What Causes Blisters on the Bottom of Your Feet When Walking?

Walking is the perfect exercise for many of us: gentle, low-impact and accessible. Walking can help lower bad cholesterol and raise the good kind, as well as manage weight, mood, type 2 diabetes and blood pressure. However, the common problem of blisters on the feet is frustrating and painful enough to sideline anyone's fitness regimen. Exercise walkers should be careful to avoid blisters and know how to properly treat them if they appear.

Feet walking on nature trail (Image: Anetlanda/iStock/Getty Images)

Causes of Common Blisters

Blisters appear when improperly-fitting shoes or clothing rub against the skin. Over time, this friction causes the outer layer of skin to separate from the inner layers, forming a pocket between the layers. Sensing irritation, the body responds by creating lymph fluid to lubricate the area. The pocket fills with this lymph fluid and creates the familiar bubble known as a blister. This type of blister is generally a reaction to ill-fitting shoes, improper shoes with large interior seams and perspiration. Blisters on the bottom of the feet are likely to be caused by the foot sliding back and forth in a too-large shoe in combination with the warm, wet conditions caused by perspiration.

Causes of Blood Blisters

Blood blisters are similar in action and appearance to common blisters, but are red in color due to blood that has leaked into the lymph and tissues in response to strain or trauma. This type of blister indicates that a blood vessel has been damaged or broken by an impact or pinch, possibly in addition to the creation of a common blister. These blisters are not dangerous, but they are a sign that a larger degree of irritation may be present. A blood blister on the bottom of the foot is probably a sign of a sudden impact.

Preventing Blisters

The common blister is relatively easy to avoid. Make sure your walking shoes fit properly, since both too-tight and too-loose shoes may lead to excessive friction. Choose shoes that fit without creating pressure against the anklebones or heel and socks that are close-fitting and not too thick. Change your socks often and use foot powder to keep the foot dry. Check the insides of your shoes for any raised seams. If you find any potential sources of irritation, select a different pair of shoes. If new shoes are not an option, or you continue to get blisters in spite of preventative methods, you may use athletic tape or petroleum jelly on the blister-prone areas prior to walking.

Treating Blisters

Most blisters will drain and go away on their own, but if a blister is very large or painful, it may be necessary to pop it. To do so, first sterilize a pin with a flame or rubbing alcohol. Use the pin to puncture the very edge of the blister and press gently to drain the fluid. Leave the skin intact over the blister. Gently apply antibiotic cream or ointment to the area, and cover it with a sterile bandage. If you will be walking again before the wound heals, use athletic tape to secure the bandage.

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