My roommate’s boots were extremely vicious today, causing these alarmingly large blisters to form on the back of her heels. But what allows boots, and other footwear, the right to ruin our days so easily with the formation of blisters? How do they even do it?

Let’s start with the basics: What’s a blister?

A blister is a layer of skin, more specifically one of the epidermis layers, that splits from the other layers of skin, allowing pus to squeeze between them.

Pus is the term used to describe the blood serum (without red blood cells and clotting factors) that usually consists of water, white blood cells, blood proteins in addition to a few other things (it can sometimes have bacteria, gross).

How do blisters form?

Footwear can cause blisters as a result of the friction between the two. This friction leads to the uppermost layers of the epidermis peeling away from some of the other layers, without falling off. This is is normally referred to as a Friction Blister (fitting, right?). Some footwear need to be broken into so that they don’t keep rubbing against your skin too often.

But there are things other than friction that can cause blisters too! These factors are:

  • Heat (sunburns can lead to blisters!)
  • Chemical reactions
  • Medical conditions (like cold sores or the chicken pox)

Don’t burst your bubble

Like most other things the body does, the formation of the blister is actually a good thing. If they remain intact, then the liquid in the blister will be reabsorbed after a new layer of skin has been formed underneath the blister and the old layer of skin will peel away completely.

If you pop the blister, however, it can lead  to the further infection of your skin since the unhealed area has been exposed. The raised layer of skin and the pus act as a protective shield against infections and allows your body to regenerate its new skin in peace.

However, if they hurt too much then you may need to let the pus out using sterile equipment, a sterilized needle or blade. It may hurt a lot when the pus in the blister has infectious particles or intrusive particles. If the pus is white/yellow, then it definitely contained infectious particles (this differs from healthy pus, which would be clear). If your skin around the blister is red or warm for a long time, that’s another sign of infection! If you think your blister is infected, it is best to get medical attention.

For the most part, the blisters are here to help us with our silly needs like uncomfortable (but fancy!) shoes or going out in the sun without sunscreen. They’ve got our backs, for sure, so let’s let them be.

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