It’s been a weird summer. Usually by this point in the year, I’m a straggly-haired, sweaty mess, sprawled out in front of the air conditioner and praying for the merciful relief of fall.
Not this year, though. This year, I’m looking to fall with a “meh, I guess this is happening” attitude. It was 60 degrees when I woke up this morning. It’s pretty much autumn already.
I hate being cold, but wow, I love living in a place with four seasons. I love the reddening leaves and that fresh, cold smell in the air. I love how suddenly there’s pumpkin in everything. I saw snow for the first time when I was 17. The magical feeling that I had as I watched it fall--all around me, in real life!--has never left me, not even when I slip and crack my tailbone on an icy sidewalk. Again.
The other thing that I love about fall: boots. I freaking LOVE boots, especially since I upgraded and started wearing Fryes a few years ago. Frye boots are brilliant in every way, and I will never wear anything else ever again, amen.
The problem is, when you’ve spent the last four months running around in super-soft ballet flats or sandals, shoving your feet back into boots again means one horrible thing: BLISTERS.
I have the unfortunate distinction of being Blister Queen, for which I blame both nature and nurture. Nature gave me narrow feet with crazy-skinny heels that slip around in all but the most expensive shoes (my mum calls them “Neiman Marcus feet,” which is a really cute name for a really annoying thing). Nurture gave me years of dance training. There may be something worse than a blood blister forming in between the edge of your big toenail and your skin, but I do not know what it could possibly be.
So believe me when I tell you that I have looked into the abyss, and the abyss looked back into me, and I have LEARNED SOME WAYS to prevent the gnarliest of blisters from forming.
Let’s start by throwing down a little medical knowledge!
A blister is a little pocket of skin filled with fluid (usually plasma, although sometimes blood or--ew--pus). They happen when the top layer of your skin is pulled away from the deeper layers, and it fills up with fluid to stop those deep-down layers from being damaged, and also to promote healing (which is pretty neat, if you think about it).
Blisters are usually caused by friction, although they can also come from burning, freezing and exposure to certain chemicals. Unless you’ve been messing around with a lot of chemicals in bare feet (your science teacher wants a word with you, btw), the ones you get on your feet are caused by friction.
So let’s talk about ways to reduce friction and keep your feet happy. It’s pumpkin season, after all.
ONE: Reduce moisture.
Moisture is a blister’s best friend--moist skin blisters more than dry or soaked skin does--and feet get sweaty even in the cool weather. Gross.
The key here are moisture-wicking socks, which is a weird way of saying “buy special socks that help to keep your feet dry.” I really like the Nike Performance Moisture Wicking socks because they’re really comfortable, have additional arch support, are thin enough to wear under other socks/over fleece-lined tights when it gets mega-cold AND, most crucially, they work. Highly recommended; however they are expensive. You can find cheaper ones at Target in the activewear section, and as long as it says "moisture-wicking," they will probably be pretty OK!
If those don’t float your boat, my friend Jamie (who is training for a marathon and totally knows about this stuff) LOVES SmartWool socks. She told me that they keep her feet really dry, even while she’s running, and that they generally rule. I haven’t tried them myself, but I like to provide options for you guys.
TWO: Break in your shoes slowly.
Even if you’ve had your boots for years, it takes time to get used to them again. Ease back into wearing them, rather than taking them out of the closet and walking eight miles in the snow. That way lies bloody feet and tears!
I start wearing my boots in about August--i.e. well before the weather dictates that I need to--for fifteen minutes at a time. Like if I have to run out and grab dog food, I’ll throw on some thin socks and my boots instead of ballet flats.
After a few weeks of short-term wear, my feet are used to leather boot life again. This dramatically cuts down on how much grief they’ll give me when it gets cold overnight and I NEED to have them on my feet all day.
THREE: Create barriers.
Sometimes I don’t have time to break my boots in as much as I’d like. Then it’s a matter of guarding the vulnerable places on my feet.
There are a few areas where I always get BAD blisters: my little toes, my heels, my fourth toe which healed in a very weird arch-shape after being broken, and where the metatarsals of my big toe meet the proximal phalanges, especially on my right foot.
So basically, I use bandaids to tape them up in much the same way I did when I danced, and the bandaids protect the potentially blistery areas.
But not all bandaids are created equal, and they don’t all work on feet, which move a lot and get sweaty.
The best bandaids for feet are the Bandaid-brand Tough Strips. Not the waterproof ones--just the regular fabric kind. They aren’t cute, but they work brilliantly, and they come in a bunch of useful sizes.
The problem I’ve had with stuff like moleskin or those fancy rubbery “blister bandaids” is that the adhesive sucks, and when the edges peel away your shoes rub MORE in that spot. Then you end up with a supermassive blister, rather than just a sore spot. Tough Strips eliminate that issue, because this adhesive is HARDCORE. They seriously, seriously do not come off. I've stuck the big ones on the soles of my feet before (blisters on the balls of my feet, so bad) and they stayed. They are serious business.
These things are life savers for me. I put them on my feet and they stop any potential blisters for forming, and, on the off chance that I forget and get one anyway, they keep it covered and safe until it heals.
FOUR: Blister Defense.
I know it sounds totally magazine-y to talk about products in terms of them being utterly life-changing, but Dr. Scholls Blister Defense CHANGED MY LIFE.
When I was in college, I wore heels every day. That part was fine; I’ve always been good at wearing heels. But my bony feet got absolutely RAVAGED by blisters. They were so bloody and taped up, they looked like they’d come back from the dead to fight Dracula.
I don’t remember who told me about this Blister Defense stuff, but whoever it was--may you be high fived by adorable puppies every day for the rest of your life. Because IT WORKS. A little bit of this rubbed on to any area that you fear MIGHT get a blister, and you’re done. It isn’t slippery or slimy. It doesn’t smell. It just cuts down on friction. No more friction = no more potential blister.
People have told me that deodorant does something similar. I’ve tried it, but it doesn’t seem to have the staying power that this does when it comes to feet. Plus, this is small enough that I can carry around in my bag 24/7, and one twist-up tube lasts FOREVER.
I have found that this works better for heels and dress shoes than with boots, though. It still WORKS, but it does transfer a little onto heavy socks. Since it’s clear, it isn’t like it stains--but it doesn’t confer the same level of protection as it does on bare feet. If you’re one of those people who insists on wearing their boots barefoot (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE), then this will be perfect for you.
(I will mention, though, that if your blisters/discomfort are caused by bits of your boots digging or cutting into your feet, this won’t help. If that’s your deal, protect your feet with bandaids, and then take your shoes to a repair place and have them stretched a little. Mend and make do, y’all.)
And that’s it: everything I know about keeping your feet blister-free and sufficiently booted. What is your go-to Fall boot? Who else has joined The Cult Of Frye? Any other suggestions for ways to save our feet from blisters?