Do I need new feet?
June 17, 2009 1:58 AM   Subscribe

Why do all shoes give me blisters, even when I take every precaution to prevent it?

I'm getting pretty frustrated with trying to buy shoes ever. My problem is that without fail, any pair of new shoes will give me blisters. The way I have dealt with this is by simply suffering through the blisters until I get thick callouses on whatever part of my feet that particular shoe wants to blister, but every time I get new shoes (which is rare) they blister some other, new part. I get blisters on the bottom of my feet, on the sides of my feet, on my toes, on all parts of my heel... you name it, it'll blister.

I'm getting very tired of this, and I don't know what to do about it. I have to suffer for literally months before I can wear a pair of shoes without considerable pain and some bleeding. I can wear a pair of shoes for one day and then I have to switch over to a pair I've already broken in so my wounds don't get irritated and infected.

I'm finally asking this question because I wanted to start walking daily but my old sneakers are completely unusable. I got new ones, but I can't walk every day because of the damn blisters.

- It does not matter if I buy men's shoes (I am female) or women's shoes.

- I do not wear heeled shoes, or strappy shoes, or any other torture contraptions they sell in the women's department that I would expect to give me blisters. I wear loafers or sneakers, and occassionally a pair of Tevas. (The Tevas gave me a blister on the back of my heel, even. Seriously.)

- It does not matter if I spend an hour trying on all sizes, with the help of sales associates, to make sure I get a proper fit. This past week I went into a Puma store to get running shoes, and the associate was very patient, knowledgeable, and helpful. The shoes seemed to fit alright in the store, but when I went to actually use them, I have horrible blisters. I can hardly walk in them, much less run. I already returned two pairs of shoes because of this, now I've given up.

- I don't have particularly weird feet or anything, or at least as far as I can tell. I'm a size 8 in women's (U.S. sizes). When I have gotten blisters I have tried getting both larger and smaller shoes of the same styles -- I just end up with blisters in slightly different places.

I have tried the following:
- Putting band-aids or cloth over where the shoe wants to blister me. This makes no difference, because it just rubs the bandaid/cloth against it.
- Wearing different kinds of socks, different thickness, different material, etc. Doesn't matter: blisters.

I have literally never found a pair of shoes that does not give me blisters. Flip-flops give me blisters. Sandals give me blisters. It's ridiculous.

Does anyone else have this problem? Any idea what causes this or what I can do about it? Is it just how my skin is? I used to think that most people had this problem, but my husband can wear any shoes at all and his feet have no callouses whatsoever. Then some people wear different shoes all the time and I don't see them limping around like I have to. Is there something I haven't considered? Is there a person I can go to who will fix this?
posted by Nattie to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (25 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Is there a person I can go to who will fix this?

Have you spoken to a podiatrist?...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:07 AM on June 17, 2009

I do not know the answer to this when it comes to shoes with socks, but I have found the Blister Block stick to be the best thing ever when wearing flip-flops or slides/other summer shoes without socks.

I don't have as bad a problem as you do but I do blister quite a lot, and putting the stick on the soles of my feet, or anywhere the (sockless) shoes begin to rub, works wonders. I carry it around with me and apply as needed before blistering begins (you can feel when a patch of skin starts to get sore), and have had no blister problems since I started using it.

Perhaps someone else can weigh in with the running shoes etc?
posted by different at 2:08 AM on June 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

I blister with every other new pair of shoes I get. This Dr Scholls rub relief stick helps me a lot. So it might help you a little. I carry it with me and apply anytime I feel any of the "uh oh, this is gonna hurt in another 2 blocks" blister pain. Costing less than $5, definitely worth a try.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 2:33 AM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

Do your feet sweat a lot? Sweaty feet invariably yield blisters.

I know you said you've tried lots of kinds of socks.

But, have you tried wool hiking socks? I particularly recommend SmartWool. They're expensive (~$12 a pair), but after I started wearing them to hike in, they're all I wear.

In addition to the hiking socks, have you tried simultaneously wearing sock liners?
posted by Netzapper at 2:43 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Good socks prevent blisters, so invest in some close-fitting, non-cotton socks. If necessary, and if your feet sweat, then carry a spare pair so you can change them regularly.

Also, do you moisturise your feet? If so, this could affect formation of blisters, as dry feet prevent blisters forming, and having overly soft skin can increase blisters.

