At this time of year many of my patients are attending holiday parties. This can mean being on your feet for long periods of time, standing, dancing, walking in new, stiff dress shoes and high heels, which can cause a real pain in the foot, namely that of blisters and bunions!
If your foot is sweating and the shoe rubs against the back of your heel, tops/sides of your toes, as can happen when dancing, you’re almost certain to get a blister.
In addition, the pressure that newer, stiffer shoes place on the bones of our feet can aggravate the second most common foot ailment my patients complain of – bunions.
Just in time for all those holiday parties then, I’d like to share with you some tips on how to both prevent these painful foot ailments and how to minimize the discomfort from them.
Blisters usually originate from a combination of friction, motion and heat. Even if you have good socks or panty-hose between your foot and your shoe, frequent rubbing of the shoe against your skin creates fluids to build up in that area to create a buffer between your skin and the shoe. When the blister breaks, we feel the real discomfort from the raw skin hitting our shoe.
Of course, the number #1 cause of blisters is ill-fitting shoes to begin with. We see those designer shoes in the window and think they’ll look great with our holiday suits and dresses. However, when we try them on, they’re just a tad tight in the toe box, or at the back of our heel, or side of our foot. We like them so much, especially if they’re just the right style and color, that we rationalize they will stretch out and be fine by the time our parties roll around. Not exactly.
Too tight shoes can create even more rubbing. This can frequently occur when your foot may need to slide in and out of the shoe during certain motions, like going up on your toes, or turning your feet, in certain dance moves, walking uphill or downhill, or just walking in general for an extended time. Now, you’ve created a blister, or maybe even a few! Here’s how to handle them:
➢ Band-Aids: Carry a handful in your jacket pocket or your purse. They’re the best immediate fix for a blister.
➢ Old Shoes: Bring along an old, comfortable pair of shoes if you must change into them.
➢ Don’t Pop It: Once you open a blister and drain it, the overlying skin peels back, exposing the red, raw skin beneath it and it can then get infected. It also makes it hurt more. Wrap a Band-Aid, even 2, firmly around the blister without draining it. This provides extra padding against the shoe.
➢ Stretch Your Shoes: Stretch your shoe right in the place where it is rubbing.
While blisters are usually temporary, bunions can remain for a while and worsen in their condition. Usually what causes bunions are, like blisters, ill-fitting shoes in the first place. In addition, just the shape of the shoe can cause or aggravate bunions, namely too-narrow toe boxes that push the toes together, such as in cowboy boots or pointy high heels. A bunion is a bony bump at the base of your big toe and it causes the toe to lean toward the other toes.
Bunions, like blisters, are caused by stress and pressure, but this time against the bone/joint itself, rather than the overlying skin. The foot tries to compensate by building up fluid at the point of “rub”. This also creates inflammation in the deeper tissues. The bone also starts to over-grow at this point, almost as an attempt to push the foot away from the area of the rub.
The development of a bunion means that there is excessive pronation, or turning, in the rear foot, which causes friction and pressure against the bones of the forefoot and bunions to form. Poorly fitting, or ill-supporting, shoes can cause this pronation of the foot.
Here’s what helps bunions:
➢ Roomy Shoes – shoes need enough space around the bunion to prevent further rubbing against the already toughened callous overlying the bunion. Look for a wider toe box. Stretch any new shoes with shoe stretchers to provide extra room over the bunion area.
➢ Orthotics – these are custom made stabilizers for the foot that keep the rear foot from turning and causing further pressure/rubbing against bones in the forefoot.
➢ Bunion pads – sold at pharmacies, these are inexpensive gel-pads that fit over the calloused bunion area and prevents further rubbing against your shoe.
➢ Topical pain relievers – over the counter rub-in gel pain relievers can help.
➢ Toe Separators – silicone toe separator between the big toe and second toe stops them from rubbing up against each other.
➢ Podiatrist care – a podiatrist can remove excess callous on the bunion to provide more comfort to the area before you put you get into your holiday shoes.
➢ Vitamin Therapy – antioxidants A, C, E, D, decreases inflammation/pain.
➢ Surgery – surgical removal of bunions help – but they can reappear if you don’t also treat the cause of them.
I want you to enjoy the holidays as much as possible without foot woes. The best way to do this is to make sure that any footwear you may buy really does fit your feet properly as nothing dampens a festive mood as a screaming pair of painful feet! Try a few of the suggestions here in order to prevent pain or discomfort from blisters and bunions before they begin.
Photo Credit: Maggie Smith