These feet are made for blisters
May 28, 2021 12:58 PM   Subscribe

Teenager is super prone to having foot blisters. Looking for any and all tips or recommendations that might make her life less painful (brands preferably available in the UK).

Teenager has had trouble with super dry, itchy, eczema type of skin most of her life, and I think that has got to have something to do with why she develops blisters on her feet very easily. We had Covid last year and that may have made things worse, hers was otherwise mild but she had a nasty case of Covid feet, even resulting in some small ulcers between her toes. Ever since, the blistering seems to be on overdrive.

She uses band aids and blister pads, and I try to remind her to take it easy with new shoes. But even with ones she's worn a million times, she's bound to get blisters if she spends an afternoon just walking around. She's barefoot at home and all her socks are cotton. I got her a foot cream but she finds it sticky/greasy/unpleasant to use (she has some sensory issues).

I have questions!

A. Could there be some medical reason for this, or is this just the way some people's skin behaves?
B. Do you have any tips or recommendations for prevention or treatment?
C. What brand/type of casual, foot-friendly shoes do you think an appearance-conscious young adult might like?

Her footwear tends to be relatively sensible, nothing too tight and usually little or no heels, but she is a very stylish dresser (thrifting, although never any shoes) and wouldn't be caught alive in something Mum-like such as hiking sandals. Her style is cute and feminine but not frilly.
posted by muuratsaari to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You might try non-cotton socks! Cotton holds moisture, which can lead to blisters.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 1:05 PM on May 28, 2021 [3 favorites]

Can you clarify does she get blisters even with socks? I get really bad blisters too having to wear ladies' shoes without tights or socks but hopefully I will never have to wear those ever again. For those bandaids and blister pads do nothing to stop or help the blister at all.

However I also have not gotten any blisters since I started wearing Crocks sandles. They have some cute styles, it's not all clogs!
posted by bleep at 1:13 PM on May 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

I had very blistery skin on my hands and feet as a kid as part of puberty. It went away. I tended to wear two pairs of socks if I was going to be hiking to reduce the chafing.
posted by nickggully at 1:16 PM on May 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Can you clarify does she get blisters even with socks?

Yes she does. She actually rarely wears any shoes without socks (except for sandals in the summer). I got her some heavy-duty, thick hiking socks for the winter and that seemed to help somewhat, but not an awful lot. And now that the weather's finally getting warm, those will be out of the question, too.
posted by muuratsaari at 1:26 PM on May 28, 2021

Larger shoes and insoles, plus socks. I have a feeling her shoes are slightly too small.
posted by kschang at 1:31 PM on May 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have the same problem, and have since I was a teenager. I have eczema but am not clear on the correlation in myself as eczema breakouts don't seem to match up with getting blisters. Perhaps it just means that the skin is a little more sensitive and thin in general than ideally it should be.

For me the key to resolving this 95% of the way was switching entirely to very thin merino wool socks. They rub differently and just don't seem to cause blistering nearly as badly or as quickly. I don't wear heels very much, either, but I don't have to wear specialty shoes or anything. I did end up giving up on Docs, as I just have never ever succeeded in breaking them in enough to avoid blisters, but most other shoe brands work for me now. I wear the wool socks even in the depths of summer - they're a little warmer than cotton but wick sweat much more efficiently so it about balances out.
posted by DSime at 1:33 PM on May 28, 2021 [6 favorites]

Long distance hikers / backpackers often use a two sock method to prevent blisters. I've done this several times with good results.

The inner, or liner sock is often thinner and has a more slippery texture. It fits tightly to the foot and has the ability to move against the outer sock.

The outer sock will often be a heavier wool sock.

Here's a similar but lengthier description of the two sock method.
posted by sewellcm at 1:35 PM on May 28, 2021 [8 favorites]

I also blister very easily and have also found success with very thin wool socks.
posted by Lescha at 1:42 PM on May 28, 2021

I also blister easily. I don't have eczema or dry feet, I have psoriasis at the other end of my body and very sweaty feet.

The skin on my feet is fragile and blisters easily, does not form callouses well.

I deal with this by:
  • wearing slightly larger shoes and making sure I tie them looser than most
  • wearing almost nothing but expensive lightweight wool running socks (I like smart well PHD socks in particular)
  • using an antiblister product like body glide
Good news is this combination lets me walk. A lot. Regularity 30-40k steps a day. Rarely less than 20k.

Obviously not the same combination of factors but good shoes, good socks, some lubricant as a package will go a long way.
posted by mce at 1:53 PM on May 28, 2021 [4 favorites]

I'd look for socks for running in the summer: thin but made to wick moisture. Also, instead of foot cream, what about something like foot balm? It's more like a solid deodorant stick. I haven't used that particular brand, but the brand I do use feels less sticky than deodorant.