Prevention is key, as others have said, so use blister prevention aids on areas that could form blisters, before you feel any soreness, or just at that point.
posted by Petrot at 3:08 AM on June 17, 2009

I get a lot of blisters too and in different places for different shoes. Two things:

a) Podiatrist. I have a lot less blisters now I have orthotics and at least the ons I do get aren't a surprise (my gait is pretty bad). This could be a symptom of how you walk and, if so, a podiatrist is the best person to diagnose and fix it.

b) Sports strapping tape. Good quality stuff, the all-over-adhesive fabric kind made for strapping a sprained ankle or whatever (I think mine is made by bandaid). Two layers covering the affected area plus at least the same width again on each side, making sure to go around corners etc to stop the ends being lifted up. The rubbing has to be really bad and for a really long time to work through the tape, it's way better than any plaster, even the fancy blister ones. I use this stuff liberally, between toes (carefully!), across ankles, under my feet, wherever that pair of shoes gives an issue, and it's been a godsend. With this tape I walk half marathons (literally).

I've never tried any of the stick things already suggested but they could be good too.
posted by shelleycat at 3:13 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Actually I was wrong, the stuff I use is Rigid Strapping Tape from Elastoplast. Seriously, so good.
posted by shelleycat at 3:16 AM on June 17, 2009

Wear down the offending bit of shoe with some sand paper. 2 months wear in 2 minutes...
posted by the cuban at 3:50 AM on June 17, 2009

I don't see that you've tried moleskin.

It's adhesive over the whole surface and quite thick, unlike a bandaid that rubs off while walking. You cut out the shape you need and adhere it to your skin rather than your shoe. It's great for running and hiking. I keep little cut pieces in my purse when I'm wearing new shoes.
posted by degrees_of_freedom at 3:59 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are some great suggestions; thank you everyone!

To answer some questions:
- My feet don't sweat much, if at all.

- I do have very soft skin before it callouses.

What's weird about both those things is I've heard the same things you guys are saying about that, but my husband has exceedingly sweaty feet and the skin on his feet is way softer than mine. You'd think he'd never walked before, it's so weird how preserved his feet are. They always remind me of Zoolander, where David Duchovny's character was a hand model who kept his hand encased in a glass contraption so it wouldn't age.

I will see about a podiatrist. My husband thinks I "clomp" a bit when I walk, and I think he's right. I have to be thinking about it to stop doing it. I didn't realize podiatrists were the doctor to see about that, so thank you!

In the meantime, I will try some of the other suggestions. Thank you!
posted by Nattie at 4:00 AM on June 17, 2009

...I mean, moleskin is adhesive on one side. The other side is soft.
posted by degrees_of_freedom at 4:05 AM on June 17, 2009

I have a test on Shoe Design & Human Anatomy in about 4 hours, so here's my absolutely expert opinion:

Orthotics. Orthotics orthotics orthotics orthotics. There is no reason why you should need to resort to blister block or rub relief or anything other than that - shoes should work on your feet. While you might not have a particularly weird feet, there are a lot of learned methods of walking/running that can do damage to your gait which transfers into getting things like blisters.

It's a cycle, too - once you started getting blisters, maybe you started shifting your weight around in a different way to avoid hitting them. "Clomping" might be an attempt to avoid the friction of moving your foot within your shoe - if you just lift your foot straight up and put it straight back down, you aren't rubbing your heel against the back of the shoe, etc.

But really, everyone's foot is different. Most shoes are designed for a magical Normal Foot with a Healthy Gait that very few of us have, and a little bit of a change can do a lot. But to reiterate: shoes should work on your feet. You don't need to live with blisters. You don't need to add extra padding or to wear thick socks or to remember to rub ointments on your foot or anything like that. Orthotics will completely change your foot's relationship to a shoe, and in the end you'll probably be bummed out that you don't have any more blisters to lance.

Get thee to a podiatrist!
posted by soma lkzx at 5:32 AM on June 17, 2009

Do you have noticeable "fingerprints" on your feet? It's likely that fingerprints aid in minimizing blisters. The fingerprints on my feet are more pronounced when I am barefoot more often outside.
posted by bigmusic at 6:07 AM on June 17, 2009

The clomping when you walk is probably a big part of it. Or you are buying the wrong sizes? The other advice here is good, but you are kind of stuck with it forever. Stick a vinyl band-aid to the affected area, wear tight socks, and the band aid will take the abrasion.
posted by gjc at 6:08 AM on June 17, 2009

nthing wool socks.

