Blisters, again!
June 22, 2012 3:42 PM   Subscribe

I have painful blisters on my feet from walking much more than normal. What's the best way to manage (or prevent) them for the next few weeks?

I'm about a week and a half in to a four week vacation. To make the most of it, I'm walking a lot. However, I'm getting painful blisters on my feet. This has happened before on shorter trips, so I really tried to get well fitting shoes this time, but that only seemed to help a little.

1. What should I do to treat the blisters I have now, so I can be the most comfortable in the near term?
2. What sort of preventative measures can I start taking now?

If it matters, I'm having problems with my little toe (it seems a little pinched), and the inner side of my heel.
posted by cosmic.osmo to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Also, products available at European pharmacies will probably be the most accessible to me. I might not be able to get more specialized things.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 3:43 PM on June 22, 2012

Do you have a second pair of shoes? I find that if I walk a lot and get blisters (or just garden variety soreness and "heat"), switching out my shoes the following day will solve everything.

If you're on vacation, is it possible to pick up a cheap pair of sandals or simple low-profile sneakers/slip-ons or the like? Ideally something small that can be shoved into your luggage and possibly left behind to make room for souvenirs at the end of the trip.

Also, what's your sock situation?
posted by Sara C. at 3:45 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure on specific availability in Europe, but I've always used these for when I am doing a lot of walking. If you already have blisters, you can put strips on either side of them to keep the shoe from rubbing. You can also put it on pre-emptively on spots that tend to rub. You can also use athletic tape similarly, and I would recommend wrapping your pinkie toe with the tape, I do it really often when hiking or running since I get a bit pinched there as well.
posted by internet!Hannah at 3:48 PM on June 22, 2012

I'll second internet!Hannah's suggestion of moleskin, but I much prefer the thinner kind (which, at least at my local stores, comes in a roll like this). The thick stuff catches on my shoes (at the same spots that give me blisters in the first place) and rubs right off my feet.

More than one person to whom I suggested moleskin later complained that it didn't stick. Here's the complicated-sounding but actually simple method I have to make sure it stays put.

- cut a nice big piece of moleskin, big enough to give you a wide margin around the blistered area. Make sure you cut a fresh edge all the way around. The adhesive sometimes gets a bit dry or rough at old edges.
- before you put the moleskin on, wipe the the unbroken skin around the blister with rubbing alcohol and let it dry.
- put something not-sticky over the blister itself. If the skin is unbroken, you can use a little bit of toilet paper or paper towel for this; if it's an open blister, a BandAid is good, especially if you trim away most of the adhesive part and just leave the gauze bit. (The moleskin will keep it in place just fine.)
- peel the backing off the moleskin and stick it on your foot, rubbing it firmly into place all around the edges.

And this is the really important part:

- do NOT put on shoes or walk around for a few minutes. It seems to me that the moleskin adhesive stays put much, much better if I let it sit for 5 minutes or so before anything disturbs it. "Anything" includes shoes, pressure, or the pulling of your skin as you move your feet.

To prevent blisters in the future, my best suggestion is --- once the blisters heal --- to wear the offending shoes for brief, undemanding stretches when you can. Around the house, to the mailbox, to the corner store: anything to get your feet toughened up where these shoes rub.
posted by Elsa at 4:04 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Band-aid Advanced Healing Blister Cushions are miraculous.
posted by Wordwoman at 4:06 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have a pair of flip flops, and I tried wearing them for a few days, but they're causing blusters in other places (between my big toe and the next, where the strap thing goes, and at the end of my longest toe). If/when a particularly bad blister I have heals more (the band aid won't stay in place with them), I'll try rotate them with my shoes a bit.

I have regular white athletic socks. I think they're cotton, but I'm not sure.

I actually brought along some of that Moleskin stuff. I'll try putting it above and below a blister, since I haven't tried using it that way. I've been putting it existing blisters, but that hasn't helped much. Would you recommend using it for wrapping my liitle toe, or do you only recommend tape for that?
posted by cosmic.osmo at 4:12 PM on June 22, 2012

That should read: ...I've been putting it directly on existing blisters...
posted by cosmic.osmo at 4:15 PM on June 22, 2012

Would you recommend using it for wrapping my liitle toe, or do you only recommend tape for that?

Feet are so idiosyncratic that it's hard to predict, but the thinner moleskin works well for me when I need to wrap a toe, even in spots where a BandAid would rub off. You can give it a try.

I've been putting it directly on existing blisters...

Yes, continue to avoid putting the adhesive directly on blisters, but as I mentioned above, you can use something (a bit of tissue or paper towel for unbroken blisters or a bandage pad for broken ones) to cover the actual wound, then use the moleskin on top. Then the moleskin itself acts like a big padded bandage over the whole area, preventing it from getting irritated again.
posted by Elsa at 4:18 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

You want Compeed, which is actually much more widely available in Europe than in the US. It's also called a "hydrocolloid bandage". It looks sort of like a gel-y bandaid, but it quickly "fuses" with your skin and provides an extremely cushioned layer for something like a week-- doesn't even come off with showering. It works much, much, oh my god so much better than moleskin.