I agree that she might need slightly larger shoes. I wouldn't rule out taking her to a podiatrist. It could be something with her gait or foot structure they could help diagnose.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:18 PM on May 28, 2021

I would look into allergy issues, especially soap and laundry detergent.

Many people are sensitive to propylene glycol, which is commonly found in both.

My life got a _lot_ better once I realized this was a thing for me. I found a study (based in Europe) which reported a significant portion of the population reacted to it. It hadn't been studied in the general population in the US when I researched it.

I have also noticed that some products seem to have removed it from their formulations, so you might have an easier time than I did getting away from it.

Oh - and it's also found in a lot of food products, especially salad dressings, pre-prepared sauces, candies, and (for some reason) cake mixes -- including cakes/cupcakes you purchase already made, including in restaurants. Also lots of liquid medications and topical medications.
posted by amtho at 2:26 PM on May 28, 2021

I use the thin/thicker two-sock method for hiking as seewellcm mentions upthread. I also grease up my feet with Vaseline before putting on socks. Your daughter could try this but observe whether it exacerbates her skin problems.For walking in regular shoes--slip ons, for example, I use little foot socks, though it's sometimes hard to keep them on.
posted by Elsie at 2:38 PM on May 28, 2021

I recommend duct tape over the worst offending areas. As long as it's put on the foot smoothly and before any blisters form, it can help a lot. This only works if you already know the pressure point for any pair of shoes.
posted by lab.beetle at 2:44 PM on May 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

Will she wear a pair of Reeboks or something for a couple weeks, just as a test of shoe fit and design?
posted by rhizome at 3:03 PM on May 28, 2021

After she does get a blister, hydrocolloid blister bandaids are magical and will make her feel like she doesn’t have a blister at all (follow the directions on the box, though). It wasn’t clear if you had tried them. They’re about a buck a bandaid and totally worth it- any drugstore and most grocery stores will have them.
posted by charmedimsure at 3:31 PM on May 28, 2021 [6 favorites]

I recommend duct tape over the worst offending areas. As long as it's put on the foot smoothly and before any blisters form, it can help a lot. This only works if you already know the pressure point for any pair of shoes.

I used this approach for a while, and it was a disaster. I got a blister anyway, and ended up getting a blood infection running up my leg that I had to treat with some very powerful antibiotics. There's some really nasty stuff in duct tape, and if she has eczema or otherwise sensitive skin, I just don't think this is a great solution.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:34 PM on May 28, 2021 [5 favorites]

Seconding hydrocolloid bandages. I have a prosthetic leg and pull them out when it starts to bother me.
posted by 8603 at 3:58 PM on May 28, 2021

She could try using Bodyglide on the areas that tend to blister. And nthing double socks and bigger shoes.
posted by lulu68 at 4:40 PM on May 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

Better fitting shoes, leukotape and toe socks will help. This is also very useful:

understanding how blisters form, and why they hurt is critical to knowing how to best deal with them. I dont mean to insult your intelligence, only to point out that different mechanisms cause blisters, and a specific mechanism makes them hurt. its important to understand those, so you can apply the right ‘cure’

Friction blisters come from something (shoe/sock) continually pulling the surface layer of your skin back and forth over the sub layers. This is your first pain alarm. Eventually those layers will start to separate (‘delaminate’) and your body will fill the gap with lymph fluid (‘a bubble of clear watery stuff’) to reduce the damage caused by those unlubricated layers rubbing together -this is your ‘second pain’ alarm. Depending on how deep the delamination happened, how deep the bubble is, you may not have much time before the surface skin shears off and the bubble bursts. This is your third pain alarm, and now you may have fairly serious damage and significant pain to deal with.

Pinch blisters progress similarly but they dont come so much from movement or motion. When something pinches the outer layers of your skin long enough, it can pull those outer layers away from the inner layers and the body responds with lymph fluid the same way as a friction blister. pinch blisters are common on the edges of toe’s pads, between toe’s pad and the ball of the foot. While the mechanism for causing the blister is different, the pain alarms are the same.

The mechanism causing the pain in eith kind of blister is 1st - the forced separation of layers of skin by something outside pinching or rubbing them apart.

The second pain is from the pressure of the lymph fluid under the bubble forcing further delamination - a wedging action, not a pinching or friction action. Think of bubble wrap when youre squishing the bubble how it forces the edge of the bubble

The third pain is movement again - either the ruptured skin flap or whatever outside material caused the blister, now rubbing on raw flesh,

The way to deal with these injuries depends on the kind of injury it is, and what the pain mechanism is

1st pain alarm - the area is red and hurts. stop the friction or stop the pinch (different bandage techniques) AND immobilize the skin layers. Leukotape is a very thin, ridiculously sticky and tenacious tape that, when applied properly, can eliminate the friction or the pinch, AND minimize the pain too, all without further contributing to the mechanisms that caused the blister in the first place.

