What can I do about the blister that I ALWAYS get on my baby toe?
July 19, 2013 6:11 AM   Subscribe

Whenever I wear basically any leather shoes that aren't boots, I get the EXACT same blister on the baby toe of my right foot. (Not just leather shoes, actually—sandals, Crocs, etc do it too). In most cases I feel pain in the first few SECONDS of wearing them. What can I do about this short of amputating my toe? The pain really becomes unbearable quickly and it's really hard for me to wear dress shoes because of this. Band-aids help somewhat but am I doomed to be putting them on my baby toe for life?
posted by saltykmurks to Health & Fitness (29 answers total)
I get blisters a lot, so I feel for you. However, are you sure the issue blister or is it something joint/nerve/something else? For it to happen seconds after you put on shoes, and with every pair of shoes seems pretty extreme. Maybe you've never really given your toe/blister a chance to heal fully and that is why it hurts so immediately and with every pair of shoes.

Assuming it is a blister, you can try blister block sticks (usually found in with the bandaids, looks like little bar of deoderant, keeps blisters from forming). Quick and easy to apply. Pretty effective in my opinion. As for bandaids, I recommend hydrocolloid bandages. Those mother effers STAY ON for a week (or longer), very comfy, not too obvious in appearance. I figure you could cut some in half or quarters and just put them on the little spot on your toe that gives you trouble.

You could also try to build up a callus on that toe (using tea bags, for example) to try to toughen up the skin.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 6:16 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: It's definitely a skin issue—my toe gets bright red and I can tell it's from the chafing.
Can you expand on the tea bag thing? Never heard of that method.
posted by saltykmurks at 6:18 AM on July 19, 2013

Maybe your toe is just stupid. Have you thought of that? I mean that in the nicest way possible.

There are a whole host of shoes I cannot wear (most shoes) because my heels are stupid. My right heel more than my left heel. I think my heels are shaped just outside of the mean lady heel shape, and so rub on about 90% of the shoes I have, never fit properly, and blister right up.

It's possible that the toes on your right foot are set a bit wider than the mean lady toe, and so most shoes cramp and rub on your pinky toe right there. Boots are generally roomier, so that's why not in boots.

Things you can try: moleskin on the toe to make it more comfortable, shoes that are wider in the toe (Birkenstocks, for instance, while ugly, are cut well for this I think).
posted by phunniemee at 6:18 AM on July 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: My toes are definitely stupid! You should see them. They're so curled up they look like macaroni, or baby shrimp. My baby toes don't even touch the ground when I'm standing up! And if you look at my foot from above, the "angle" of my toes in a row is like a sharp diagonal line. I have very weird feet.
posted by saltykmurks at 6:20 AM on July 19, 2013

I put moleskin on the shoe itself, on the pressure points, and it works like a charm. I replace the moleskin probably about once a month if I'm being diligent.
posted by punchtothehead at 6:20 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sounds like the problem is the shape of your foot, so probably not much you can do, besides being very selective about your shoes. There's this stuff called moleskin that's very effective for stopping blisters from forming. It's kind of like skin-colored felty material that's super adhesive on one side. It comes in big squares, and you just cut a piece of the right size, and stick it directly on your skin where the blister forms. You'll probably find it near the band-aids, or where they have insoles for shoes and such. You could also try sticking it in your shoes themselves, and see if that's effective, but I think it works better on skin, and will stick for several days.
posted by catatethebird at 6:26 AM on July 19, 2013

tea bag thing:
repeated soaking of your feet in strongly brewed tea, or just rubbing the area you want toughened up with a wet tea bag, can help to toughen it up. It has to do with the tannic acid, same principle as tanning leather. I've not tried it personally, but apparently it is a thing and it works. It is even mentioned in the "Podiatry Today" article on blister prevention. Takes a bit of time but there you go.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 6:26 AM on July 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

Moleskin or lambs wool around the toe. You may also want to try shoes that are more rounded in the toe box (more room for the tootsies). Try wide width shoes.

Don't buy any shoes that aren't 100% comfortable in the store. Go to Nordstrom and have your feet properly measured and fitted. Explain to the salesperson that you have this issue and ask for recommendations.

