What’s the deal with blisters?

They can be a real nuisance, they used to be associated with new footwear, but oftentimes new shoes are comfortable straight out of the box.

So how do we get blisters?
The answer is SHEAR. Shear is sideways force (rubbing horizontally). Skin is made up of layers, this shearing stress from rubbing leads to the skin layers parting and the gap fills with tissue fluid, voila a blister has appeared.

What to do next?
The traditional advice is to NOT pop them however, this decision can be taken away from you with foot blisters, because the load exerted on feet can lead to them bursting.

Once a blister has burst it usually feels more comfortable and in the army (they are very experienced in blister management) they often do drain blisters, the trick being to force the fluid out but leave the baggy skin of the blister intact, so it looks rather like bubble wrap. This method protects the VERY sensitive skin at the base of the blister but relieves the fluid pressure of the blister.

The advice about not popping blisters is based upon them being intact and therefore an infection is highly unlikely, but if you are a healthy individual (i.e. not immuno-compromised and not diabetic) then it’s pretty safe territory. I’m yet to see a blister that got infected in over 25 years of working as a Podiatrist and Chiropodist.

What else helps?
All health advice comes back to prevention bring better than cure. Prevention here is REDUCE SHEAR. If you’re prone to blisters look at the double skin socks, the inner layer is very low friction, such as viscose and the outer layer is regular sock, so the rubbing is between the sock layers, not you!

Alternatively reduce shear with oiling the skin with Vaseline, this is good if your blister problems are between the toes.

The final one to consider is Compeed which are brilliant in one of 2 ways.
1) Put over a painful blister and just like magic they make them painless
2) If you know where you are going to get a blister, put the Compeed there
before your run/walk and it will head it off at the pass


Written by David Houghton, Chiropodist and Podiatrist based in Attleborough, Norfolk