2nd pain alarm- the bubble has formed. sterilize the area, drain the bubble, immobilize the layers, stop the friction or pinch. Leukotape again. No goop, no padding, just tape, over the drained blister. Immobilization of the layers is key. Done cleanly, and properly, and soon enough, and immobilized long enough (2-3 days) the layers will re-adhere themselves and you’ll be left with a tough knot of callous. Get it wrong and bad things happen.

3rd pain alarm- youre in trouble deep kiddo, since the bubble popped and you have a raw patch of delaminated flesh that may or may not still have some chunk(s) of mangled skin hanging on to the edges. Now infection is a big risk and pain management is a real problem. Clean the area (not sterilize- that would cause more damage), and treat as an open wound. If its bad enough, you might not want to risk treating this one with just first aid.

I hope i havent insulted your intelligence by explaining blisters - its only that knowing what is causing the pain in the first place and what is causing the blister, are very distinct and different things, during different stages; and need different solutions. understanding that is so important to knowing how best to ‘cure’ the blister and the pain

posted by turkeyphant at 5:11 PM on May 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

Moleskin? I don't know if it's the same as blister pads but it's what I take hiking. Works well for me. Inexpensive and you can cut he size you need.
The sticky part goes right on the blister, with the fuzzy side out, which was counter intuitive for me but once I tried it I was sold.
Has nothing to do with actual moles or their skin.
posted by BoscosMom at 5:22 PM on May 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

I used to get horrible blisters on my heels. Body Glide was a godsend. Rub it on the blister-prone areas before putting socks on. It really helped prevent me from getting blisters.
posted by emd3737 at 3:20 AM on May 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

I used to get a lot of foot blisters as a teenager (more from poor choice of footwear than bad luck in the foot blister department) and I always found the Compeed blister plasters particularly helpful. They're much thicker and softer than the average plaster and the extra cushioning really helps with the pain when you've got foot blisters but still need to carry on wearing shoes and walking around.
posted by terretu at 3:36 AM on May 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

There's basically two sorts of foot cream: the glycerin-based ones, and the urea-based ones. I personally don't like the glycerin-based ones, as I find them both too greasy and useless for my very dry feet. I use strictly urea-based creams. Now I make my own (Memail me if you want the recipe!), but before I did I really liked Scholl's Cracked Heels Repair Cream, which is 25% urea.

Depending on what foot cream you used, it might be worth checking the other type.
posted by snakeling at 5:13 AM on May 29, 2021

Rocktape Blister Kit
posted by SageTrail at 6:32 AM on May 29, 2021

In my experience quality leather boots combined with wool socks (I like darn toughs for socks, a bit spendy but they're great and lifetime warranty) is a good combo for dry blister prone feet. The socks wick moisture and the leather is much better at eventually getting to the form your feet and gait require. Leather gets way less smelly that fabric and that tells me it tends to harbor less of the bacteria from sweat and foot detritus that can make any blisters that form more likely to get infected.

The hard part is break in but if you do that slowly and in short bursts it can help a lot. Depending on the pair if they end up working well you can get them resoled and avoid buying/breaking in a new pair.
posted by Ferreous at 8:50 AM on May 29, 2021

The Walking Company sells really comfortable shoes, they trend towards dowdy but have a lot of stylish options.
posted by fox problems at 9:08 AM on May 29, 2021

Second Skin patches are incredible - I'm told both professional ballet dancers and the army use them, and they work like magic. They are, however, bloody expensive so probably an occasional emergency solution rather than an every day one.
I've found that using Tegaderm dressings over a plain non-stick dressing pad like Melolin works really well; they stay put forever, can be bought pretty cheaply and can be cut to size. A lot of chemists won't have them on the shop floor, but they'll have them in the dispensary and will often sell them individually if you ask. If you know where the risk points for blisters are you can use them prophylactically.
Another thing that might be worth a try is rubbing her feet with surgical spirit once a day; that can toughen the skin, although it also dries it out so use moisturiser too.
Also yes, hydrocolloid blister plasters are great.
(Source: years of living history with lots of walking in period appropriate straight lasted shoes, plus EDS means I have slightly fragile skin that tears and blisters easily).
posted by BlueNorther at 5:00 PM on May 29, 2021

...Hm, on reflection surgical spirit might be a terrible idea with eczema. I imagine you'll know what her skin can tolerate.
posted by BlueNorther at 5:11 PM on May 29, 2021

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