Causes of blisters on toes

3 min read
Causes of blisters on toes Causes of blisters on toes Causes of blisters on toes

Friction blisters on toes are painful and annoying. They’re caused by continual rubbing over long periods, or intense rubbing over a short length of time. People with ill-fitting shoes, or with toes that are naturally close together, are prone to friction blisters on toes. Although they usually heal on their own, you need to make sure they don’t get infected, and there are some simple steps you can take to prevent them.

  • Friction blisters are the usual cause of toe blisters
  • Prevention is the best way to avoid toe blisters
  • There are a number of products to help you care for a toe blister

In this article:

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

Causes of blisters on toes

Friction blisters on your toes can be painful and irritating — especially if you’ve bought new shoes and it hurts to walk in them.

They can affect people in all walks of life – 40% of soldiers in military training are affected by friction blisters. Backpackers and hikers are also at risk, with more than 50% suffering from them[1].

This is because these blisters are caused by friction against the skin.

How friction blisters on toes form

When your toes rub against something, whether that’s footwear or other toes, the skin becomes flushed and hot[1]. A layer of the epidermis (the top layer of the skin) then tears away from the tissues below. As a result, plasma-like fluid leaks out of the cells and starts filling the gap that was created[3].

Friction burns usually appear on the toes, feet, heels or sides of the feet. In addition to footwear issues or toes that cross, they can be caused by[3]:

  • Spending time in a damp climate
  • Frequent exercise
  • Having a physical occupation that involves standing or walking for long periods
  • Carrying extra weight while moving
  • Wearing thin socks that do not wick away moisture.


With blisters, prevention is usually the best approach. A bit of planning in advance could help prevent developing a toe blister in the first place. With toe blisters, much of the focus should be on your footwear – both socks and shoes.

The most effective ways to prevent friction blisters on the toes are[3]:

  • Choosing the right sized shoes
  • Avoiding shoes with narrow toe areas that could cause rubbing
  • If wearing new shoes, try and wear them in
  • Choose soft socks that can absorb any moisture away, avoiding cotton socks as they don’t wick away moisture as well as other types
  • Use insoles and orthotics that can reduce pressure points on the feet
  • Use talcum powder or antiperspirant on the feet to avoid excessive perspiration.

When should I see a doctor about the friction blister on my toe?

As unpleasant to look at and painful they may be, toe blisters caused by friction are unlikely to need care from a healthcare provider. However, you should visit a doctor if your blister begins to show signs of infection.

Symptoms of infection include[1]:

  • Hot or painful area around the toe blister
  • Pus (green or yellow discharge)
  • Red streaks around the toe blister

You could also begin with a fever, feel sick and have chills. Seek medical assistance if any of these occur. If not, they could develop into these conditions[1]:

  • Cellulitis – bacterial skin infection.
  • Sepsis – infection-fighting processes turn on the body and can damage vital organs.
  • Toxic shock syndrome – an overgrowth of bacteria enters the body and releases harmful toxins.

How can a doctor treat a blister on my toe?

A doctor will drain your friction blister with a sterile needle. Then they can examine a sample of the fluid to help determine the cause of the infection.

If you’re worried about developing a friction blister on your toes, find out more about how to prevent and treat them here.

Caring for blisters on toes

Friction blisters can be very uncomfortable, particularly on or between the toes. The good news is that most blisters clear up within a few days on their own.  If a toe blister is bothering you though, you can relieve the pain and minimize the risk of a trip to see a doctor by following these steps[2]:

  • Wash the area gently, using a mild soap
  • Apply antibacterial ointment or cream
  • Cover the blister with Compeed hydrocolloid cushioning
  • If using normal cushion, change daily. Compeed blister bandages can stay in place for several days (individual experience may vary).
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What is hydrocolloid?

Hydrocolloids are dressings with an active gel. The gel contains moisture-absorbing particles. Thick cushioning redistributes pressure caused by the blister, which helps to alleviate the pain.

Draining a friction blister

Though it’s tempting, do not pop, break or peel off a friction blister. The skin on a blister is how your body helps to protect the skin from infection.

If your blister is infected, a doctor can drain it with a sterile needle. Further information on how to treat friction blisters can be found here.


Friction blisters on your toes are annoying but shouldn’t be a cause for concern. They should disappear on their own within a few days. However, you should keep an eye on them and avoid popping to ensure they don’t get infected. Take care when wearing new shoes and avoid buying any that are too tight. This should help to keep toe blisters at bay.

Cécile Artus – Arduise
Cécile Artus – Arduise
Head of Medical Affairs at HRA Pharma
Cécile has worked with HRA for over 3 years, and has been working in pharmaceuticals since 2011. She studied at the Paris-Sud University attaining a Doctorate in Biology/Biological Sciences.



Podiatry Today. How to Manage Friction Blisters. 2021.


Medical News Today. What to Know About Friction Blisters. 2021.


Healthline. Blisters on Feet: What You Need to Know. 2021.