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Blisters

Question: “I often suffer from blisters, even on short walks. Why?”

B. Janssen, Zwolle

Answer

Blisters are common. Everyone has experienced a blister at some point or another. They can be painful, uncomfortable and annoying. There are several causes for blisters. So called burning blisters are caused by extreme heating or cooling of the skin. Friction blisters are caused by pressure, pinching or rubbing. Furthermore there are numerous skin conditions which can cause blistering, e.g. sunburns or insect bites. Your question however, relates to blisters on the feet so it is safe to say these are caused by friction.

Why do these blisters occur? A friction blister is a soft pocket of raised skin filled with clear fluid caused by irritation from continuous rubbing or pressure. This type of irritation causes minor damage to the skin and the tissue just beneath the skin, then fluid accumulates just beneath the outermost layer of skin. Some of us are more sensitive and suseptible to blisters than others, depending on the thickness and strength of our skin. Heat and humidity increase and accelerate the risk of blistering. So when the feet are all warmed up, they become more swollen and could make your ‘perfect’ fitting shoes all of a sudden feel smaller and tighter, causing friction and blisters appear.

Rubbing seams in sock or shoes, sand and grit, ill-fitting shoes, or non-leather footwear (e.g. plastic) where moisture can’t escape, are all causes for blisters. Even your toes rubbing together can cause blisters.

Advice

To reduce the chance of getting blisters, we advise that you wear well ventilated, well fitted, leather shoes with no irritating seams. Make sure the shoes fit before buying them. They must not pinch or squeeze anywhere. Make sure that there is at least 1 cm extra space around the toes to allow for the foot to roll forward whilst walking. 

Tips

  1. Choose shoes which have a leather upper lining and insole. Leather lets your feet breath whilst other materials such as plastic will not.
  2. It is advisable to try new shoes on in the afternoon. This is because your feet are more swollen than they are in the morning. You can try them on in the morning, but we advise that this is done on cold days and that you place a leather insole inside the shoe to make them fit perfectly.
  3. A good fitting shoe means that the shoe shape is not too wide or too narrow; too narrow will pinch whereas too wide the foot will slip, all causing friction and increase likelihood of blisters.
  4. In summer wear open shoes, like sandals or slipper, allowing the feet to ‘breath’, especially as your feet will be warmer during the summer months.
  5. It is very important to ‘walk your shoes in’ when you first get them. This is to enable the leather to soften and mold to your feet.
    Do not decide to go on a major walk or hike in brand new shoes.
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