7 Strategies to Prevent Foot Blisters

Use the right shoes, socks, lubricants, cover-ups and more

best way to prevent blisters

 Illustration by Emily Roberts, Verywell

Blisters are a common complaint of walkers and runners. If you have just started walking or running, switched your shoes, or started doing longer workouts, you may get blisters on your feet and toes.

A blister is a fluid-filled sac caused by heat or friction. Walkers and runners dread them, but there are ways to prevent most foot blisters. You can eliminate sources of rubbing in your shoes, toughen and protect your skin, keep your feet cool and dry, and be alert for hot spots that will turn into blisters if not treated.

1. Find the Right Shoes to Prevent Blisters

Your shoes are often the source of your blisters. You get a blister due to friction where your toes, heels, and the sole of your foot rub against the shoe. Everybody has feet of different shapes and sizes, and there is no single shoe that will be right for everyone. Getting the right size and shape of shoe can help prevent blisters.

New Shoes

If you take new shoes out for a long walk or run, you may get a blister as it rubs different areas than the last pair of shoes. Any shoes can give you a blister in its first few wearings before your feet have grown accustomed to them.

Solution: Take it slow and only go on short walks or runs with new pairs of shoes, even the if they are same brand and model you have been wearing. Build up your mileage and speed in each pair of shoes.

Cramped Shoes

With a cramped toe box, your toes rub against sides or end of shoes. This can even lead to blackened toenails or losing the toenails after a long walk.

Solution: Your walking shoes should have a finger's width of length between the end of your toe and the end of your shoes to allow your feet to expand while walking. Select shoes of the proper width for your foot so that toes have enough room.

Feet Sliding Around in Shoes

If your shoes have a sloppy fit and your feet slide forward and back within the shoe with each step, you are adding extra blister-causing friction. You may also get a black toenail.

Solution: You want your feet to have enough room to expand when you walk, but not enough to slide around. Wear a thicker sock to take up some of the extra space. Learn how to lace your shoes to keep your heel in the heel cup with each step rather than sliding forward. If you still seem to have too much space, buy shoes that fit better.

Rough Edges in Your Shoes or Insoles

The seams and the edge of the insole can rub against your foot or toes.

Solution: You can change styles of shoes or insoles. Some shoes are designed to be seamless inside. You can also try heat-molded insoles (available at some running stores) that will cradle your feet just right. If you can't avoid rough spots, lubricate or cover the area that is getting rubbed.

2. Prevent Blisters by Toughening Your Feet

A newbie is called a tenderfoot for good reasons. Your soft, pink feet will have fewer problems with blisters if your skin gets a little tougher.

  • Calluses are your friends: As your feet get more of a workout, they build up calluses. You want these calluses, which act as a natural pad against the friction that forms blisters. Do not give in to beauty and shave off or pumice down the calluses—at least until after your long run or walk.
  • Tannic acid to toughen: Marathoners and long distance walkers may want to toughen their feet with 10 percent tannic acid or a tea soak (tea contains tannins). Apply the tannic acid to your feet, or soak in strong tea, twice daily for two to three weeks.
  • Moisturize Away Heel Cracks: To keep your calluses from drying out too much and developing painful cracks, moisturize your feet after each bath or shower with a good foot cream or hand cream.

3. Prevent Blisters by Wearing the Right Socks

Forget the cotton socks—stick with synthetics. Cotton retains your foot sweat, which then softens your skin and leaves it more prone to breaking with friction, which produces blisters.

  • Wick Away Moisture: Synthetic socks made of acrylic, polypropylene, or CoolMax fabric wick moisture away from the foot, keeping it dry. These are available at sports stores.
  • Double Layers: Double-layer socks can prevent blisters by reducing friction and wicking away moisture. Some double layer socks, such as WrightSocks, even come with a no-blister guarantee. You can also wear two pairs of socks, which is a common tactic for hikers. The inner sock or inner layer of the sock should be of a sweat-wicking fabric.
  • Padded Socks vs. Thin Socks: Experiment with the thickness of your socks. If your socks are so thick that your toes have no room in the shoe, you need bigger shoes or thinner socks. To ensure a correct fit when buying shoes, bring along the thickness of sock you plan to wear for your workouts and activities.
  • Change Your Socks en Route: Many marathoners recommend changing your socks whenever your feet get wet due to rain, or at the halfway point of a marathon.
  • Seams That Rub: Check where the sock seams are hitting your toes. Is that where you are getting blisters? Some running socks are specially designed to keep the seams away from the feet. Tube socks are not recommended as your feet are not tube-shaped, and they simply won't fit right.
  • Socks as an Investment: With some athletic socks running from $7 to $20 a pair, it can be painful to stock up. But good socks can last much longer than the cheap ones and save you money in the long run.

