What causes blisters on the feet?

Blisters are fluid-filled sacs that protrude from the topmost layer of skin. This can be a reaction to injury or infection. Their purpose is to prevent the affected area from further harm.

Blisters typically develop in areas where the top layer of skin is most thick, as the strength of the skin secures the seal for the fluid. Common areas include the feet and hands.

Unfortunately, due to the level of nerves and blood vessels concealed within the foot, blisters there can be quite painful. Additionally the location of a blister on a foot can prove to be difficult to manage and treat. This can lead to further frustration and pain.

Here, we will examine treatment options avaiable and the applications of each.

Causes and symptoms of Blisters

Typically, blisters will be a reaction to friction on the skin that damages the undercarriage of top-layer skin, but can also be caused by a more serious injury or an infection. The common denominator in the occurrence of blisters lies in the damage to the blood vessels.

Common causes of blisters on the feet include the following:

Blisters from friction and pressure


foot blisterFriction and pressure are often the usual suspects when it comes to blisters on the feet.

The friction and pressure can be a combo attack from your shoe, sock, or rough surface grinding on a singular spot, which leads to inflammation and irritation. Redness, swelling and pain are expected.

There will likely be a red sore that develops before the actual blister, and at this stage it is imperative to avoid aggravating the affected area further, as it is possible that a blister may not develop from this sore.

Shearing of the skin is where the skin tears apart due to the inflammation. The fluid that fills the area is intended to protect the delicate underlying tissue.

Blisters from Burning attempts to protect the bottom layers of skin from damage.

Blisters that arise from first- and second-degree burns can appear days after the initial burn, while more severe burns cause a reaction instantaneously.

Burn blisters are often masked behind the original burn, so they tend to go unnoticed by the afflicted. They heal as the burn heals naturally, and cannot be distinguished from the burn.

Blisters from Freezing

The body’s natural reaction to extreme cold can include the formation of blisters beneath the dying cells of the skin. Blisters are able to better hold in the body’s heat as the cold attempts to penetrate into the deeper layers of skin.

Frostbite burns will often begin to show signs of affect immediately, and like normal burn blisters, will be impossible to distinguish from the marks of the burns.

Contact dermatitis and Blisters

Contact dermatitis is a form of skin inflammation that can occur if the skin becomes exposed to an irritant. As the exposure continues to degenerate the skin, a blister can form. Allergens can also trigger a similar reaction with enough exposure. These kind of blisters can occur immediately or appear gradually after long term, low-dose exposure. Chemical burns can also cause blisters to appear.

Generally these types of blisters are caused by:

  • insect bites and stings
  • skin allergens
  • chemicals in washing detergents
  • chemicals in bodywashes
  • chemical solvents or cleaners
  • sulfates
  • cobalt
  • nickel

Blisters from Medical conditions

leg blisters

Blisters can form on the outer layer of skin following a weakening of the skin. This can occur due to certain infections and disorders.

Here are some common conditions and prescribed treatments that can influence the risk of blisters forming on the feet:

  • chicken pox
  • eczema, including dyshidrotic eczema, which can cause small, itchy blisters on the tips of the toes and soles of the feet
  • autoimmune conditions, like pemphigus and bullous pemphigoid
  • diabetic neuropathy or nerve damage that causes a lack of sensation or pain in the feet
  • being overweight, as the increased weight puts pressure on the feet
  • antibiotic treatment
  • blood-thinning medications

Ruptured blood vessels

Blood vessels when damaged can leak and form blood blisters under the skin. Typically this occurs when the skin is pinched or crushed.

Treatment of Blisters

Using over-the-counter blister bandages is a good way to protect your blister from further damage. Typically the best treatment for blisters is to let them be. With simple care, blisters will often heal on their own.

The presence of blisters is an important part of the body’s defense system, and it is unwise to disturb them. While blisters may pop naturally, it is best that you leave them alone so they can remain a barrier while your body heals the affected area.

Blisters act as a seal to keep out contagion and harmful environmentals from entering the damaged space.

Once a blister appears, care should be taken to avoid placing additional pressure on it to preserve the seal. If the seal is broken, you can very gently wash around the blister with warm soap and water. Then cover it with a sterile, dry and breathable dressing. Gauze or a loose bandage works well in this endeavor.

In the event a blister forms due to a chemical or allergy burn, it is imperative that you remove yourself from the cause as soon as possible. Aftwrwards, wash the skin thoroughly.

Other treatments of a blister on your foot:

  • gently applying an ice pack that has been wrapped in a towel.
  • covering the affected area with an over-the-counter bandage.
  • elevating your foot with a chair or pillow can reduce blood flow, limiting potential inflammation.
  • healing is aided by drying the area.
  • removing constrictive footwear or socks, as they may have been the cause.
  • antibiotic ointments and creams can be applied to the blister and the surrounding area
  • cleaning the area around of the blister with over-the-counter solutions such as hydrogen peroxide or apple cider vinegar can help reduce inflammation.

Allow the blister to open naturally. Then you should take a pair of sterilized tweezers to remove any remaining dead skin. Care should be taken to avoid removing any healthy skin.