Blisters 3 min read

Blisters causes – feet and heel blisters

Blisters causes – feet and heel blisters Blisters causes – feet and heel blisters Blisters causes – feet and heel blisters

Friction blisters on the feet from shoes are a common minor injury, especially among athletes and hikers. However, anyone who walks or stands for several hours a day — or wears poorly fitting shoes — is at risk of this blister type. This is because friction blisters are caused when skin rubs against something, often footwear, causing a bubble. But there are other causes too.

  • There are a number of causes of friction blisters
  • These include poorly fitting shoes, damp feet and exercise
  • You can care for blisters in a number of ways

In this article:

  • Causes of blisters on feet
  • Caring for blisters on feet
  • Summary

Causes of blisters on feet

Friction blisters are one of the most common types of blister and they can be difficult to avoid. It’s not easy to prevent your feet and heels rubbing against footwear, especially when engaging in strenuous activity.

It’s estimated that over 400,000 people take part in marathons in the US, and up to 39% will get a blister[1][2].

How do friction blisters form?

Friction blisters are commonly formed by repeated rubbing, to the point where the skin gets hot and stings. Fluid then fills up underneath the epidermis (the top layer of skin)[2].

They can also be caused by excessive moisture and perspiration[3]. This makes them common in summer and means that athletes are especially at risk of developing blisters from running. Blisters on heels from boots are also a painful irritation for many, as are blisters caused by thin socks. Thankfully, there are things you can do to prevent them forming.

Prevention

The best ways to prevent blisters on feet from shoes or strenuous activity are by[4]:

  • Wearing well-fitting worn-in shoes, or boots with thick, soft socks that wick moisture away
  • Limiting the wear of new shoes to short periods until they have softened and feel comfortable
  • Removing shoes and/or stopping activity immediately if you feel irritation
  • Using insoles and orthotics to reduce pressure points on the feet
  • Using talcum powder or antiperspirant on the feet to keep sweat at bay
  • Attaching moleskin to the inside of your shoes or boots[5]
  • Protecting prone skin areas with dressings, pads and cushioning products

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Should I see a doctor about my friction blister?

Friction blisters don’t normally need looking at by a healthcare provider. There are no tests or diagnostics for any kind of blister[3].

However, if your blister begins to show signs of infection, you should consult a doctor. Symptoms to look out for include[3]:

  • Green or yellow pus/discharge
  • Red-colored streaks around the blister
  • Hot or painful blister

You may also develop:

  • A fever
  • Nausea
  • Chills

It’s important to seek medical help if any of these occur, as an infected blister could develop into a life-threatening condition, such as[1]:

  • Cellulitis – a potentially serious bacterial skin infection
  • Sepsis – caused when infection-fighting processes turn on the body
  • Toxic shock syndrome – when bacteria enter the body and release harmful toxins

If your blister is infected, a doctor can drain it with a sterile needle. If you’ve bought new shoes and are worried about developing a friction blister, find out more about how to prevent and treat them when wearing new footwear.

Caring for blisters on feet

Although shoe and boot blisters can get very sore and need to be cared for to prevent infection, they usually clear up on their own within a few days. There are ways to care for them and alleviate them at home[3]:

  • Keep it clean – Wash the area gently with soap
  • Creams – Use antibacterial ointment or cream
  • Cover it up – Cover the blister with gauze or a Compeed hydrocolloid bandage.
  • If using normal bandages, change daily. Compeed blister bandages can stay in place for several days (individual experience may vary).

Draining a friction blister

It’s important to resist the temptation to pop, break or peel off a friction blister. This is because the skin on a blister is your body’s way of protecting the skin from infection.

For further information on dealing with friction blisters on the feet or heals, read about how to manage friction blisters, and whether you should pop a blister.

Summary

Friction blisters are annoying and sometimes painful. However, providing you keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t get infected and protect them with a blister cushion, they should heal on their own. Taking preventative measures like cushions will minimize the chances of getting one in the first place, and bandages can help keep infection at bay.

Rita Wanser
Rita Wanser
Medical Affairs Consultant
Rita is a Medical Affairs consultant and has worked with HRA for 3 years. She has been in the industry for over 40 years, building medical materials and claims substantiation for hundreds of cosmetic, personal care and consumer healthcare products. She has an extensive background in medical devices for wound and lip care, and has worked for several major Consumer Healthcare companies prior to beginning her consulting business in 2017.

Sources

1

Podiatry Today. How to Manage Friction Blisters. 2021.  https://www.hmpgloballearningnetwork.com/site/podiatry/how-to-manage-friction-blisters

2

Mailler EA, Adams BB, The wear and tear of 26.2: dermatological injuries reported on marathon day: BMJ: 2004.  https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/38/4/498

3

Healthline. Blisters on Feet: What You Need to Know. 2021. https://www.healthline.com/health/blisters-on-feet#diagnosis

4

Medical News Today. What to Know About Friction Blisters. 2021. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/friction-blisters