Often seen in those who are active, a blister is a small, bubble-like pocket of fluid that develops on an area of the skin after it has been damaged.
Blisters are a common problem that has likely affected most people at some point in their lifetime, whether it’s from their exercise routine or from that new pair of shoes that they hadn’t worn in properly. Blisters present as small, puffy pockets of fluid that tend to have a yellow appearance beneath a thin layer of skin. This fluid is actually a ‘serum’ which tends to contain plasma components including antibodies and white blood cells. The fluid actually serves to protect the damaged skin and help it heal, which is why most people are advised against popping blisters where possible. The feet are particularly prone to blisters because of the regular friction and rubbing they’re exposed to when we walk on them.
Blisters on the feet are typically easier to identify due to their fluid-filled pocket-like appearance in an area that has recently experienced some pain or discomfort, likely from rubbing. You’ll notice a raised area of thin skin (the skin's outer layer) with clear or yellow fluid, although this may turn red if a blood blister has formed.
Blisters tend to be accompanied by pain or tenderness, especially when pressed against by footwear. You’ll likely experience some redness or irritation around the blister, and some slight swelling in the area may appear. Blisters can vary in size, can occur anywhere on the feet, and it’s not uncommon to develop multiple blisters at once.
Many people find it interesting to learn that blisters actually appear as a natural response to injury (often from pressure or friction) from your body, much like in the case of calluses. Specifically, it happens when the layers of skin slide and rub across one another excessively. We often see them develop in response to:
One of the most common questions that we get asked about blisters is whether they should be popped (or drained), or whether you should try to keep them intact. As a rule of thumb, if you’ve managed to keep your blisters intact so far, we recommend you leave it and not pop or drain it, given that the fluid is serving several protective and healing mechanisms and will help you get out of pain faster. In most cases, your body will reabsorb the fluid as the blister heals.
There are certain cases where it may be more advisable to drain the blister, such as if you’re training for an athletic event and your blister has a high likelihood of popping anyway - it’ll be better to drain it in a controlled manner (your podiatrist can help with this) as opposed to it popping against your shoe and sock and having the outer layer of skin essentially ripped away without the right protection. All popped blisters carry a risk of infection, so it’s always important to take great care and use sterile instruments and dressings.
When at home with a blister, we recommend that you do your best to try to protect the blistered area from further damage using padding and being selective in your choice of footwear. If your blister has already popped, then clean the area and apply an antiseptic to the area with a protective dressing. If your blistered area becomes more painful or red, or does not show signs of healing as expected, always see your podiatrist.
Here at Matt Raden Podiatry, our trusted and experienced podiatrists listen to the concerns, goals and needs of our patients with blisters on their feet and utilise evidence-based treatment methods to help you get the best outcomes, including helping to reduce the chance of getting more blisters in the future.
If your circumstances mean that it is in your best interest to drain your blisters, then we can do this for you in a safe and sterile environment, using the right tools, antiseptic products and protective padding. For those involved in athletic events, we can also help you protect the high-pressure areas on your feet to support you through completing your event, whether that means helping you manage your existing blisters developed in training, or helping you prevent new blisters in high-risk areas. We can also safely dress blisters that are popped, and monitor you for signs of infection, particularly if you’re high-risk and have problems with healing or blood flow to the feet.
Your podiatrist will also discuss a range of preventative measures that you can take in the future, including:
If you’ve developed blisters on your feet or know that you’re at risk of blisters for an upcoming event (whether it be an overseas holiday or a sporting event), our team is here to help - and to ensure you have the best experience doing so. We’re proud to go above and beyond for our patients, focusing not only on managing your pain and symptoms, but helping you get the best long-term outcomes for your foot health.