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If you participate in a lot of activities that lead to friction blisters,

consider these tips for a unblistered summer of fun. 

Blisters form when the skin rubs against another surface causing friction. First a tear occurs within the upper layers (epidermis) of the skin forming a space between the layers while leaving the surface intact. Then fluid seeps into the space. If you can minimize friction and pressure before the injury threshold is reached you may be able to minimize discomfort and further injury. 

The most common causes of foot blisters are mechanical imbalances involving structural or functional abnormalities of the foot and ankle. These should be evaluated by a podiatric medical specialist who can best recommend treatment. If there is an underlying structural problem wearing prescription orthotics can be helpful. Some blisters can be caused by allergic reactions, bacterial and fungal infections and other skin irritants. Limit self-treatment if the condition persists or worsens or if OTC (over the counter) products don’t help.   

Blisters happen even to the best of feet so what can you do as the activities of summer keep us more active and on our feet to stay unblistered?

One of the easiest and most effective ways to protect the areas of skin that are prone to blisters is to control repeated pressure and friction. Begin by checking your shoes. Shoes that are so tight that they restrict your range of motion or so loose that your feet are sliding around in them create “hot spots” that are prone to blistering. If you’re getting an area of pain or irritation while hiking stop and take care of it immediately. Take off your boots and socks, dry your feet and follow this time tested podiatric treatment using 1/8 inch orthopedic medical grade adhesive backed felt as padding.  To create a customized pad cut a square piece that extends ½ inch beyond the edge of your blister. Fold the padding in half. Then cut a semi-circle out of it, large enough to accommodate the blister. You’ll end up with a piece of padding with a circular hole in the center. Avoid using anything larger than 1/8 inch or the dressing will be too thick and can feel like an aggravating pebble in your shoe which you don’t want. Remove the adhesive backing from the pad and place the circular hole over the blister. Lightly press the adhesive side of the dressing in place. Do not cover the blister. You can use medical tape to secure the edges of the dressing if needed.

A foot blister is caused by excessive mechanical loading. You need to minimize or remove the load (off-load) the weight or friction creating a negative space around the lesion by building up the area around blister so it won’t rub on your footwear. You may want to make up a few of these pads before your next outing. This technique is used by athletes, dancers, hikers and anyone at risk for developing blisters from repeated friction, rubbing, irritation or pressure.

Severe recurrent blisters may become infected and destroy healthy tissue and should be evaluated and treated professionally. Self-treatment is especially dangerous for diabetic patients who have decreased sensations and poor circulation in the lower extremities and are at risk for skin ulcerations. Signs of infection include pus draining from the blister, very red or warm skin around the blister, and red streaks leading away from the blister and should be referred for immediate medical care.

If you participate in a lot of activities that lead to friction blisters, consider these tips for a unblistered summer of fun. 

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