Feet are all very weird, and it's only by accident that we can find shoes. I have long, narrow feet and if the shoe is comfortable in the front, chances are they don't grab my heels well and I walk out of them. A high instep and a high arch also mean that many shoes will bind the top of my foot, and after about an hour, my feet will ache because they're not well supported.

There are inserts and things that can help. Nordstrom is the only store that I can think of that has proper fitting and knowledgable sales people. As well as the appropriate inserts and accoutrement.

Be nice to your feet. I'd rather have 3 pairs of expensive and comfortable shoes than 70 pairs of cute, cheap shoes that murder my feet.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:27 AM on July 19, 2013

The Blister Block stick works. It's basically foot lube in solid form that you swipe on. Should help in the short term.
posted by emkelley at 6:31 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

If it's happening within seconds, it's because the shoes don't fit; if it's happening with every pair of shoes, it's because you have nonstandard feet. Try going up a size and wearing an extra pair of socks -- I personally wear two pairs of socks (the outside one inside-out), so they rub against each other instead of my feet.
posted by Etrigan at 6:54 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can get leather shoes stretched at any competent cobbler. You can show them right where it hurts (maybe put a bit of chalk on the outside?) and they'll punch that part out a little. Might help relieve the worst of the pain. There are a few DIY tutorials but I can't vouch for any of them. Maybe worth a try on some older shoes?
How to Actually Stretch Too-Small Shoes
Stretch Too-Tight Shoes to Fit with a Hair Dryer
How to Stretch New Shoes: 11 Steps

You can also follow the various tutorials for breaking in leather boots. A few options:
(1) Put on thick socks and your shoes. Stand in a tub and let your shoes saturate with water. Really saturate. Inside and out. Wear shoes until they dry.
(2) Put rubbing alcohol on the outside of leather shoes where they pinch. Wear until they dry.
(3) Neatsfoot oil on the inside and outside of shoes, wear with thick socks.
posted by barnone at 6:57 AM on July 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Since nobody's mentioned it, are you sure you're wearing the right size? Not just the lenghts (size 6, 6-1/2, 7, whatever) but also the WIDTH.

The thing is, you feet will change size over your lifetime: sure, everyone knows their feet will get longer as they grow up, but a lot of people don't realize that the width will also change as they age and the bones spread. Picture a baby's foot, and how round the bottom of that unused foot is; then look at how your own foot --- which was once just like that baby's rounded shape --- is now flattened on the bottom. What's happened is that, as you've used your feet over the years, the bones have actually spread out; this 'spreading' process will continue all your life, and so most people need to wear wider shoe widths as they are.

And do you wear a lot of heels? Because your curled-up toes sound like hammertoes, caused by weight shifting to the from of the foot and forcing the toes down into the cap of the shoes.
posted by easily confused at 7:01 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: By the way, I have tried the blue blister stick and never really found any relief from it.
posted by saltykmurks at 7:05 AM on July 19, 2013

And do you wear a lot of heels?

I have never worn heels in my life and my toes 3-5 look like baby shrimps. Some of us just have stupid unevolved monkey feet. It happens.
posted by phunniemee at 7:06 AM on July 19, 2013

I think this must be a thing - I definitely suffer from the little toe blisters (and hammer toes!) too.

When I was in Canada a few years ago, I stumbled across little toe sleeves in a drugstore, and they've been a lifesaver ever since. Please note that I bought a few packs and wash them out - I haven't been wearing the same sleeves for the last few years!

Still haven't managed to find any of these for sale in the UK, and didn't really have much luck getting any in the US when I was over earlier in the year.
posted by car01 at 7:08 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Those little toe sleeves look like a life (or toe) saver! As I'm in Canada, I'll look for them.
posted by saltykmurks at 7:10 AM on July 19, 2013

You can find something very similar to the little toe sleeve at Shopper's. It's a Dr. Scholl's product, and they're band-aid colored rather than clear, but they have a sort of gel inside. They're surprisingly expensive, unfortunately, but they do help my little toes not get quite so beat up.