4. Prevent Blisters by Lubricating Your Feet

Friction—the rubbing motion between foot, sock, and shoe—creates heat and tearing forces, which make the skin prone to blisters. If you reduce the friction, you reduce the blisters. One way to reduce friction is by lubricating your feet so they slide rather than rub.

  • Petroleum Jelly:  Vaseline or generic petroleum jelly is an inexpensive lubricant. It's one that has been recommended for marathon runners and walkers and it is even offered on the course of some races. The cautions are that it won't easily wash out of your socks, and it makes the dirt cling to your socks. That can mean there is more grit in your shoe to irritate your foot, which could, in turn, cause more blisters.
  • AD Ointment: This preparation is thicker than petroleum jelly, yet still available wherever baby diapers are sold. It's another inexpensive way to lubricate your feet.
  • Body Glide, Run Goo, Sports Slick, Sport Shield: These products can be found at running stores. They may roll on like deodorant or come in a handy tube to take with your. They vary in their formulations, with some of them being petroleum-free and using plant waxes, liquid silicone, or powdered silicone instead. Most of them are less likely to gunk up your socks permanently compared with petroleum jelly. It would be a good idea to re-apply them during your workout. You can also use these products to prevent chafing of other body parts.
  • Teflon: Some socks are incorporating Teflon to prevent friction.

5. Prevent Blisters by Keeping Your Feet Dry

Keeping your feet dry starts with wicking socks, but you can also use other strategies.

  • Cornstarch and Talcum Powder: Plain cornstarch (just like you use in cooking) can be sprinkled in your socks and shoes to help keep your feet dry. Reapply it at least once in a long distance event. Baby powder or talcum powder both smell nice and also act to keep the feet dry.
  • Antiperspirant: A military study showed that using a special heavy-duty antiperspirant on the feet reduced the incidence of blisters. While regular antiperspirant is less concentrated, some runners use it for the same purpose.
  • Drink Up: Getting dehydrated can contribute to blisters. Keep drinking water for the first hour of a run or walk, then a sports drink with electrolytes (salts) to keep your body fluids in balance.

6. Cover the Problem Spots on Your Feet

If you have a spot that is prone to blistering or have developed a hot spot while you are out walking and running, covering it can help protect it. There are several options, including sports tape, moleskin, gel bandages, and special patches. In a pinch, you might even put duct tape to work.

The drawback of covering the area is that often these bandages and pads don't stay where you've put them, especially as you continue walking or running. You may have to try various kinds to find the one that sticks best for you. As always, prevention is the best solution for a blister.

7. Stop and Readjust When You Feel a Hot Spot

You will often feel a hot spot developing that can turn into a blister. While you may want to keep going, the best thing to do is stop immediately and use these tactics:

  • If you are carrying a blister kit, place a blister bandage or other cover over the spot, or create a protective doughnut around it. You can find take-along kits online or at sports stores. Or, make up your own with the cover-ups you prefer (such as gel bandages or moleskin), antiseptic wipes, athletic tape, a small scissors, and a miniature container of lubricant.
  • Readjust your socks and shoes to try to eliminate places where your socks may have become bunched up.
  • If your socks are damp, change to a dry pair if you can.

While it's best to just end your walk or run when you get a hot spot, these tactics might keep a blister from developing if you have to keep going. If a blister has developed, cover it rather than draining it unless it is at risk of rupture.

A Word From Verywell

Don't let blisters stop you in your tracks. Take the time before your long workouts to lubricate and protect your feet. Monitor how your feet feel and don't ignore any signs of hot spots. Switch to the shoes and socks that will best help you stay blister-free.

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