It happens to everyone—you find that one pair of shoes you just need to have in your closet, spend a whole paycheck to buy them and when you finally, finally get to wear them out the door, the inevitable happens—one block down the street you already feel a blister (or two!) coming on. In an instant, a pair of shoes you’ve saved up for become forever unwearable. We’ve all been there.
It seems that even when we opt for the comfiest shoes imaginable, there’s a pesky strap, hard insole or unbendable heel that causes immediate friction and discomfort. So how can we make sure our new kicks won’t get shoved to the back of our closet? We chatted with Sports Physical Therapist Dr. Brian Hoke to understand why blisters form, how to treat the area and find out the best ways to avoid them all together.
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How Do Bisters Form in the First Place?
Dr. Hoke explains that blisters form as a response to sheer force. “It’s not so much pressure as the gliding of the skin on the surface,” he tells PeopleStyle. “And so, really your skin is trapped between a bone that’s moving back and forth and your body is trying to create a pad. So it separates the layers and then the fluid leaks into that space and that creates the blister. So a lot of treating it means trying to reduce that friction.”
What Are the Best Ways to Treat the Area?
If a blister already formed, Dr. Hoke says the main thing you want to do is keep the area clean. “The one thing you want to be careful about is popping this blister,” he explains. “The best barrier for infection is your skin. And so once you pierce that, you open yourself up to the world. It’s better to leave it and keep that [area] sterile.”
If it does pop, keep it covered! “If it pops, cover it with anything that comes out of a wrapper [so it hasn’t been contaminated].”
According to Dr. Hoke, the best bandage to look for is Spenco 2nd Skin. “It’s a little sheet, almost like silicone so it doesn’t just protect the blister, it absorbs the shoe that causes it,” he says. “It treats the problem, it’s not just covering it. You can cover a blister with a Band-Aid but you’re still going to get that same friction across it.”
If the area is feeling better, he suggests leaving the bandage on for two days. If it starts weeping it’s best to take it off, clean the affected area and put a new one on. “You have to be very careful when you remove [the bandage] because the layer of skin that’s separate may come with it. So the trick is to hold the bandage or the second skin and push the skin away from the bandage, instead of pulling the bandage off.”
Are There Any Tips or Tricks to Speed Up the Healing Process?
Dr. Hoke suggests putting a small amount of Vaseline on the blister before you cover it. “That’s going to let it slide a little bit so you don’t get more friction where that blister is forming,” he explains.
Another suggestion, especially for athletes or runners, is to wear two layers of socks. “The sock layers can absorb that friction and sheer.”
What Are Some Ways to Prevent Blisters from Forming Altogether?
Buying a brand new shoe that’s already well-worn is the dream, but breaking in shoes obviously takes time. That’s why Dr. Hoke suggests getting something that forms to your foot to help give yourself support while your foot molds to you, like these Vionic inserts. “[It’s] close to your normal foot anatomy as opposed to a flat insole that’s in most of our sneakers or flats,” he says. “You’re going to get a lot of pressure on high spots—your heel, the ball of your foot, the sides of your toes, so having something that’s more the shape of your foot will help prevent blisters too.”
But ultimately the best way to prevent blister pain is to break in new shoes gradually. “Your body responds to little changes, but it’s going to react to a big change. Wear the shoe for an hour or two and then switch out to something you know is comfortable and then you’re less likely to develop blisters. Lots of materials do actually adapt to your foot, especially leathers, but it does take time for that to actually shape.”