Blisters are a common annoyance that most active people have experienced at some point from their shoes. The friction and shear forces inside shoes as your feet move and rub lead to the separation of skin layers and fluid build-up, creating those tender, fluid-filled blisters.
The design of shoes, moisture from sweaty feet, and improper fit are the primary culprits for why footwear often creates blisters. Areas like the back of the heel and the side of the foot see high friction and are blister hot spots. Wearing moisture-wicking socks, lubricating problem areas, and properly breaking in shoes can help prevent blisters.
But if you do develop them, resist popping them and keep blisters covered and protected while healing. Understanding the mechanics of how shoes cause blisters can guide you in preventing these irritating injuries.
What Are Blisters?
A blister forms when continuous friction or pressure is applied to the skin. This causes a separation between the upper and lower layers of the epidermis, which then fills with serum or plasma. Blisters most commonly occur on hands and feet. They start out small but can grow considerably in size.
How do Shoes create blisters?
There are several ways shoes can lead to blister formation on feet:
Rubbing and Friction
Shoes that rub certain areas of your feet create friction that damages the skin. Tight-fitting shoes are especially problematic.
The design of a shoe may cause pressure points on parts of the foot like the heel or ball. This constant pressure can lead to blisters.
Heat and sweaty feet make the skin more susceptible to blistering. Closed-toe shoes trap in moisture.
Displacement of Skin
Shoes that slide around on the foot will displace skin repeatedly. Shear forces damage and separates skin layers.
Pebbles or other objects getting inside shoes can cause localized pressure and blistering.
You can take proactive steps to avoid those agonizing foot blisters:
- Wear properly fitted shoes to minimize friction forces. Go to a dedicated shoe store and get properly measured.
- Slowly break into new shoes to adapt your feet to pressure points.
- Select moisture-wicking socks to keep your feet dry. Change damp socks.
- Apply a lubricant like petroleum jelly to high-friction areas before activities.
- Pad problem areas are prone to blistering using mole foam or bandages.
- Avoid wearing the same shoes day after day to let them fully dry out.
If you do develop a blister, follow these tips:
- Don’t pop the blister, which can lead to infection. Keep blister skin intact.
- Wash the area with mild soap and water and apply an antiseptic ointment.
- Cover with an adhesive bandage or blister pad to protect and cushion it.
- For larger blisters, see a doctor for proper draining and treatment.
While shoes are often to blame for blisters, smart prevention and care can help you avoid this common foot nuisance.
How do you stop shoes from giving you blisters?
To stop shoes from causing blisters, wear properly fitted shoes, put moleskin or bandages over friction areas, apply petroleum jelly to hotspots, break shoes in slowly, and wear moisture-wicking socks. This minimizes friction and shear that create blisters.
Does Vaseline stop shoes from rubbing?
Yes, applying Vaseline (petroleum jelly) to areas prone to rubbing can help stop shoes from irritating your skin. Vaseline creates a layer of lubrication that allows your foot to slide smoothly instead of rubbing. Reapply after a few hours if needed.
Does Vaseline help with blisters?
Vaseline can both help prevent blisters by reducing friction as well as help treat existing blisters. For blister treatment, apply a thin layer of Vaseline to the intact blister to keep it moisturized. This helps reduce pain and speed healing. Avoid bursting blisters and keep them covered.
Blisters are a common but painful nuisance that no active person wants to deal with. Understanding the science behind how shoes create blisters through friction, pressure, moisture, and displacement of skin allows you to take steps to prevent them.
Wearing properly fitted, broken-in shoes and using lubricants and padding in key areas will significantly reduce blister formation on your feet. But if they do occur, resist the urge to pop them open, which can lead to infection. Instead, keep blisters intact and covered with a bandage and ointment as they heal.
While it may seem inevitable that shoes will cause blisters, being proactive about footwear choice, sock use, hotspot padding, and lubrication will keep these irritating injuries from hampering your active lifestyle.