How to treat foot blisters

A blister (bulla) is caused when the outer layer of the skin separates from a layer of skin below, creating a collection of fluid between the layers. Blisters can be caused by chemical means, such as an allergic reaction; physical injury, such as from heat, frostbite, or friction; or from a disease.

Blisters form on hands and feet from rubbing and pressure, and form a lot faster than calluses. You can get blisters on your feet the same day you wear uncomfortable or poor-fitting shoes. You can get blisters on your hands if you forget to wear protective gloves when you’re doing things like using a hammer or riding a bike.

Blisters often go away on their own without needing any care, and the skin over the blister is its best defense against infection. If the blister is large or painful, however, you can drain the blister in such a way as to relieve the discomfort and hopefully avoid infection.

Figure 1. Foot blister

foot blister

Figure 2. Bottom of foot blister (severe blister on athlete’s foot)

bottom of foot blister

Your feet go through so much on a daily basis. They are constantly keeping you up right and never really get a break. Your feet need to be comfortable and feel like you love them.

Areas on your body that form blisters and continue to be rubbed every day can go on to form calluses.

A callus is an area of thick skin. Calluses form in places where there is a lot of repeated rubbing for a long period of time. The skin hardens from the pressure over time and eventually thickens. It gets a hard, tough, grayish or yellowish surface that may feel bumpy.

Calluses can be a form of protection for the hands. Gymnasts who perform on uneven parallel bars and other apparatus often get calluses on their hands. Guitarists can get calluses on their fingertips from the guitar strings. Once formed, calluses may make it easier for the person to swing around the bars or play the guitar.

But what about calluses on the feet ? They can be painful because you’re stepping on them all the time. Foot calluses usually form on the ball of the foot (the roundish part on the bottom of your foot, just behind your big toe). Some calluses also form on the outside of the big or little toe or the heel.

Tight shoes and high heels often cause calluses because they put a lot of pressure on your feet at points that aren’t used to all of that stress.

Who’s at risk?

Athletes are at high risk of acquiring blisters due to repetitive friction between skin and shoes, socks, and sports equipment. Additionally, those who wear ill-fitting, uncomfortable shoes or who handle tools that cause friction are at risk for getting blisters.

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if you think your blister may be infected (ie, the blister is very red or warm to the touch, painful, oozing pus, or blood-filled); there are multiple, grouped lesions; you have a fever, poor circulation, diabetes, or an autoimmune disease; or if you are not feeling well.

What causes foot blister

Poorly fitting shoes and wet feet are the most common reasons for blisters to form. When the feet are wet, the dampness causes rubbing between the feet and the material. This is usually due to the socks, which don’t absorb the moisture. When it comes to poorly fitting shoes, the shoes cause friction inside and rub against certain parts of the feet.

You shouldn’t find that new shoes rub. However, some will because they’re not designed for the shape of your feet. They can also be made to a uniform style, such as boots or running shoes. You’ll need to make sure the shoes feel comfortable when you’re in the store. If they feel like they pinch anywhere, they are not the right shoes for you.

The best thing to do is to prevent foot blisters. You may not be able to plan for every single situation, but you can prepare for the majority of them.

Get the best fitting shoes. Whenever you buy a new pair of shoes, try them on in the store and fasten them as you would when wearing them. Ask if you can try on both shoes. You’ll want to try taking a few steps to make sure that the shoes don’t pinch anywhere. Some of the most common areas are around your little toe or your Achilles tendon.

It doesn’t matter what type of shoes you buy. Make sure they fit well. This is especially important with shoes that you wear daily. The shoes won’t eventually start fitting to your feet. They will constantly cause a pinching problem if they don’t fit in the store!

When it comes to running shoes, get an analysis to find the perfect options. A specialist will be able to tell you how you run and where you need support. A high instep will need extra support on the instep for example. The specialist will help you find comfortable, well-fitting running shoes that will do the job when you are out on the road.

It’s also worth replacing your shoes regularly. Don’t wait for them to start falling apart. If they start to feel uncomfortable and start to rub, it’s time to switch them out for some new shoes. This applies to any shoes you’re wearing.

You’ll want to think about the style of shoe, especially when it comes to boots. Make sure there is a way for your feet to breathe to prevent moisture and sweat building up. If your feet end up extremely hot and sweaty, you’ll find blisters are more common.This can also lead to fungal infections of the feet and nails.

Think about your socks. It’s surprisingly not all about your shoes. The socks that you wear will also affect foot blisters.

Socks offer extra support for the feet. They help to prevent moisture affecting the skin and will eliminate some rubbing and friction. When it comes to trying on shoes, you’ll want to wear the socks that you would usually wear with those shoes. There are now all types of socks that you can buy, including thin stocking-material socks that cover around the heel and toes.

Your socks don’t just need to fit properly. They need to be made of a material that is designed to prevent moisture getting into your feet. Cotton is often considered one of the best materials you can buy, but not when it comes to socks! It’s the best for hypoallergenic skin and will absorb moisture, but it can soak up so much moisture that it creates friction with the skin. The shoes aren’t the problem. It’s the socks that are making your feet break out in the blisters.

Nylon socks are best when it comes to preventing blisters on the feet. They will help to prevent moisture but allow the feet to breathe well. Keeping the air moving is essential for preventing friction.

Avoid socks that have seams that dig or get in the way. If you can feel your socks pushing against your shoes, you’re at a higher risk of developing a blister.

