buying properly fitting shoes, according to Dr. Miguel Cunha, a podiatrist and the founder of Gotham Footcare in New York City, is to try on new shoes at night when the feet are most swollen. “If the shoe feels comfortable at the end of the day, they will most likely feel comfortable throughout the day,” Cunha says. The best way to break in a pair of shoes, Cunha adds, is to wear them for five days, increasing the amount of time you wear them by two hours each day, then wear them all day on the last day.
2. Wear moisture-wicking socks or powders
If you already trust the shoes you’re planning to wear but want extra protection against blisters, Dr. Suzanne Friedler, a board-certified fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology based in New York City, recommends moisture-wicking socks or powders. “When your feet get hot and sweaty, it’s much easier for friction to create a blister,” says Friedler. Socks made with synthetic materials like acrylic or polypropylene pull moisture away from the skin, allowing the skin to stay cooler and drier. Like the socks, powders absorb and wick away moisture from the skin.
3. Add lubrication to friction-prone areas
Keeping the feet dry is a great way to prevent blisters, but if you’re noticing a lot of friction between your foot and sock or shoe, you can always go the opposite direction and apply a lubricant. Cunha recommends applying petroleum jelly or products like Sport Shield, Sports Slick, Run Goo, or Body Glide on these areas to reduce friction, which will make your socks and shoes slide around the areas rather than rub against them.
4. Cover hotspots on the foot
Hotspots are sensitive areas on the foot that are in a “pre-blister state.” If you’re experiencing a hotspot or you typically get blisters in the same spots, you can minimize the likelihood of blistering by covering the area. Cunha recommends sports tape, moleskin, gel bandages, and blister band-aids such as Hydro Seal.
Socks to try
Darn Tough Vermont Men’s Merino Wool Boot Cushion Hiking Socks (Starting at $23.50 on Amazon)
Darn Tough Vermont Women’s Merino Wool Micro Crew Cushion Socks (Starting at $16.42 on Amazon)
Thorlos Unisex J Running Thick Padded Rolltop Sock (Starting at $13.99 on Amazon)
Powders to try
Ammens Medicated Powder ($15.02 on Amazon)
Anti-Monkey Butt Powder ($4.74 on Amazon)
Johnson’s Baby Powder with Naturally Derived Cornstarch Aloe & Vitamin E ($8.08 on Amazon)
Lubricants to try
Body Glide Foot Anti Blister Balm ($7.99 on Amazon)
TriSlide Anti-Chafe Continuous Spray Skin Lubricant Body Friction Protection ($14.95 on Amazon)
2Toms SportShield Anti-Chafe and Blister Prevention for Your Body ($25.99 on Amazon)
RunGoo Blister Prevention Cream Specifically Formulated for Feet ($10.44 on Amazon)
Hotspot covers to try
Spartan Tape ($9.97 on Amazon)
Dr. Scholl’s Moleskin Plus ($4.85 on Amazon)
Band-Aid Brand Hydro Seal Extra Large Waterproof Adhesive Bandages for Wound Care and Blisters ($4.27 on Amazon)
How to treat and heal blisters
Just as important as preventing blisters is treating them properly. The last thing you want is a bacterial infection just because you decided to wear some new sandals. The most important part of treating a blister is knowing whether or not you should puncture it. Friedler explains that a flaccid blister (meaning it is soft and the fluid is moving around in it) should be left intact, cleaned, and covered with a bandage to protect it from being opened.
If the blister is firm and uncomfortable to walk on, poking a hole with a sterile needle is a safe option. “Sometimes letting [fluid] out will give the patient more comfort, but it is creating a tiny opening that allows bacteria to get inside,” says Friedler. To prevent bacteria from getting inside the blister, Friedler recommends using an anti-bacterial ointment such as Bacitracin or Neosporin followed by a dressing such as a band-aid to keep the moisture locked in.
If you are able to, Cunha recommends soaking the feet for 15 to 20 minutes in lukewarm water with Epsom salt after opening it with the needle. “Soaking your feet in Epsom salt helps speed up the healing process,” Cunha says. “They contain magnesium, which can reduce swelling and pain associated with blisters.” Post-soak, Cunha recommends using Betadine, an antiseptic used to disinfect and treat minor wounds, several times a day to dry out the blister.