How to Treat Blisters

There's nothing worse than a blister -- those red, burning sores, puffed up and filled with fluid, that appear when shoes rub sensitive skin the wrong way. New or ill-fitting shoes are most often the cause of blisters on the feet, but blisters can also crop up as the side effect of another problem, such as an itchy infection that you've scratched.

The majority of blisters are preventable if you follow the dictates of common sense: Choose shoes that fit properly and wear cushioning socks. If you seem to get blisters whenever you're "breaking in" new shoes, even when you are wearing socks, you might try going a step or two further. To reduce friction, put petroleum jelly or foot powder directly on the most sensitive spots on your feet, including the backs of your heels, balls of your feet, and tops and sides of your toes. Then cushion these spots by inserting moleskin pads in your shoes.

Not all feet are structurally alike, and the way your particular feet are made may place extra pressure on weight-bearing areas. Sometimes this pressure will produce blisters, but only during certain activities; for instance, during running but not walking. If you find that you develop blisters in specific areas during certain activities, custom-made insoles may prevent a recurrence (see your podiatrist).

If you have a red, sore area where you think a blister might be developing, cover it with a bandage immediately and keep the bandage on as you wear shoes over the next several days. If you have developed an actual blister, treat it as soon as you can (if you have circulation problems or diabetes, consult a physician), preferably before a lot of fluid has time to build up inside it. Here's what to do:

  1. Thoroughly wash your hands.
  2. Clean the blister area with alcohol or an iodine solution.
  3. Puncture the blister with a needle you've sterilized (by soaking it in alcohol).
  4. Leave the top on the blister. DO NOT try to pull it off, because doing so will delay healing and open the raw area to infection.
  5. Apply a topical antiseptic to the blister and the surrounding skin.
  6. Cover the area with a bandage or piece of sterile gauze taped into place, and keep it covered for several days.

If your blister doesn't heal or is extremely painful, see a doctor. To prevent future blisters, you should not only switch (or pad) your shoes, but also keep your feet dry and powdered. Excess foot moisture promotes bacterial problems that can lead to peeling and blistering skin. Be especially sure to take these precautions during warm weather (because heat increases body perspiration and foot wetness) or if you are regularly in a place where your feet sweat and/or are exposed to wetness, such as a health club. Don't wear the same pair of shoes (or sneakers) every day.

Uncomfortable, unsupportive shoes -- if you walk around in them long enough -- will also eventually cause a burning sensation in the soles of your feet. Probably all experienced travelers have at one time or another paid this painful price; many now make their excursions in shoes chosen for comfort and support.

Sometimes, however, your feet feel as if they're on fire because they're just plain hot. They're roasting inside shoes that don't "breathe." In other words, the shoes don't allow heat and moisture to escape through the upper or be absorbed by the shoe lining. To keep your shoes from becoming ovens, choose ones with absorbent linings and with uppers made of canvas or other porous material (some leather-topped athletic shoes have little holes in their uppers for just this purpose). You can also have your current shoes relined with a natural, absorbent material.

If your feet are itchy or burning all over, rather than just in a blistered spot, you may have a rash. Continue to the next page to learn what to do.

To learn more about treating and avoiding problems with your feet, visit:

  • Everyday Foot Problems: Discover what causes some of the most commonly encountered foot problems, as well as how to treat or avoid them.
  • How to Care for Your Feet: Learn how to keep your feet -- and yourself -- healthy and happy with these tips on caring for your feet, including selecting the right shoes.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.