Self-Treatment of Minor Foot Problems

W. Steven Pray, PhD, RPh


US Pharmacist. 2002;27(3) 

In This Article


Blisters are a common problem, occurring in any location where the skin has been subjected to sustained friction. Swinging an ax, for instance, will cause blisters on hands unused to the activity. On the feet, blisters occur at locations where the shoe fits poorly, allowing shearing forces or friction to occur during walking, running, or jumping. The most common locations are the toes, balls of the foot, and back of the heel.[1] The uncomplicated blister is a round or oval lesion in which the epidermal layers have separated and the interior area is filled with clear fluid. The raised skin is known as the roof, while the lower area is the floor of the blister. Occasionally, pharmacists will see patients who continued to engage in activity as the blister formed, allowing blood to enter the fluid, creating a "blood blister." In one study of West Point cadets undergoing basic training, risk factors for blister formation included use of smokeless tobacco, flat feet, illness within the past year, lack of previous military experience, and ethnicity (African-Americans were at lower risk than others).[2]

Some physicians advise leaving the blister intact, allowing the epidermal layers of the floor to mature and become less sensitive to infection. Others advise piercing the roof with a sterile needle and gently expressing the fluid inside. This has two benefits: it reduces the pain and it allows the roof to connect with the base, where it may readhere for a short period, thereby reducing the pain and helping prevent infection.

Shoe pads may be helpful in preventing blisters. The patient whose blister has already ruptured through loss of the roof may discover that a collodion-based product such as New-Skin placed over the exposed skin will provide some relief.