If you’ve ever happily stepped out of the house in a new pair of shoes only to limp home hours later in pain, you know shoes that are comfortable in the store don’t always feel that way after a full day of wear. Sometimes you even end up with blisters. “Blisters are fluid build-ups under the most superficial layers of skin,” says Jacqueline Sutera, a podiatric surgeon in New York and New Jersey. They’re caused by friction in the areas where your shoe rubs against your foot, says New York City sports podiatrist Lori Weisenfeld. She sees the most blisters at the start of sandal season, when many people are wearing fresh pairs for the first time.
According to podiatrist Michael J. Trepal, vice-president of academic affairs and academic dean at New York College of Podiatric Medicine, “The best means to deal with blisters is to prevent them in the first place by utilizing a combination of proper-fitting shoes and appropriate management of foot deformities.” Your podiatrist can treat those deformities, including bony prominences, like bunions, but you can also stretch out shoes on your own or with the help of a shoemaker. If those issues are addressed and you’re still having problems, check out the products below that doctors love for preventing and treating painful blisters.
Best for preventing blisters
“Preventing a blister is all about keeping that friction from happening in the first place,” says Weisenfeld. Her go-to solution, which Sutera likes as well, is moleskin, a thin layer of adhesive padding. Once you start feeling friction — say, the day you pull out those new strappy sandals for the first time this season — just put a little piece of moleskin over the irritated skin.
For blisters concentrated around the toes, Weisenfeld likes these “toe pouches,” which are filled with cushy gel and worn over your toes, kind of like a mini-sock. While not an option for open-toe shoes or sandals, these will hide nicely within a closed-toe mule or ballet flat.
Another way of reducing direct friction, according to foot and ankle surgeon Anuj Gogna of FAASNY, is to use a lubricating ointment that’ll help shoes glide over the feet. Weisenfeld suggests rubbing good old Vaseline on the toes. Prevete especially likes Body Glide, a longtime athlete-favorite for avoiding chafing.
When it comes to blisters, podiatric surgeon Krista Archer says, “a bit of perspiration is fuel to the fire.” Several podiatrists, like Jonathan Thurm of Tower Podiatry, recommend sprinkling baby powder on your feet to keep them dry. “Using foot powder can also help absorb perspiration and moisture,” Sutera says. She likes a medicated powder like Gold Bond, which is “tried and true to reduce friction and absorb moisture.”