Another thing I like to do is doubling up on socks. It's probably hard for you to find a good sock liner, but you can buy a pair of panty hose, cut them off so they just cover your feet, and wear your socks over that.
posted by acidic at 4:54 PM on June 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

I just went through this. I walked off moleskin (the thicker kind--didn't know there was anything else) in less than 20 min and the hydrocolloid bandage fell off my heel while I was sleeping, before I even wore it with shoes. In the end, what worked was a combo of first-aid tape (I was out of moleskin by that point) and wearing socks. Think: two layers.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:04 PM on June 22, 2012

I don't know if they sell it in Europe, but I've found Bodyglide is good for keeping blisters from getting too bad and it cuts down on the friction and rubbing from shoes/socks that can make things really agonizing. Looking at their page, a couple European countries have distributors. Usually Stateside it's in sporting goods and outdoors-y type stores, so I suspect it'd be similar in Europe.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 5:15 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Two pair of socks, the outer one inside-out. They rub against each other instead of your feet. The extra sweat is more than made up for (in my case, at least) by the total lack of blisters for the 20 years I've been doing this, including years in the Army and walking all over the place on vacations and leaves around the world.
posted by Etrigan at 5:34 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Those cotton athletic socks are the ABSOLUTE WORST. I know, it's counterintuitive, we're raised to think that cotton = comfy and healthy, but they are the absolute worst thing for foot blisters.

Here's what you do:
1. buy some thin nylon dress socks. Throw away the cotton ones.
2. Buy the hydrocolloid bandage that acidic recommended above. Depending on where you are, these might be labeled as "blister adhesives" or similar. Put these on your (cleaned) feet.
3. Moleskin is fine to put on the shoe to cover a rough spot or seam, if there is one where you're blistering.

If you can soak your feet in hot epsom salt water, do that before you put on the hydrocolloid bandage. Also, this is not medical advice and I'm sure it's bad etc, but in your situation, I have disinfected a needle with alcohol and drained the blister (with two punctures to equalize pressure) first before bandaging.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:37 PM on June 22, 2012

After you've bandaged your current blisters, to prevent blisters you need to make sure your shoes are firmly tied. Leaving them loose lets them rub everywhere as your feet move, which causes blisters. Another thing that will help is wearing thin dress socks or pantyhose under your normal socks.
posted by Evilspork at 6:20 PM on June 22, 2012

Came in here to recommend Bodyglide as a preventive. I've also had really good luck with them. In the US they also sell a similar product as a tube of gel by Monistat in the drugstore that's designed to prevent chub rub on your thighs. Both products work equally well for thighs and feet!

I haven't found any recently to replace them as I wear them out, but I own some double-layer athletic socks (short ones, barely taller than booties) that I wear with stiff tennis shoes. They really help for long walks.
posted by immlass at 7:06 PM on June 22, 2012

Adding: these are the double-layer socks, which previous keyword searches have failed to find for me.
posted by immlass at 7:18 PM on June 22, 2012

They sell the Wright socks at running stores here (US)... But my usual preventative is to just cover all the likely places in blister pads before the blisters even form. (I use the Bandaid style mentioned above, except I get the knockoff store brand from major chain store.)

How new are your shoes? If you go on a lot of trips like this, I find that about six months of casual use is the sweet spot for being broken in. Planning your shoe purchases so that your vacation time lands around then helps, although it requires a bit of thinking.
posted by anaelith at 7:25 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Instead of body glide, just use some anti-perspirant.
posted by radioamy at 7:27 PM on June 22, 2012

Seconding Bodyglide for preventing blisters. That stuff is magic!
posted by TEA at 8:12 PM on June 22, 2012

Seconding Compeed blister plasters. My feet blister at the slightest provocation, and I've found Compeed a godsend. They come in a few different sizes and shapes, including some specifically intended for blistered toes. They protect the blistered skin from further damage and let you carry on walking in the same shoes without pain. They're relatively expensive, but absolutely worth it. And judging by the list of countries on the Compeed website's splash screen, you'll be able to find them almost anywhere in Europe.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 2:44 AM on June 23, 2012

I've used bandaids/small bit of paper towel folded up, all covered by duct tape after getting blisters. The duct tape seems to stay on better than bandaids/athletic tape/anything else and it provides a smooth surface for your socks/shoes to interact with.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:44 AM on June 23, 2012

A hiking/old soldier trick is to get footies or knee-high nylons to wear inside your socks, to prevent chafing.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:11 PM on June 23, 2012

I used to get terrible blisters from running and have found that these blister Band-Aids were so soothing. I'm sure you could get them in Europe. I agree with Bodyglide and Wright Socks--even better for me are bamboo socks like these. I haven't had a blister in five years since I changed my socks.
posted by annabellee at 7:41 PM on June 23, 2012

WALKING SOCKS! I get horrible blisters as my feet are kind of funny to fit, and they saved my life - I spent 3 weeks in Japan walking 3-5 miles a day, and while I got a couple of red, somewhat sore, spots I had no blisters and the sore spots were easily taken care of with Band-Aids.

Walking socks have two layers: a thin inner layer and a slightly thicker outer layer. When your shoe rubs your foot, the two layers rub together instead of your skin layers rubbing together.

If you can't get hold of walking socks, you can fake them easily by wearing two pairs of socks (which I did for years): a thin sock on the inside and a slightly thicker one on the outside.
posted by telophase at 8:40 AM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

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