The thing that really helps is wearing shoes that are actually shaped properly for my feet, but as I am a woman with man-shaped feet, I don't always do that. Sometimes a gal just wants to look dainty, you know?
posted by jacquilynne at 7:21 AM on July 19, 2013

Any chance you have bunions? My mother and sister both do (and my mother has had surgery to remove them) and they also frequently get blisters on their little toes--and their little toes curl under, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:38 AM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

If the blister block stick doesn't work, this might not work either, but it might be worth trying -- I use body glide on my feet in spots or in situations (on vacation, lots of walking) where I'm worried about getting blisters. It might be the same as the blister block stuff, under a different label.

To break in shoes, I put them on, then hit them with the hair dryer until they get hot, then walk around in them for a while. You might try that on the pinky toe parts of the offending shoes. You could even wrap some cotton or something around your pinky toe, secured with surgical tape, then try the hair dryer on it to give you even extra room there.
posted by OrangeDisk at 7:52 AM on July 19, 2013

If you want a more hard-core version of the toe sleeves, I used to use ones like these when I wore pointe shoes for ballet class. You trim them down to the height you want and they do come in different widths.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:58 AM on July 19, 2013

Upgrade your shoes to higher quality shoes with no seams or narrow straps in the toe area. I have had good luck with Fluevog, Born, Biviel. Ensure the shoes are wide enough.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:18 AM on July 19, 2013

jetlagaddict's suggestion of products meant for pointe shoes is excellent - there are a ton of really good quality inserts meant for pointe shoes, but they would also work for normal use.

These Pinky Pads look like they would work for you, and you can also browse through all the different pointe shoe accessories.
posted by insectosaurus at 10:06 AM on July 19, 2013

I try to look for shoes with a decidedly square toe box and soft materials, which are hard to find for women. Most women's shoes tend to be rounded, small, or pointy in the front. I've had good luck with Propet shoes in this regard, and they also come in wide widths, which may also help you. They do vary in the shape of the toe box, so not all will work.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 11:45 AM on July 19, 2013

Honestly it sounds like you buy all your shoes too small and have your entire life. Toes shouldn't be curled up, that happens when you stuff them into too small shoes for years on end. If you are a woman with a wide forefoot, like me, then 99% of the fashionable shoes sold in the US are going to squish your toes. There are speciality stores online but it's a pain and I sympathise.

If you can get some men's wide cheap flat sneakers and try those and see if the problem resolves. And I mean wide- they should feel at least a size too big in every dimension to give your poor toes a chance to unfurl.

The specific problem with your little toe sounds like damage to the skin/nerves from abrasion. Basically a friction burn that got deep enough to cause nerve damage. Its going to be ultra sensitive and prone to swelling and pain for years, if not forever.
posted by fshgrl at 12:32 PM on July 19, 2013

Are your pinky toes curling under the toes next to them and getting blisters from that? I have this problem and apparently a tendon is too tight - has been all my life. I'm seeing a foot doctor next week to talk about snipping or somehow loosening that tendon.
posted by tllaya at 12:37 PM on July 19, 2013

I use deodorant on my feet to prevent blistering (the sweat is what contributes to the blister).

However what honestly happened to me is that one pair of boots when I was in high school gave me horrrrrrible blisters. I managed with band-aids and then these little rubbery protector things. Eventually the blisters turned into calluses and my baby toes aren't as sensitive any more.
posted by radioamy at 1:00 PM on July 19, 2013


I just bought a pair of vans slip ons and my heals and the side of my toe are getting mad blisters. What I'm trying, and have no idea if it will work or not, is to pack the shoe with tons of socks (LOTS OF SOCKS) and hope it stretches out the shoe a bit so it's wider than my foot.


seriously shit sucks i feel you
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 1:35 PM on July 19, 2013

Aside from moleskin, you might also try 3M/Nexcare Flexible Clear tape, which is the BEST. It really is flexible, and it's not noticeable when you wear sandals, even if it's in an uncovered spot. It also stays in place really well.
posted by Madamina at 10:15 PM on July 20, 2013

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