Flip flops are one of the most popular types of footwear due to how lightweight and versatile they are – you can wear them to the beach, at home, at the pool, or even for a stroll to your local store. However, they are often associated with several foot problems, including bunions, cracked heels, plantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendinitis, to mention a few. Flip flops are often blamed for causing blisters as well, but are these claims valid? Read on for more information on whether flip flops cause blisters to develop on your feet.
Can flip flops cause blisters? Flip flops are known to cause blisters to develop in between the toes, especially if the toe post rubs against the big toe and the second toe uncomfortably. When you walk in flip flops, they have a habit of slipping around on your foot, and the friction from the constant movement can lead to the development of blisters.
Blisters can also develop on the upper part of your foot especially if your flip flop keeps rubbing against a particular spot. Blisters are painful and can make it difficult to put on your footwear and walk around normally. If the blisters pop and go untreated, you will end up with sores on your feet which make it easier to pick up nasty viral, bacterial, and fungal infections that you may be exposed to.
A blister is a pocket of fluid that can form on any area of the body for a variety of reasons, including friction. Blisters often develop on the feet, especially if you wear footwear that constantly rubs against your foot and your toes.
How flip flops may cause blisters
Wearing flip flops have been proven to cause painful blisters to develop on your feet. There are two main parts of the flip flop that are most likely to cause this condition to affect your foot:
- The toe post rubbing against your toes – The toe post is the part of the flip flops that goes between your big toe and the second toe. This is an important part of the flip flop design as it allows you to keep the flip flop on your feet. However, the toe post that you will find in many flip flop designs tends to rub uncomfortably between your toes as you walk, which could potentially result in blisters developing in the affected area.
- The straps rubbing against the upper part of your foot – The straps are the parts of a flip flop that run over the upper of the foot when you wear them. They are meant to stay in place as you walk, but in some flip flops, you may find that they rub against the foot. As a result, blisters may develop on that part of the foot.
Signs of blister development
Blisters that are caused by rubbing/friction will typically appear as a localized bubble that is filled with either clear or bloody fluid. They are usually painful and tender when touched. Signs of an infected blister include:
- Peeling skin
- Foul smell
- Warmth around the area
- Swelling around the affected area
The effects of having blisters on your feet
Even though blisters eventually go away, they can cause you a lot of agonies and generally reduce the quality of your life.
Difficulty in walking
Due to how painful blisters can be, they can limit your ability to walk long distances. This might prevent you from going about your day as normal especially if you need to be constantly on your feet.
Susceptibility to infections when they pop
Blisters are meant to serve as a protective barrier that keeps germs from entering the wound that forms when the skin of the foot is irritated due to the constant friction from wearing flip flops. If the skin that covers the dome of the blister ends up breaking, you are at risk of getting an infection. Other than being painful, blisters that are infected can be dangerous when left untreated. Some of the serious infections that may result include:
- Cellulitis – This is a common and often painful bacterial infection that initially appears as a red, swollen area that is tender and hot to touch. The swelling and redness can spread quickly. Although it typically affects the surface of your skin, cellulitis can also affect the tissues beneath it and spread to your lymph nodes and even the bloodstream.
- Plantar warts – Plantar warts are growths that tend to appear on the weight-bearing areas of the foot. Plantar warts are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) and are caused when the virus enters the body through open wounds on your skin, such as popped blisters. Plantar warts can be very painful especially if you put pressure on the affected foot.
- Athlete’s foot – Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that tends to begin between the toes. This foot condition can cause itching and sting between your toes as well as cracking and peeling of skin on the affected area. There is a higher risk of an infection when you have an open wound on your feet due to a popped blister.
Treating a blister
It can be quite tempting to pick at a blister or even bust it. However, it is best to leave a blister unbothered and intact as an open blister can get easily infected. To protect the blister from breaking, loosely cover it using a bandage. If you refrain from disturbing the blister, it may end up hardening and disappear on its own. Until that happens, it can cause you a lot of discomforts especially if it is bigger than normal. While bursting a blister is never advisable, safely draining it may bring about relief. Here are some guidelines on how you can drain a blister on your own:
- Wash your hands and the blister antibacterial soap and water. Be as gentle as possible when washing the affected area to avoid popping it.
- Use a cotton swab to sterilize a clean needle with rubbing alcohol.
- Disinfect the blister using antiseptic
- Using the needle, make a small puncture near the edge of the blister
- Allow the fluid in the blister to drain.
- Apply an antibacterial ointment to the drained blister and then cover it with a gauze or bandage. Be careful not to remove the skin covering the blister.
- Clean the area and reapply the antibacterial ointment daily. Ensure that you keep the blister covered until it completely heals.
Other conditions that may be caused by flip flop wear
Flip flops have been known to cause several other problems, including:
- Cracked heels – Cracked heels may occur when you wear flip flops frequently. This is because the heels are exposed to air when you have flip flops on, causing the skin there to dry out and eventually develop fissures. Cracked heels may also result due to the lack of support in flip flops. As you walk in flip flops, your feet hit the ground harder than normal, resulting in pressure buildup which causes the fat pad to splay out and expand sideways. The skin in the area will eventually stretch, leading to cracked heels.
- Hammertoe – Flip flops are designed in a manner that requires the wearer to scrunch their toes to keep them on their feet as they walk. The constant curling of the toes unnaturally will cause hammertoe, a condition where the affected toes are bent in a claw-like position permanently. Stretching the affected toes can be quite painful, and walking can also be quite painful.
- Bunions – Since your toes are forced to grip onto the flip flops to keep them in position, the tissue or bone that is found at the joint of the big toe will start to protrude, eventually forming a full-fledged bunion. Bunions can be extremely painful and cause difficulty when walking.
- Knee and back pain – Wearing flip flops can cause back and knee pain. This is because walking in flip flops forces you to shorten your strides to maintain balance, which ends up straining your lower back and your knees. Moreover, walking in flip flops cause rotation in the lower leg, consequently increasing strain in your lower spine. This causes stiffness and pain that could lead to even more serious bone problems.
- Heel spurs and plantar fasciitis – Most flip flops generally lack adequate shock absorption and cushioning, which could cause the tissue which connects the heel bone to the toes, known as the plantar fascia, to strain. This will result in painful inflammation of the heel, a condition referred to as plantar fasciitis. A heel spur is a bony growth that usually develops at the heel bone. One of the main causes of heel spurs is recurring plantar fasciitis.
Wearing flip flops can be one of the main factors that contribute to the development of blisters on your feet. If you end up with a blister as a result of constant friction, there are many treatment options that you can consider, and if you don’t pick at it or accidentally pop it, the blister might even go away on its own. However, if you want to reduce the risk of blister development, you might have to avoid wearing flip flops completely, or at least avoid walking in them for extended periods.