Foot blisters are some of the most annoying and uncomfortable injuries you can get. Nothing puts a damper on a good mood like being unable to walk without feeling that painful blister with every step you take.
Luckily, since foot blisters are pretty common, so are foot blister treatments. In fact, most foot blisters can be taken care of without having to purchase any extra medication or having to visit a doctor. Furthermore, you can adopt blister prevention strategies to make sure that you don’t have to deal with even small blisters in the first place.
Let’s look at some home treatments for foot blisters and what you can do to prevent them from coming back.
What are Foot Blisters and Where Do They Come From?
A foot blister is a small bubble of bacterial fluid that gradually forms beneath the top layers of skin on your foot. Blistering is characterized by the bubble of fluid being protected by the topmost level of your skin, which tends to cause significant irritation and inflammation. If left unchecked, a foot blister can interfere with everyday movement or activities, making it difficult to walk, stand, or exercise.
Foot blisters are some of the most common types of blisters, largely because the skin of our feet sees a lot of action throughout the day. Generally speaking, friction is the most common culprit, as it is an easy way for fluid to build up beneath your epidermis.
Here’s a more detailed breakdown of what might cause a blister:
- Putting pressure on the skin of your feet for multiple hours per day means a lot of friction
- Wearing poorly fitted shoes
- Feet that are too moist, such as with summer athletes who may see an uptick in blisters as sweat clogs the pores of their skin
- Sunburns can also cause blisters to develop. In these cases, damage causes fluid to bubble or rise to the surface as part of the immune system's repair response
- Frostbite, various allergic reactions, and bacterial infections can cause blisters for similar reasons all having to do with immune response
Although foot blisters can come about for tons of reasons, the good news is that you can generally treat blisters with home remedies and general care over the course of a few days. Only blisters that worsen over time with signs of infection need to be brought to a doctor’s attention. In this case, you’ll likely be prescribed other treatments.
Draining Foot Blisters
If your blister is of the common variety, you can likely treat it yourself. The most important thing to remember is that you should drain the blister carefully with a needle instead of ripping the skin open altogether. Draining the blister by removing the outer layer of skin can open up the skin to infection or contamination, while using a sterile needle keeps the puncture wound relatively small, making it easier for your body to heal.
- First, wash your hands with warm water and use antibacterial soap. This prevents you from rubbing bacteria into the soon-to-be-open wound
- Next, swab the blister itself with iodine or another antiseptic, taking care not to accidentally pop or tear the blister. Be as gentle as you need to be
- Soak a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and use it to disinfect the needle to make it sterile. Again, this prevents you from adding more bacteria to a sensitive area
- Now you can take the needle and make a very small puncture in the blister
- Allow the fluid to first drain out by itself. You can then squeeze around the edge of the blister, if necessary to get the rest of the fluid out
What If a Blister Has Already Popped?
In some cases, you might need to treat a blister that has already popped or been torn open from regular tension or activity. You can still treat it to some extent to help support the healing process.
- Wash the affected area with warm water and gentle antibacterial soap. Try to find a soap made with natural products, and avoid using any alcohol, iodine, or hydrogen peroxide: any of these ingredients may be too harsh for the sensitive skin beneath the possibly dead skin's surface
- Smooth any skin flaps that might remain from the blister – although it may be tempting, don’t tear the skin off and cause more of a wound
- Apply antibiotic ointment to the blister area. This helps remove surface bacteria and will help your body heal properly
- You can also use an all-natural salve as an alternative to antibiotic ointment. These salves, particularly those made with natural ingredients, may help relieve the pain and temporary irritation you’ll experience from these types of wounds, as well as help to support the healing process. A great example of one of these is Green Goo’s First Aid Salve – it’s packed with plant-based natural ingredients!
- Lastly, be sure to cover the area with a gauze bandage, hydrocolloid dressing, a piece of moleskin (the doughnut variety is specifically made for blisters), or any other sterile covering. Leave some room for the wound to “breathe.”
Applying Treatments to the Drained Blister
If you are able to properly drain a blister, the rest of the treatment steps remain essentially the same as above.
- Start by applying some kind of antibacterial ointment or high quality first aid salve to the blister surface
- Cover the blister using gauze or some other kind of bandage
The bandages you choose to treat your foot blisters will matter both for keeping the wound clean and your general comfort. If you’re hiking, for instance, and still need to walk on the affected foot, it’ll help to use bandages that are soft or generally comfortable. But, you’ll also need to use bandages that can withstand repeated friction so they don’t break over the course of your day.
Furthermore, make sure that you can remove the bandages relatively easily, as it helps to reapply antibacterial ointment about once per day. You’ll also need to move the bandage to clean the blister. Just replace the bandage every time to keep things clean, and keep the blister covered until it’s healed.
How to Prevent Future Foot Blisters
Although knowing how to treat a blister is important, it’s also crucial to know how to prevent more blisters. For instance, if more blisters are cropping up because of friction, you might need to replace your walking shoes. Shoes that fit too tightly or too loosely can both cause friction: properly fitted shoes are the best solution. It's especially important to be aware of this as you break in new shoes.
You can also adopt other preventative solutions. For instance, you can wear an insole if your feet only rub a specific area of your shoe due to your foot’s arch, or you can wear special moisture-wicking socks or use talcum powder if your blisters are caused because of excessive perspiration.
You can alternatively use thick socks in general in order to make your feet more comfortable. The only thing to be careful with here is making sure your feet don't get too hot and excessively sweat.
Other natural home remedies for foot blisters include:
- Use an Epsom salt soak. Basically, warm some water in a bowl and add natural Epsom salts. Stick your feet into the soak and you’ll find that the mixture can dry out your blisters and soothe your feet.
- Keep your toenails trimmed. Failing to do so could cause an ingrown toenail, which can cause blisters and a ton of irritation and discomfort. Trim your toenails straight across instead of at an angle to help avoid ingrown toenails.
- File your toenails whenever possible. You can also use a file to get rid of calluses. Just be sure that you don’t remove calluses altogether since they’re produced naturally to prevent your skin from building up to a blister in the first place.
- Use a special salve, like Green Goo’s Foot Care. This blend has over a dozen herbs which can help protect and soothe your feet.
- Another remedy comes in the steps before the blister actually occurs. If you feel a hot spot on your foot or you feel your shoe rubbing against the same spot, it’s best to stop immediately rather than letting it develop into something larger. Take the time to find the spot that’s rubbing you, clean the area, add some salve to reduce friction, and get back at it.
All in all, taking care of foot blisters is an exercise in cleanliness and care. Having the right routine can go a long way in helping your blisters to heal properly as well as helping you find some relief from the temporary irritation caused by those blisters. Assistive products like Green Goo’s Foot Care Salve and First Aid Salve are examples of great options you can include in your care routine to support the healing process while providing some overall relief. Although we can’t get rid of blisters permanently, we can certainly learn how to take care of them properly to help our feet get back on the saddle for our next hike!