Foot Blister Signs and Symptoms

Blisters typically develop on the soles of feet and the palms of hands when there is friction and irritation on the surface layer of the skin.

Depending on the severity as well as the stage of the blister, the appearance may vary.

  • Early stage blisters – redness of the skin on the affected area, such as on the heel, the instep, toes, or palms.
  • Mild, middle stage blisters – the affected area forms into a bubble-like swelling under the skin. The fluid is clear.
  • Moderate or severe, middle stage blisters – the affected area forms into a bubble-like swelling under the skin and may be quite large. Infected blisters look red around the edge, and the fluid is often pus-like or red. Additionally, infected blisters are painful and warm to the touch.
  • Late stage blisters – as the blister heals, the skin on the blister dries and typically sloughs off naturally, leaving healthy skin underneath.

Preventing Blisters and Calluses

The best way to deal with blisters and calluses is to avoid getting them altogether.

The following measures will help prevent blisters from occurring:

  • To avoid getting blisters and calluses on your feet, wear the right kind of shoes.
  • When picking out shoes, be sure to go shopping during the middle of the day or in the afternoon, when your feet are their largest. (Feet normally swell as the day goes on.) Make sure you can wiggle your toes, and be sure that both the left and right shoes fit properly. (Many people have two different size feet.) Try on both shoes and walk around a little bit before buying them. Even if shoes look really cool, don’t get them if they don’t feel right. Often, a different size or width can make a big difference.
  • Wear acrylic socks, particularly ones that fit you well. While cotton socks were once the recommendation to avoid blisters, they tend to become misshapen when wet and are never as form-fitting as acrylic socks.
  • Even if you love a pair of shoes, it’s best not to wear them all the time. Mix it up by wearing a variety of shoes. That way, your feet will get a break and won’t always be rubbed in the same places.
  • Apply powder to your feet before activity that may cause friction.
  • Wear work gloves when using tools that cause friction on hands.

How to treat foot blisters

If you do get a blister, callus, or corn, you can usually take care of it at home:

  • Blisters usually heal on their own. Keep a blister clean and dry and cover it with a bandage until it goes away. While it heals, try to avoid putting pressure on the area or rubbing it. You want to avoid popping the blisters if possible. This will reduce the risk of infection since the fluid helps to prevent bacteria from growing. Blisters that are left intact will disappear on their own.
  • Blisters that are small can be covered with a bandage. You may need some gauze for larger blisters. You’ll want to use a porous piece of gauze to allow the blister to breathe and avoid infection. Blisters that haven’t popped will usually not need to be covered. This will depend on the location of it.
  • If your foot blister is preventing you from walking or keeps catching, you’ll want to consider popping it. Always wash the area and use a sterile needle or pin head to pop the blister. Never tear the skin with your nails. With tissues, gently ease the fluid out from a small hole in the blister. Some of them will have separate pockets of fluid, so you may need more than one small hole to drain all the fluid.When there are signs of yellow liquid in the blister, consult with your doctor. This is a sign that your blister has become infected. Popping it will spread the infection and open yourself to risks of secondary infections.Once you’ve finished draining your blister, you will need to use an ointment to help prevent infections. Keep an eye on the area to ensure it doesn’t become infected at a later date. Cover the area with gauze and medical tape. This won’t just prevent infection but will make it more comfortable to walk with the blister.The skin that was on the upper layer of the blister will die and become hard. The skin that was in the second layer will become the new layer of skin. Continue cleaning, using the cream, and covering with a bandage until the blister has fully healed.Some blisters will pop on their own. In fact, you may never even see the actual fluid because the friction has burst it. This isn’t a problem. Just clean out the blister and use the ointment to prevent infection. Cover it up and give the skin chance to heal.
  • You can help a callus go away faster by soaking it in warm, soapy water for 10 minutes, then rubbing it with a pumice stone. The stone has a rough surface and can be used to rub off dead skin. Go easy when you do this. Rubbing too much can make the skin raw and tender. You can also wear shoe pads inside your shoes to relieve pressure so foot calluses can heal. You can buy pumice stones and foot pads in many grocery stores and drugstores.

How to get rid of foot blisters

Blisters often go away on their own without needing any care, and the skin over the blister is its best defense against infection. If the blister is large or painful, however, you can drain the blister in such a way as to relieve the discomfort and hopefully avoid infection.

Blisters that look like they will pop on their own should be drained, unless the blister looks infected or you have a fever; multiple, grouped blisters; diabetes; or poor circulation.

  • Clean your hands and the affected area with soap and warm water.
  • Apply rubbing alcohol to the affected area.
  • Wipe a needle with rubbing alcohol to sterilize it.
  • Puncture the blister with the sterilized needle at its edge, making the hole big enough to drain fluid.
  • Let the fluid drain, making sure to leave the overlying skin in place. Note: This skin will help prevent infection.
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment (eg, bacitracin) to the blister, and bandage the affected area.
  • Once the overlying skin has dried, allow it to fall off naturally or use sterilized scissors to cut the dead skin off. Apply antibiotic ointment and a bandage, if necessary.

What to do with infected blister on foot

If the blister becomes infected, your doctor may want to prescribe antibiotics. Depending on the cause of the blister, your doctor may treat the blister ranging from conservative measures, such as watchful waiting, to treating the source of the blister(s) if caused by a disease.

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