When it comes to skin injuries, practically everyone has experienced a blister at one time or another. Sometimes they are painless and barely noticeable, other times they seem to take over your entire foot. When it comes to preventing and managing blisters, don’t miss these essential tips:

What are Blisters?

Shear stress, or friction from shoes and socks rubbing on your feet, can cause superficial layers of skin to stretch, expand, and create pockets that fill with fluid. Clear blisters are typically filled with plasma, lymph, and serum. Some blisters, however, especially darker colored ones, may also have blood or pus (if infected) in them.

When strata of the skin closest to the surface shreds as a blister is formed, new cells start to divide and set to work creating new epidermal layers and connective tissue. As this happens, the body re-absorbs the liquid in the blister and the swelling bubble-like formation subsides.

Preventing and Treating Blisters

DO: Wear socks with your footwear.

Not only do sweaty, unclothed feat nestled in a tight space like the toe box of a shoe foster bacteria growth, they also tend to rub more against the hard shoe material surrounding them. Socks do a good job of absorbing sweat and keeping shoes dry. When you don’t wear socks, your feet are more likely to slip and slide around, irritating the skin and setting your feet up for blisters.

If you are going to be in your shoes for an extended amount of time, you want to make sure that you wear socks made of lightweight, breathable material which also wicks away moisture. Moist skin is more likely to blister, so finding the balance between protection and dryness is key.

DON’T: Mess with the skin of a blister.

Poking, popping, rubbing, removing, or peeling back the skin of a blister is a big no-no. Not only does this increase the risk for a skin infection on your foot, but it can leave an open sore that is much more painful than before. For exceptionally large blisters which painfully tug at the skin covering them and might even make it hard to walk, you can consider popping it to relieve pressure, but in the right way.

Visit your doctor or dermatologist and they can drain it for you or you can do it yourself – use a sterile needle, swab the blister first with iodine and make sure you have washed and dried your hands thoroughly. Puncture the blister’s edge in 3 or 4 spots and then cover with petroleum jelly and a nonstick bandage.

DO: Protect parts of your feet prone to rubbing.

Moleskins prevent blisters by safeguarding your skin and providing a protective barrier between your foot and any footwear that might rub against it. Similar aids like “foot petals” and heel grip liners (or back heel insole cushions) do the same thing but for women, especially, who wear shoes like high heels that rub the back of the foot. 

DON’T: Wear shoes that don’t fit.

If you are suffering from recurring blisters because of the choice of your footwear, you need to change your ways. Ill-fitting footwear that is either too loose, too tight, or simply doesn’t fit the shape of your foot might look good temporarily, but can be doing more than skin damage in the long run. You should be able to measure about a thumb’s width of space between your longest toe and the tip of your shoe as well as wiggle your toes and be able to comfortably wear socks with your shoes.

Remember, feet tend to swell throughout the day as you are walking and standing on them so you want to be mindful of their fit throughout the day and avoid tight straps or laces that cut into your skin. Ill-fitting footwear can negatively alter your body mechanics too so if you are changing the way you walk to compensate for painful blisters, you could actually be stressing the muscles and joints in your leg too. 

DO: Break in new footwear.

Before going for a 5 mile run in your brain new trail running shoes, you might want to think about breaking them in. While updating your footwear can play an important role in keeping your feet healthy and blister-free, new shoes are typically going to be stiffer and less flexible and therefore more likely to irritate the skin on your feet. Breaking shoes in simply involves walking around in them with appropriate socks so that the material can become more malleable and the shoe can better form to the shape of your foot.