Why Pathetic Little Foot Blisters Hurt So Badly & How To Find Relief

Photographed by Michael Beckert.
Back when I was a ballet dancer, wearing pointe shoes all day would do a number on my feet. Each blister that sprouted on my toes or heels became a science project for me — putting concoctions of alum and iodine, hydrogen peroxide, and Second Skin adhesive on the little wounds — so I could dance without pain the next day.
Even if you've never worn pointe shoes before, you know how terrible a blister can be. No matter how small or seemingly insignificant a blister looks, it seems like when you get one, you can't walk, work out, or deal at all. You're not dramatic, because blisters can hurt big time, according to Alan Bass, DPM, a podiatrist and spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association in New Jersey. But knowing how they happen in the first place can help you treat them the right way, ease the pain, and more importantly, prevent them in the future.
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For starters, blisters are caused by friction between a bony prominence on your foot and your shoe, Dr. Bass says. "Through this friction, the outermost layer of skin starts to give way and bubble up," he says. Then, fluid fills between the separated skin, which causes the classic blister bubble. The reason why it hurts so much is because the fluid itself is under pressure, he says. "Think of it like a water balloon: it's just going to compress and it has nowhere to go," he says.
Whether you're dealing with a blister right now, or simply understand the agony, ahead are Dr. Bass's expert tips. And hey, the silver lining is that chunky sneakers are really in right now.

Is it better to pop a blister or leave it?

Despite how satisfying it can be to pop a blister on your own to make it heal faster, if you try to do that it can lead to additional problems, like an infection, Dr. Bass says. Your best bet is to just let it heal itself without interfering.
Over time, friction can cause the blister to pop naturally, revealing skin underneath that's very raw, Dr. Bass says. "It hasn't toughened up yet like the skin that's exposed to the outermost layers," he says. This can make the blister and surrounding skin hurt a ton.

How do you get rid of blisters fast?

If the blister has yet to pop, cover it with a bandage and don’t touch it. And if it already has, it's wise to keep the area covered with a bandage in order to prevent more irritation, Dr. Bass says. Sometimes, once the blister pops, the skin "reattaches" to itself and continues to provide protection to the raw skin underneath, he says. So if you can, "try to keep the roof of the blister intact," he says. And as for the other blister hacks that even I am guilty of dabbling in? "These are not things I recommend, but if people feel that they help, then that's what they choose to do," he says.
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How does a blister go away?

A blister heals when the skin underneath the bubble grows back, and the top layer of skin peels away, according to Harvard Health Review.

How long does it take for a blister to go away?

Assuming you don’t mess with the healing process, most blisters should go away in one to two weeks, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Look, you may be compelled to do whatever it takes to get rid of your blister so you can wear your precious strappy sandals again. But it's more important to prioritize comfort over fashion. When you try to walk through the pain of a blister, it can lead to stress and strain of soft tissue and ligaments in other areas of your foot, Dr. Bass says. Make sure you wear shoes that are wide enough for your foot, and that have sufficient arch support, he says.
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