You just couldn't resist a bargain. Those shoes
looked great with your new outfit, even if they
didn't feel so great on your feet. "They'll stretch out,
" you told yourself, and then patted yourself on the
back for getting such a good deal. Unfortunately,
you got more than you bargained for--namely,
painful blisters to go with your new shoes.
Blisters are tender spots that fill up with fluid
released by tiny blood vessels in an area where
delicate skin tissues have been burned, pinched, or
just plain irritated. Virtually everyone has
experienced friction blisters, the kind caused by hot,
sweaty, or ill-fitting shoes. If you have one now,
read on to find out how to take care of it. Then
continue reading to learn how you can help protect
your tender tootsies in the future.
Make a tent.
Instead of simply placing an adhesive bandage right
on top of the blister, "tent" the bandage by bringing
in its sides so the padding in the middle of the
bandage raises up a bit. "This will not only protect
the blister but allow air to circulate, which will aid
in healing," says Nelson Lee Novick, M.D.,
associate clinical professor of dermatology at the
Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
Use a double-duty bandage.
Another type of bandage, available in pharmacies,
contains a gel and antiseptic to cushion and "clean"
the blister, says Wilma Bergfeld, M.D., head of
clinical research in the Department of Dermatology
at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio. Ask
your pharmacist about it.
Let it breathe.
Some physicians believe that a blister should not be
covered at all for maximum aeration. Jerome Z. Litt,
M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at
Case Western Reserve University School of
Medicine in Cleveland, is one such doctor. He even
suggests slipping your shoe off while you sit at
your desk at work in order to give your blister some
Smear on an ointment.
Whether you decide to cover your blister or not,
you should apply an antibacterial/antibiotic
ointment to it. Doctors generally recommend
Bacitracin or Polysporin, which may be less likely
to cause an allergic reaction or sensitivity than
other over-the-counter ointments.
When a blister is in a particularly annoying spot,
like the bottom of the foot, padding might provide
more of a cushion than just a bandage would,
advises Bergfeld. She suggests using the circular
pads made of foam adhesive found in the foot-care
aisle of drug- and beauty-aid stores. "Pharmacies
also carry sheets of padding that you can cut to size
for a more exact fit," says Bergfeld. Cut the
padding in the shape of a donut, and place it on the
skin surrounding the blister so that the blister fits in
the hole in the opening of the donut. Then gently
cover the blister with an antibacterial ointment and
Put it up.
Elevating the blistered area can help relieve the
pressure, advises Bergfeld.
Expect it to take about a week to ten days for the
blister's fluid to be reabsorbed by the body.
While some doctors believe that a blister should
never be popped because of the risk of infection,
most agree that a blister causing extreme pressure--
such as one on a finger or toe or under a nail--is a
candidate for draining. If you should decide to pop
it, first wipe the blister and a sewing needle with
alcohol. "Never sterilize a needle over a flame,"
says Novick. "It can create soot on the tip of the
needle, which can 'tattoo,' or dirty, the blister."
Prick the blister once or twice near its edging; then
slowly and gently press out the fluid.
Keep the roof on it.
Once you have popped the blister and drained the
fluid, do not remove the deflated top skin. This skin,
called the blister's roof, protects the blister from
infection and forms a "bridge" for new cells to
migrate across on their journey to heal the site.
To drain a blister on a tough-skinned area, such as
the sole of the foot, Litt suggests first soaking the
blister in Burow's solution, available from
pharmacies in packets or tablets (follow the
directions on the package). He recommends
soaking the blister for 15 minutes, three to four
times a day. A day or two of this will soften the
blister and make draining easier.
Watch for signs of infection.
Redness, red streaks, or pus in an intact or a
"popped" blister should be treated by a doctor.
Buy shoes in the afternoon.
"Over the course of the day, your feet may swell by
as much as half a shoe size," says Gastwirth. When
trying on shoes, wear the same type of socks that
you plan to use with the shoes.
Look for leather.
Unlike nonporous vinyl and plastic materials,
leather has microscopic pores that allow air to
circulate, keeping the foot drier. In the same way,
so do the clusters of perforated holes primarily
found on many styles of sports footwear. A dry foot
is less likely to develop blisters.
Don't exercise at midday.
The heat of midday, especially in the summer, can
make the feet perspire more, making them more
Never wear wet shoes.
The wetness can cause more "dragging" between
the foot and shoe and can result in blisters. If you
jog twice a day, for instance, you may want to buy
a second pair of running shoes for your second run
Protect "hot spots."
If you have a chronic "hot spot," or place where
blisters tend to develop, apply petroleum jelly to it,
then slip on your sock. Foam or felt pads, used
alone, can also absorb the friction and protect a hot
spot. For best results, make sure the padding covers
more area than you think a blister would take up,
since the neighboring areas can become irritated,
Wear the right socks.
Specially made sport socks with extra padding in
hot spots can help prevent blisters. Natural fibers
such as cotton and wool tend to keep the feet dry by
absorbing moisture. However, according to
Gastwirth, recent research suggests that acrylic
fibers may, through a wicking action, actually
move moisture away from the foot, keeping it drier
and making it less prone to blistering. Your best
bet? Try them both and see which type of fiber
keeps your feet drier and more comfortable. In
addition, make sure the sock fits your foot, so there
is less chance of it bunching up inside the shoe and
causing a blister.
Try a sprinkle.
Foot powders may aid in keeping the foot dry and
preventing painful blisters from forming.