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There's nothing quite as exciting as breaking out new shoes — that is, until you discover that the shoes are breaking you instead. There are many reasons why you may end up with blisters from those heeled sandals or even from your functional flats, but there are also many ways to avoid trouble before it starts.
From a style guru to the podiatrist of the US Men's and Women's National Soccer Teams, here are some expert tricks of the trade.
An ounce of prevention ...
Proper skin care and shoe choice are vital in dealing with blisters before they start, says Dr. Ken Jung, a foot and ankle surgeon in Los Angeles. For starters, keep your skin soft and supple. While you may think that thickened calluses are protecting your feet, they are more prone to forming an underlying ulceration or blister, says Jung. When it comes to finding proper shoes, avoid straps that run over bony areas and look for soft materials that give way to the contours of the foot.
Then, after you buy the right shoes, break them in! Be sure to wear new shoes around your house for a few hours before stepping outside, says Claire Hannum, health and wellness expert for YouBeauty.com. This helps break in the shoe, and also points out which areas are uncomfortable or painful.
"If you already feel a bit of pain in, say, your heel or your big toe while you're wearing the shoes at home, prepare by placing a blister-fighting product (like a Band-Aid or dollop of Vaseline in a pinch) on the area you expect to be irritated before blisters even have a chance to appear,” says Hannum. “I'm a huge fan of Body Glide's Anti Blister Balm, which reduces friction between your shoe and your skin. Another great option are Foot Petals, a collection of inserts for every type of shoe out there ... If you love wearing ballet flats, pick up a pair of no-show liner socks, especially those with grips that prevent sliding. This keeps your feet sweat- and friction-free, which means no blisters!” says Hannum.
Hannum says the most important factor of all is to know your feet. “If a certain heel height makes you cringe in pain or you have wide feet that suffer in tight sandals, keep that in mind as you shop, because it will definitely contribute to blisters," she suggests.
The summer can be especially tricky since flip-flops are often the quickest to cause blisters. Keep an eye out for sandals with arch support since they are better for the overall health of your foot.
"It's also important to be as honest with ourselves as possible when we shop,” says Hannum. When we spot a pair of shoes we adore, it's hard to convince ourselves to turn them down even if they're a bit too tight. The reality is that the slight discomfort you feel in the store will morph into full-on pain and blisters after just a small amount of wear and you'll soon wish you never bought them. It's tough, but try to put them back on the shelf!"
Is it too late to prevent the blister? Here's how to treat it.
Dr. Nick Romansky, podiatrist to the US Men's and Women's National Soccer Teams, says there are two things to remember when it comes to blister management: prevent motion and moisture.
There are three main ways moisture can occur: from not wearing the right socks, from consistently wearing the same shoes or just from being a naturally sweaty person, says Romansky. People "often think they should wear 100 percent cotton socks but you actually want a blend of cotton and acrylic socks. Cotton absorbs the moisture and acrylic pulls moisture away,” says Romansky, who adds that purely cotton socks are like wearing wet rags. But even if you're just naturally sweaty, there are a few products you can use to control it. Body Glide and Certain Dri are a few examples he suggests. A cheap, DIY way of controlling sweat is to spray an antiperspirant on your feet or wear shoes with mesh, which allow air to flow in and out. Romansky also said to let your shoes dry out at the end of the day. Don't put them in a closet or leave outside overnight where it can be damp.
When feet aren't properly secured, blisters often occur. Not tying laces (or not tying them tight enough), wearing the wrong shoe size or wearing old shoes are most often to blame, says Romansky. Most laces are now partially synthetic, which loosen throughout the day, so remember to retie when possible. If the foot and shoe do not move as one unit, the friction on your skin will cause a blister.
If you have followed all the steps and tricks above and are still dealing with painful, irritating blisters, there's one more thing you can do: leave it alone. Blisters should be allowed to recede and regress on their own, says Jung. “Elimination of the offending external pressure is key. If a blister has popped, it should be kept clean and allowed to dry."