Blisters can be painful and annoying, and the heat of the summer mixed with tight, strappy sandals can quickly turn into a recipe for disaster. To keep your feet happy and blister-free this season, here’s what you need to know.
Excessive friction is the main cause of blisters on the feet.
“Most blisters on the feet are caused by excessive friction with a shoe,” said Saylee Tulpule, a podiatrist at Foot and Ankle Specialists of the Mid-Atlantic. “Other factors, such as an allergic reaction or a burn, can also cause blister formation.”
A blister forms when the outer layer of the skin becomes damaged and a fluid-filled cyst forms, Tulpule explained. Higher summer temperatures boost the likelihood of blisters. That’s because your feet naturally sweat year-round (fun!), and sweat tends to increase in higher temperatures, which can lead to more friction and blister formation.
Certain designs, materials and an improper fit can lead to blisters.
Flip-flops and other thong-type sandals are easy to throw on, but they’re not the best choice for walking long distances in the summer heat.
“Thong-type sandals can cause blisters due to excess rubbing and moisture buildup between the first and second toe,” Wenjay Sung, a podiatrist at Methodist Hospital of Southern California in Arcadia, California, told HuffPost.
Tulpule added that certain types of sandals are easier to keep on your feet. “Sandals with straps that fit around the forefoot and ankle are easier to wear than slides,” she said.
Synthetic materials, like hard canvas or synthetic leather, can also lead to blister formation. Instead, Tulpule recommends sandals made of softer, more durable materials like leather.
A sandal (or any shoe, really) that doesn’t fit properly is a shortcut to blister city. “Although they may look fashionable, a sandal may not be the best fit for your particular feet,” Sung said. “Toes and heels shouldn’t hang over the edges of sandals and your arches should be placed near the middle.”
Sung recommends trying on sandals and taking a few steps. Are your toes gripping the sandals, or are the sandals slipping off? If so, you should probably keep shopping. “The foot should not be moving too much in the sandal while walking,” he said. “You should feel a snugness to the sandal and comfortability.”
Beyond the sandal, these best practices can help keep your feet blister-free.
Breaking in a new pair of sandals can take some time, but it’s worth it to avoid painful blisters. “Wearing a pair of new sandals for a large part of the day without breaking them in can lead to discomfort and skin breakdown,” Tulpule said. She recommends wearing new sandals for just one or two hours the first day, two to four hours the second day, and so on. “Breaking in sandals can take up to several weeks,” she said.
This may seem obvious, but you should avoid running in sandals. “Sandals are not designed for repetitive high-impact activities like running,” Sung said. “Sandals are casual and flimsy, so they allow quick access to a minimally protective surface to the bottom of the foot.”
You can decrease the amount of friction between your feet and your sandals by applying talcum powder or antiperspirant spray. Sung also recommends putting petroleum jelly on areas of your feet prone to blister formation ― a tip he picked up from a marathon runner. Tulpule added that you can use moleskin or soft padding to cushion any areas of your sandals that may lead to skin breakdown.
If you do get a blister, here’s what to do.
Don’t pop it! (Unless it’s large, causing you pain, or likely to get irritated further.)
“Blisters are essentially sterile environments that can lead to infection if they burst,” Tulpule said. For a blister that has not popped, she recommends cleaning it with antiseptic and covering the area with a topical antibiotic, like Neosporin, and an adhesive bandage or soft padding (such as moleskin or a donut pad.) “Avoid wearing the inciting sandals for a few days,” she said.
If your blister pops, the treatment is similar. “Clean the area with soap and water (avoid anything too caustic like hydrogen peroxide), smooth down the roof or skin flaps of the blister, and keep it covered with topical Neosporin and gauze or a Band-Aid,” Tulpule said. “If the blister is painful or shows drainage that appears milky or yellow, visit with a podiatrist for further evaluation and treatment.”
Shopping for a new pair of sandals? Here are eight options.
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