Whether you’re an avid runner or you just like a good night out dancing, you’ve probably experienced a blister or two in your time. These annoying little pockets of pain aren’t the worst injury ever, but they can be very uncomfortable and can stop you from wearing certain footwear. So, what can you do to treat a foot blister?
What Is a Blister?
The first step is to understand what a blister is. A blister is a little pouch of fluid that often looks like a flattened bubble. Causes of blisters include:
- Insect bites
- Fungal infection
- Bacterial infection
- Some diseases e.g., chickenpox
- Burns, including sunburn and some types of chemical burn
Friction is the most common cause of foot blisters. Constant pressure or rubbing of the feet causes fluid to build up under the top layers of skin. This fluid-filled pocket causes the outer skin to appear as if it has bubbled up, while the skin underneath can become very tender or feel swollen and inflamed- particularly if friction continues.
If the blister continues to be rubbed or otherwise aggravated, the top layer of skin can become ruptured, and the blister can burst. At first, this can give a feeling of relief as the pressure of the fluid is released. However, the skin beneath may become even more inflamed as it is now exposed, and there is a risk of infection.
Foot Blister Care Basics
Follow these crucial points for blister prevention:
- Always wear shoes that fit properly.
- If you are a runner, wear running shoes and socks that support your feet and avoid rubbing.
- If you have to wear uncomfortable shoes for any reason, only do it over short periods of time.
- Keep feet clean and dry.
- Wear shoes suitable for the weather. Going out in canvas shoes in the rain means your socks and shoes can get wet and are more likely to rub on your feet; conversely, wearing thick boots in summer could cause your feet to sweat excessively, which could have the same effect
- Take your shoes and socks off as often as possible to “air” your feet. We don’t mean on the bus or on an airplane! But try and free your feet every evening so that the skin can relax and firm up after being in shoes and socks all-day
- Athletes- try foot powder or moisture-wicking socks to keep feet drier, particularly when running or hiking for long periods of time
Blood Blisters vs. Friction Blisters
Normal foot blisters are caused by friction and look like bubbles in the skin filled with a clear fluid. Blood blisters are also puffy bubbles, but are filled with blood and often look like lumpy bruises. They may be very tiny, or quite large, and usually occur when additional trauma other than simply rubbing has occurred.
What to Do With a Blood Blister?
Should you pop blood blisters? Absolutely not. The words “pop blood blister” should never go together in a sentence. Why? Because of the very real risk of infection. Even a small blood blister can become an open wound if popped.
Treat a blood blister exactly like a normal blister (see below) except for one point- do not try to drain a blood blister. The risk of infection is much higher as blood vessels are already broken and, therefore, much more susceptible to bacteria. Leave it alone if possible, and if a blood blister becomes extremely painful, talk to a doctor who may be able to lance it under sterile conditions.
How long do blood blisters last? They should start to fade within two weeks unless the trauma is repeated; e.g., you continue to run with shoes that cause blisters. If a blister fades, then returns, or if there is no obvious cause for this blister, see a doctor immediately.
Blisters on Skin: How to Heal Blisters Fast
How long do blisters take to heal? Just like blood blisters, it may take a couple of weeks to see a blister change from an annoying bubble back into normal, healthy skin. It also depends where the blister is, as certain parts of the feet are more susceptible to blisters than others.
Most Common Places to Get Blisters on the Feet
- Blister on the ball of the foot
- Blister on the pinky toe
- Blister on the big toe
- Blister on the heel
- Blister on the side of the foot
Any of these blisters can be annoying and could even temporarily limit your mobility. What can you do? Here are our top tips on how to care for a blister.
How to Treat Blisters
- If possible, leave the blister alone. If it’s bearable and you can walk on it, it will heal on its own.
- Never squeeze a blister to pop it. It can lead to infection.
- It is possible to drain a blister but only do this for a large blister that’s causing you extreme pain or discomfort, or lack of mobility. Sterilize a needle with an alcohol wipe (not flame). Puncture the outer skin of the blister, taking care not to push the needle all the way through to the more delicate skin underneath- this will hurt and increases the risk of infection. Apply very gentle pressure around the puncture you have made and allow the fluid to drain out- have some tissue handy to soak it up. Dispose of this safely. Cover the now flattened blister with a clean bandage.
- Soaking your feet in Epsom salts may help draw out the fluid of a blister.
- If you’re unfortunate enough to get a blister under a toenail, speak to a doctor. This is not something you can deal with at home.
Open Blister Treatment
If a blister pops unintentionally, clean it, ensure there’s no dirt trapped beneath the outer skin, and spread some antibacterial ointment on it. Wrap it in a clean bandage, and change this bandage daily. If you notice it gets hot or inflamed, or has red lines around it, see a doctor as this could mean it has become infected.
Generally, blisters are more of an annoyance than a serious issue. Prevention is better than cure, so be kind to your feet, and they’ll be kind to you! Take time out to look after your feet before blisters occur, with products like the Tea Tree Oil Therapeutic Foot Soak, which helps fight bacteria and may even reduce inflammation.
Takeaway: Blisters on the feet are most commonly caused by friction. This type of blister can be avoided with well-fitting shoes and socks. Leaving a blister alone is best, as popping a blister could lead to infection.