I have very weird feet (EEEEEE - 6E width), and I get tremendous blisters just beneath my toes with any amount of walking. Blisters don't form when I wear nice wool hiking or athletic socks. They are super comfortable, even in the heat of summer, and you will soon be ranting about the virtues of wool socks to whoever will listen like a Born Again Baptist or a Mac user. Wool dress socks or tights are a bit too thin to be much good for this purpose, but you can wear athletic wool socks under flat-heeled dress boots if fashion is a concern.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:15 AM on June 17, 2009

I don't know what the cause is, but I have a tendency toward blisters too. I have extremely high arches (and should probably be wearing orthotics, but since insurance won't cover them, well...) - that might be part of the problem.

I've found two, and only two, brands of shoes that consistently are comfortable right out of the box: Dansko/Sanita and New Balance. I can even wear my Danskos without socks.
posted by chez shoes at 6:20 AM on June 17, 2009

I remember hearing that basketball players wear two pairs of socks to prevent blistering. Have you tried this? It's cheap stop gap until you see a podiatrist. If you have got your shoes fitted by fancy shoe stores and running stores already, you definitely need to call in the experts.
posted by Gor-ella at 6:40 AM on June 17, 2009

If your toes hurt because they rub against each other, most running stores sell an anti-chafing balm of sorts (e.g. BodyGlide). It comes in a deodorant-like container and you use it to lubricate your skin. Don't be intimidated by the look of the athletes on their website, regular people like us are allowed to use it too ;)
posted by cranberrymonger at 7:49 AM on June 17, 2009

RE: sneakers / running shoes / hiking shoes

Whenever I get a new pair of these types of shoes, I treat them like a new baseball glove -- that is I put them under the matress and sleep on them, constantly bend the stif parts with my hands, etc until they are broken in enough to wear with comfort.

It sounds liek you have a doctor-worthy problem with blisters, but in the meantime this trick might help you a bit.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:33 AM on June 17, 2009

I was told "clomping" can be a result of compensating for an abnormally flexible midfoot that causes your foot to slide forward in the shoe.

Some NYC shoe stores that sell orthotics have diagnostic computer platforms you can use for free. Only your podiatrist can tell you for sure-- good luck!
posted by aquafortis at 8:55 AM on June 17, 2009

Seconding BodyGlide. I put it on when I wear sandals and it makes them much more comfortable.
posted by mogget at 9:35 AM on June 17, 2009

I've have a lot of trouble with blisters. Here are a few of the tips I've found helpful:

- Duct tape over areas you think will be affected. Don't do this after the blister has already formed!
- Body glide.
- Use mole foam to make a doughnut shape to put around the blister, then cover with a bandaid. This will take the pressure off your blister.
- Get shoes wet before using them. This technique probably only applies to shoes like my orienteering shoes that are quite stiff when dry, but loosen right up when wet.
posted by carolr at 10:07 AM on June 17, 2009

You could always try shoes custom made for your feet. I (a man) wear a size 5, and had a really hard time finding shoes suitable for wearing to work. I finally decided that custom shoes were my only option. I bought the New Yorker style from Fernand Footwear. They were rediculously comfortable. Although expensive, they are more of a long term investment than a regular pair of shoes. When they wore out, I had them resoled for $40, and they look as good as new.

I bought a standard size 5, but with your problem I would recommend a pair made-to-fit. The instructions for tracing your feet are on thier website.

I have no relation to the site, just a satisfied customer. Actually, I remember that there were quite a few websites where you can get customized women's shoes, or larger men's shoes. They just didn't have my size available.

I will warn you that if you buy a hand-made pair of shoes, there is a good chance you will be disappointed by any non-hand-made shoe purchases you make in the future.

But really, a podiatrist isn't a bad idea, either.
posted by Quonab at 3:45 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I didn't find that body glide stuff worked for me BUT liquid bandaid actually does. The regular ones get rubbed right off. I apply it pretty liberally until I break in the shoe/the shoe breaks in my foot.
posted by Salamandrous at 4:05 PM on June 17, 2009

I bought a standard size 5, but with your problem I would recommend a pair made-to-fit. The instructions for tracing your feet are on thier website.

I think the problem here is how walking happens, not the shape of the foot, which is something mail-order shoes aren't going to be able to (easily) address. And even for just standing still, what a podiatrist will do is make you stand in a weird sandy-form-type thing to see how you put pressure in different area of your foot, along with just looking at the shape and layout of your foot.
posted by soma lkzx at 10:16 PM on June 17, 2009

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