The only downside to stepping into summer heels? The inevitable blister. Without the protective barrier of socks, lace-up heels, caged booties, and just about any kind of super-strappy sandal all run the risk of inflicting torment on your feet. But we're about to grant you immunity.
In order to lead a life free of those bubbly abrasions, it's important to first understand how they're formed. "Blisters are associated with friction," explains Dr. Emily Splichal, podiatrist and human movement specialist. "Excess pressure and excess motion creates friction, which lead to calluses, corns, and blisters."
To prevent friction, the goal is to find the perfect fit—a concept that is, admittedly, as elusive as it sounds. David Mesquita, vice president of New York's Leather Spa, describes the ideal fit as "when the width of your foot is completely on the insole board," because when there's extra room, especially between the heel and the counter (aka the back of the shoes), rubbing and chafing are bound to happen. The fix: gel pads that you can comfortably adhere onto the insole under where the balls of your feet hit.
Conversely, when a fit is too tight a blister-y fate also awaits you. The same goes for breaking in a new pair of shoes. In either case, Splichal and Mesquita both agree that at-home practices, like wearing socks to stretch them out or spraying a shoe-stretch product to soften leather and relieve pressure areas, can help, but these remedies only go so far. It all traces back to the day of purchase. "If it's tight from the start, the most common mistake for people to make is that they think they can get it stretched," Mesquita says. "Don’t think you can make drastic changes, because you can't."
"If it's rubbing in the store, it's going to continue rubbing. :isten to the little signs the shoe is giving you," Splichal echoes. "And shop for shoes in the evening. Feet swell up from walking and standing, so that's when you'll get the most accurate fit."
Duly noted! If it's a little too late for your ankle-pinching gladiator sandal purchase, the next best thing you can do is fake a barrier between your feet and the blister-inducing culprit. First, swap out bandages—"they do nothing," Splichal declares—in favor of Moleskin that you can cut and customize to protect the problem area. "Band-Aids are going to move, and if the shoe is moving, they'll stick to the shoe and create more friction," she explains.
If not Moleskin, then 2ndSkin. Hayley Atkin, Hollywood power stylist whose clients include Mindy Kaling and Lake Bell, swears by the stuff: "It's what dancers use; it's like an extra layer of skin, and you can't even see it, which is perfect if you're wearing sandals." Other methods include gel liners and petroleum jelly-based sticks.
On that note, we've culled the best blister-busting products out there and pieced together this arsenal to help you achieve a no-blister, friction-free summer (and beyond).
1. 2ndSkin Blister Kit ($15; amazon.com): "It's what dancers use; it's like an extra layer of skin, and you can't even see it, which is perfect if you're wearing sandals," Atkin says.
2. Scholl's DreamWalk Heel Liner ($6; drugstore.com): "The reason you get blisters on the back of the heel is because you're stepping out of the shoe," Splichal says. "Make the shoe fit tighter with a little padding at the heel counter."
3. Band-Aid Friction Block Stick ($9; walgreens.com): "It will help curb friction—anything petroleum jelly-based will, like Vaseline," Splichal says.
4. New-Skin Liquid Bandage ($4; walgreens.com): In addition to 2ndSkin, Atkin uses liquid bandages, which forms a see-through flexible barrier that will actually stay on.
5. Leather Spa Shoe Stretch ($9; leatherspa.com): "Break in shoes and soften leather with this shoe stretch spray," Mesquita says. "Spray it on the inside and outside and wear while it's damp."
6. First Aid Only Moleskin Bandages ($5; walmart.com): "Always make sure to put Moleskin on your foot, not the shoe," Splichal advises. "This acts as a sock, as a cushion between the shoe and your skin."
7. Dr. Jill's Gels Ball-of-Foot Cushions ($10; amazon.com): "For uncomfortable shoes without support or shoes that are a little too big, put little gel pads in the front," Mesquita says.
8. Leather Spa Gel ($13; leatherspa.com): "To prevent chafing between the toes," Mesquita says, "there are gel wraps that come up and wrap around the thong of the sandal."