Toe Blisters | Causes and Treatment

Blisters can be painful and frustrating especially when they occur on the toes. So what exactly are they and how do they form?

How do Blisters Form

A toe blister is a tiny fluid-filled sac that forms between the upper skin layers and is often caused by constant friction on the skin of the toes. They may also appear as a result of infection, humidity or exposure of the skin to harmful chemicals and burning of the skin.
Toe blisters are usually painful and often cause discomfort especially when walking. The natural healing process should normally be allowed to take its course, and blisters should not be punctured unless highly painful. Whilst puncturing a toe blister will ease the pressure and release the fluid, the skin underneath is usually inflamed and sore, and bursting blisters increases the likelihood of damage to the lower skin levels and of infections occurring. The top layer of skin also acts like a natural barrier to prevent infection.
There are various types of blisters which mean that symptoms can vary; however there are certain similarities that are evident in most cases and they include:

  • A characteristic swelling usually containing some fluid which is usually clear, occasionally containing pus or blood
  • A tingling sensation or soreness may be felt on the toe before the actual blister forms
  • The affected area could have a burning sensation accompanied by some tenderness
  • A rash could appear around the blister

The main cause of toe blisters is friction that occurs between the skin and shoes, which is usually caused by shoes which do not fit correctly, where the foot is allowed to move a little too freely inside the shoe. The problem is more likely when the feet sweat and the skin softens; which is common with walkers, hikers and when playing sports.

Sometimes due to pinching or crushing of the toe a blood vessel that is near the surface of the skin may rupture causing blood to fill up on the upper layer of the skin. This eventually forms what is known as a blood blister.
Extreme temperatures could lead to blistering of the toes and this is especially evident when the skin gets burned or frozen. One of the main characteristics of a second degree burn is the appearance of blisters.
If the blisters are small it is best to simply let them go through the natural healing process. Ensure that the affected area is kept clean and dry. Applying some petroleum jelly on the blister as well as the area of a shoe that is causing it will help reduce friction. You could also bandage the affected area; however air should be allowed to get to the blister. Iodine solution and rubbing alcohol can be used to sterilize the affected area, and these should be used before a bandage is applied. Antiseptic cream can be applied to the blister before the bandage is applied. Larger blisters may need to be punctured, especially if they are painful. To do this use a sterilized needle and make a couple of punctures around the edge of the blister to release the fluid, and leave the skin in place.
Larger blisters often need to be drained, which should be done by a medical professional so as to limit the changes of infection. Antibiotic creams can be sued to help prevent infection. To prevent toe blisters from appearing, ensure that the shoes you wear fit well and are made of comfortable and breathable material. Avoid synthetic materials which can irritate the skin, with wool, cotton and Coolmax® the best choice of fabrics for socks.