Pretty much everyone has gotten a blister before. These painful pockets of inflammation and pus are caused by continual contact with a rough surface.
One of the most painful areas to get a blister is on your feet. Since the feet are filled with many nerves and blood vessels under pressure, feet blisters can be especially painful and debilitating.
Not only can they be painful, but if left untreated, blisters can rupture and cause serious complications, such as infection.
Many people who work jobs that require long periods on your feet, such as retail workers. servers, construction workers, and electricians are at risk of developing foot blisters. These blisters are compounded by the number of hours they spend on their feet.
Common issues encountered aside from blisters include plantar fasciitis, bursitis and tendonitis. Foot blisters are also common among athletes, specifically hikers, backpackers, and long-distance runners.
If you get frequent blisters while walking around or at work, the culprit is likely your shoes, socks, or some combination of the two. Shoes that are too big move and rub against the feet a lot, which causes blisters.
Rough socks and improper insoles can also be culprits. Perhaps the most common place where blisters form is on the heel. The heel is under the most pressure through the day, so blisters are more likely to form there.
We hat foot blisters as much as the next person which is why are going to offer some tips on how to stop shoes from rubbing the back of your heels and how to prevent blisters.
How to Prevent Blisters on the Feet and Heels
1. Use good insoles
Poor insoles do not support your feet and leave a lot of void space within the shoe. The more void space, the more your feet move around which can contribute to blister formation.
Proper fitting insoles add a small lift to your foot and decreases the surface area contacting your heel.
The snugger the shoes fit, the less movement occurs and the lower chance of blister formation. As an added plus, proper fitting insoles will just make your shoes comfier.
2. Double up your socks
Blisters can also be caused when your socks don’t give enough cushion between your feet and shoes. In general, the thicker your socks, the less likely blister are to form.
If you get frequent heel blisters, try wearing an extra pair of socks. Stick to thicker socks made from cotton or wool and avoid thinner polyester socks.
Also, doubling up your socks make thee shoes fit snugger and give some extra comfort; a win-win in our book.
3. Guard your heels
If the above two suggestions just don’t cut it, consider fashioning a heel guard from a softer fabric like moleskin. Cut a small patch and stick it on the inside of the heel of your shoe.
We find that a normal super glue works well here, just make sure you thoroughly coat the piece of the fabric, so it securely adheres to the shoe. Otherwise, the friction of your heel will just tear it loose.
4. Get softer shoes
Some of the worst offenders when it comes to heel blisters are shoes made out of rough materials, like coarse fabric, mesh, and other synthetic textiles.
While these kinds of shoes are fairly durable and usually cheap to manufacture, they are certainly not the pinnacle of comfort.
If you think your shoes’ material is the problem, try switching to a different pair of shoes made from softer materials, such as suede, natural leather, or special foams.
A quick note: Leather can be an extremely soft, comfortable, and breathable material for shoes, but only if it’s maintained properly. If not taken care of leather can degrade and become brittle and rough.
Poorly maintained leather shoes can actually increase the chances of blisters and make existing blisters worse. Leather is also susceptible to water damage so it may be a bad idea if you have excessively sweaty feet.
5. Get your shoes stretched
If all else fails, you can take your shoes to a professional cobbler and have them stretched. The cobbler will remove the sole, and stretch the shoe material using heat and chemicals, then attach a new sole on the bottom.
You can technically stretch any kind of shoe, but this process works the best with leather shoes.
6. Prevent sweaty feet
Moist wet feet are another thing that can increase the risk of blister formation. Wet feet are slippery and so rub against the inside of your shoes more.
Moisture can also soften up the skin and makes it more likely for skin layers to come apart. Sweaty feet can be prevented in a few ways.
You can add some talcum powder to your shoes and socks every morning to absorb excess moisture or you can change your socks to a material that breathes better.
Thicker socks made from cotton absorb water readily and some polyester materials are specifically designed to wick moisture away from the feet.
If you try some of the solutions and still have excessively sweaty feet, you can see a podiatrist and receive a prescription antiperspirant specifically for your feet.
Excessively sweaty feet can also lead to athlete’s foot, foot odor, toenail fungus, and more.
7. Mold your shoes with heat
This is a neat little trick you can do at home with a hairdryer or space heater. Put your shoes on with a thick pair of socks and heat the back of your shoes until they become pliable.
Remove the heat and walk around a bit. As your move, the heated material will slightly change to fit the unique shape of your heel.
This method works best with materials like leather, suede, or cloth and not so well with synthetic fabrics or mesh.
Be careful that you don’t overheat your shoes. If you heat them too much the material can melt of sustain other damages.
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How to Deal with Heel Blisters
If the blisters are small, you can leave them alone and they should go away on their own over time. Just make sure you don’t put too much pressure on your feet while healing.
If they are larger, the best option is to treat them. Here are some tips on how to deal with and treat heel blisters.
- Don’t pop the blister. This breaks the skin and can open up lower layers to infection
- Wash your hands and feet with warm water and antibacterial soap
- Disinfect a small needle with rubbing alcohol
- Using the needle, make a small puncture near the base of the blister (not the top!)
- Drain the blister and apply an anti-bacterial ointment
- Cover the blister with a bandage and change daily until it heals
Heel Blister FAQ
What socks/shoe materials are best for preventing blisters?
For socks, we find that the best material is a soft natural fabric like cotton or wool. Thick cotton and wool socks are plush and are pretty good at absorbing water, so your feet should not get waterlogged.
As far as shoes go, breathable natural materials like cloth, leather, and suede seem to be the best.
Can blisters get infected?
Yes, if left untreated blisters can burst and later become infected. Serious infection can cause major foot problems and cause other issues. If you have circulatory problems relating form some condition (e.g. diabetes) the chances of infection are much higher.
If one of your blisters gets infected, you can treat it on your own, but it is recommended that you see a podiatrist. Some symptoms of an infected blister include:
- Worsening pain and redness in the affected site
- Cloudy fluid and pus
- Yellowish crusting of skin near the blister
- Extreme tenderness and swelling
Treatment of infected blisters usually involves topical or oral antibiotics. Severe infection may require IV antibiotics or surgery to cut out infected tissue.
What is the best method to prevent heel blisters?
The “best” method is a combination of all the above-mentioned methods. Heel blisters are rarely caused by just one thing but by several issues working in tandem.
Keeping your feet dry, wearing protective socks, and making sure your shoes fit properly are all things that will help prevent blisters and each method is more effective when combined with others.
Heel blisters are no fun and they can seriously impede your day-to-day life, especially if you work a job that has you on your feet a lot.
The best medicine is prevention and there are steps you can take to minimize the chance of blisters.
One last piece of advice is proper foot hygiene, which includes scrubbing your soles, heels, and toes and letting them air out every now and then. The more you take care of your feet, the more they will take care of you.