Even though it’s a pretty small foot problem, blisters can be a big pain. They’re also super tempting to pop—I’m surprised there’s not yet a Dr. Blister Popper—but don’t do it! Because blisters aren't like pimples.
So what are they? A blister is a sac of fluid that built up under your skin. It usually forms in spots where you move a lot, like your joints. Or, a blister can show up on bony bumps. That's because the bones contact your shoe while you run or walk. This contact creates friction. Which causes the layers of your skin to pull apart and make a bubble that fills with fluid.
Anyone can develop blisters. They've plagued human feet since nearly the dawn of human history. (As this INCREDIBLE Runner's World article illustrates!) We've found ways to prevent them, some more successful than others. But they're really common when your feet sweat. So runners, bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts are frequent blister victims.
Feel one forming already? No problem, I've got you covered. Just follow my careful guide to treating (and preventing) those pesky blisters.
How to Treat a Blister on Your Foot
If you have a small blister on your foot, cover it with a band-aid. The blister should stay covered until it heals. But you can clean it and swap band-aids daily to prevent infection.
Did your blister empty already? Put on antibiotic cream on the open sore. Then, re-cover with a bandaid to prevent infection. Next, change that bandage every day. And keep doing so until your skin heals, or you could face painful problems.
See redness, swelling or pus? Your blister may be infected. And that means it's time to see me, your friendly podiatrist. Pretty quickly, too, or you'll be in a world of pain.
The same applies to larger blisters. If you can keep them covered, do it. But, if a blister is too big to cover and is making daily movement painful, we can drain it—in the office! Once again—don’t do this at home. In my office, I’ll insert a small, sterile needle in the blister to drain the fluid.
Most importantly, I won’t disturb your top protective layer of skin. This is important for avoiding infection. Once drained, I’ll cover the area with a dry, clean dressing. That will prevent infection while you heals. I’ll also give you instructions for changing the dressing every day.
Remember, usually your podiatrist for a blister is optional. But here are the exceptions. If your blister is inflamed or bleeding, see me right away. I’ll follow the same steps I described above, but I’ll also check to make sure you're free of infection. And if you do have an issue, I’ll prescribe medication—either topical or oral.
Now we know what to do with blisters, let’s help make sure they don’t develop in the first place!
Preventing Blisters from Forming
Blisters form with repetitive irritation. If you keep getting blisters in one spot, there's an issue. We can protect your skin with a blister plaster.This forms a barrier between your skin and the source of irritation.
Now, as I mentioned earlier moisture and friction also trigger blisters. The moisture can come from you (sweat) or the great outdoors (rain, humidity). Then friction comes with rubbing. For runners, that usually means an ill-fitting sock or shoe. With that in mind, here are 3 ways to stop this combo from giving you a painful bump:
Wear shoes that fit!
Always choose shoes that fit—with at least a thumb’s width of space between your longest toe and the end of the toe-box. A well-fitted shoe will go a long way in blister-prevention.
You should also look for shoes made from natural fabrics. These should rub less than hard, synthetic materials. And forget about breaking in new shoes. If they don't feel good right away, they don't fit.
But what if you bought a shoe that feels stiff, and you want to keep it? Don't make your feet do the hard work. Instead, try using a shoe spray on the sneakers to get them soft. Then, insert a shoe stretcher overnight so the shoes loosen up. Finally, before heading out for a long walk or run, try the shoes in your house. Limit wearings to half an hour for a week or two. Until you know for sure that the shoes won't rub. Got the kicks covered? Now it's time to talk about your socks!
Socks matter, too!
Especially in Houston summers, you need socks that keep moisture away from your feet. We used to say that meant cotton socks. But we now know that moisture-wicking athletic socks do a better job of keeping feet dry.
And if you get blisters on your toes, or between them? Think about special socks with individual holes for each toe. These will be especially important when you exercise. I get that they look a little silly, but they do help reduce friction and moisture. Which means less blisters on toes. And less discomfort.
Never Underestimate Household Products
Sometimes you just need a little more protection. Even if your shoes and socks are on-point, it can't hurt to have a bit of a barrier against friction. That's why I love Vaseline (or petroleum jelly.) If you rub a thin layer on spots where you keep getting blisters, you could keep these bumps at bay. After applying the Vaseline, just slip on socks and shoes and get ready to go. But wait, what if you followed all this great advice, and you still got a blister? That means it's time to...
See Your Houston Podiatrist
And, as we said before, if you have a big blister, it's time for an appointment with Dr. Andrew Schneider. Don't try to solve the problem at home. Or attempt what I call bathroom surgery. Why should you come in? Well, I can safely drain and cover the blister for you quickly. That way, you can get back to your normal routine. Without pain, fear of infection or other complications!