How to Avoid Blisters from High Heels

There's probably no better example of suffering for style than high heels. These women's shoes (although men have worn them at various points in history, too) are more popular than ever. However, the practice of teetering around in sky-high stilettos and towering platforms has left many women with a number of foot problems, including bunions, corns, calluses, hammertoe and, most commonly, blisters.

High heels are likely to lead to blistering because they not only constrict feet and toes; they also cause the body to deposit increased weight on that constricted area. When blisters do surface, they're likely to be exacerbated by the continued rubbing and pressure of the shoe. Soon, you're hobbling around with your band aid-adorned feet peeking out from your formerly chic shoes. Suddenly, those fashionable heels don't look so stylish. As for your feet, those painful blisters -- if not given the chance to heal properly -- can become infected.


So what are you to do? Should you sacrifice style for comfort and safety? Or should you suffer through the pain and let your feet devolve into a hot mess?

Medical experts, of course, would recommend the former. They would advise you to cut back on wearing high heels -- or stop wearing them altogether. However, if you're a slave to fashion, you might not see this as an option. Recent surveys have found that while 73 percent of women experience foot problems related to wearing high heels, 42 percent would continue wearing their favorite shoe despite the discomfort.

Fortunately for you, there is a middle ground. While wearing heels less frequently is still ideal, it is possible to keep up with this shoe trend while also reducing the pain, discomfort and potential dangers of blisters. On the coming pages, we'll show you steps you can take to prevent blistering from high heels, as well as the best ways to treat blisters when they occur. So keep reading for advice that will have you strutting around in your stilettos pain-free.


Shoe Shopping Tips for Preventing Blisters

Avoiding blisters starts before you even buy a pair of high heels. The key is finding the shoes least likely to rub and put pressure on your feet. Here are some guidelines for you as you scan the racks and displays of the shoe department:

Buy the right size. A size 7 1/2 at one store may not be the same at another. So don't use the number as a fail-safe guide. Instead, try on and walk around the store in any shoe you're considering buying. Does it fit like a size 7 1/2, or more like a size 7 or 8?


Shop in the afternoon. Your feet are going to swell throughout the day, so a shoe that feels just right in the morning, could be rubbing your toes by 2 p.m. To avoid this problem, buy shoes that fit your feet at their most swollen state.

Don't think you'll "break in" uncomfortable shoes. If the shoes are uncomfortable in the store, they'll be uncomfortable at work or a party. It's true that some shoes slightly stretch over time or through wearing them around the house in thick socks, but it's not something you can count on.

Stick to heel sizes under 3 inches, if possible. The higher a heel is, the more it pitches your body forward in a way that shoves your toes against the shoe. Smaller heels allow for better weight distribution on the feet and, thus, a more comfortable fit.

Don't forget to pick up some insoles or heel cushions. Depending on the narrowness or thickness of your foot versus average shoe widths, you may need to buy insoles or heel cushions. And even if the new shoes you're buying fit perfectly, you likely have some at home that could use some protective padding. Such products are also a great solution for people who have one foot that's a slightly smaller size than the other and need to make one of their shoes more comfortable.

Know when to trade your old shoes in for a new pair. Your feet can change size as you age. They also fluctuate at different stages in life, such as pregnancy, weight loss and weight gain. If the shoes that always fit you perfectly now blister your feet, it's time to get a new pair. Instead of feeling sad that you have to retire your old heels, look at it as a brand new opportunity to go shoe shopping!

If, despite your best efforts, you still get a blister from your high heels, there are effective ways to deal with it. Check out the next page for more advice.


Treating Blisters Caused by High Heels

Let's face it. Even if you get smart about the types of high heels you buy, it's unlikely that you'll go the rest of your life without another blister. So what should you do if you get one? Well, first let's focus on what you shouldn't do: pop it.

That's right; you should always try to make sure a blister remains intact. Believe it or not, the fluid in a blister is there to protect your skin and guard it against infection. It's as if your foot has grown its own cushion. So as tempting as it may be to pick at a blister, you should instead cover it with a small bandage. For a large blister, you can use a porous, nonstick gauze.


If, however, a blister becomes so painful that you're unable to wear shoes, draining it is an option. This practice must be done carefully and should be considered a last resort -- but if it's the only option you're left with, here are the steps you can follow to perform it safely:

  • Wash your hands and the blister with soap and warm water.
  • Apply rubbing alcohol or iodine to the blister and surrounding area.
  • Sterilize a clean, sharp needle with rubbing alcohol.
  • Puncture the blister gently in a few spots around its edge.
  • Let the fluid drain, but do not remove the overlying skin.
  • Immediately apply antibiotic ointment to the blister.
  • Cover the blister with a bandage or gauze.
  • After several days, cut or pull way the dead skin with sterilized scissors or tweezers.
  • Apply more ointment and another bandage or gauze.
  • Keep an eye on the area to ensure it's healing properly.

Signs such as redness, pus, pain or skin warmth could indicate infection. If you notice such symptoms, contact your doctor right way. However, if you're someone with diabetes or poor circulation, the time to contact your doctor is before the blister is drained. Because you're more susceptible to infections and foot problems, you should have the puncturing performed by a medical professional.

Click on the following page for lots more information on foot care.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • "Blisters: First Aid." Jan. 11, 2008. (Sept. 29, 2009)
  • Bouchez, Colette. "Tips to Avoid Foot Pain from High Heels." WebMD. 2009. (Sept. 29, 2009)
  • "Foot and Heel Conditions." Canadian Federation of Podiatric Medicine. July 16, 2009. (Sept. 29, 2009)
  • "The High Heel-a-Thon in NYC!" Running With Heels. July 11, 2008. (Sept. 29, 2009)
  • "How to Prevent Chafing and Blisters." The Walking Site. 2009. (Sept. 29, 2009)
  • Krieger, Liz. "Bye-Bye Blisters. Hello Happy Feet!" Simply Stated. May 28, 2008. (Sept. 29, 2009)
  • "O's Ultimate Shoe-Buying Guide." Oprah Magazine. 2009. (Sept. 29, 2009)
  • "SheFinds Solution: How To Survive Your High Heels." 2009. (Sept. 29, 2009)
  • Vonhof, John. "Blister Prevention." Fixing Your Feet. 2009. (Sept. 29, 2009)
  • Wexler, Suzanne. "Heels: Women follow men in high-stepping fashion." The Vancouver Sun. Sept. 28, 2009. (Sept. 29, 2009)