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Blisters on the balls of my feet...
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Curtis B.
(rutilate) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Blisters on the balls of my feet... on 06/21/2011 18:54:09 MDT Print View

Just returned from a 20-mile hike and I have massive blisters about 1.5" in diameter under the ball of each foot. I've done a pretty exhaustive search on BPL and haven't found more than the hint that perhaps the cause could be related to boots that are too tight, not enough toe flexion, or a couple of other potential causes.

What kinds of diagnostics can I deploy to find the real cause?

A bit of background:

I wear Smartwool mid-weight socks.

I've not done many longer hikes yet this year, so I'm sure my feet simply need to toughen up, yet this is not the only solution.

I understand that the ball of the foot is sliding, causing shear forces, but I don't know why.

The same thing happened in my Vasque full leather GTX boots last summer. I purchased 1/2 size larger boots, Salomon Quest 4d GTX that are the most comfortable boots I've ever worn around town and on shorter hikes. I'd hoped that a larger boot might have been the ticket, as my feet were a bit numb in the Vasques.

I have a slightly wider foot but I normally wear dress shoes that are a bit longer and narrower than my actual foot measurement to get the proper fit in the arch. The bottoms of my dress shoes typically show a circular wear pattern under the ball of the foot.

If the boots were too narrow, wouldn't my feet move less than if they were too wide?
What other causes might there be?

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Blisters on the balls of my feet... on 06/21/2011 19:08:57 MDT Print View

First off, consider yourself lucky. I once dated a woman who had diamonds on the soles of her shoes. Took us FOREVER to figure that one out.

Second, get rid of the goretex! Your feet are probably sweating like crazy, I wouldn't doubt that that's adding to your problem.

Lots of folks wear a very thin liner under their normal hiking socks, you might want to try that.

Sorry, that's all I got.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Breatheable on 06/21/2011 19:27:59 MDT Print View

If you have to wear Goretex, take your shoes off and air them out every couple miles.
I agree with Doug, two thin socks are better than one medium thickness sock. A lot of the friction can happen between the two socks instead of the surface of your feet.

Maybe three thin socks?

If you have feet that don't fit your shoes well, they will adjust over time, but not without some painful beginnings:-(

Brian Dickens
(briand) - F

Locale: Colorado
Too tight? on 06/22/2011 05:01:01 MDT Print View

I would think that it would mean that your boots are too loose, not too tight.

I wear goretex most of the time and with boots, my feet do get hot. However my boots fit perfect with no hint of hot spots.

I agree, the Salomon are about the most comfortable boot made.

Edited by briand on 06/22/2011 05:02:29 MDT.

clay stewart
(Reluctantwaterhauler) - F
Re: Blisters on the balls of my feet... on 06/22/2011 06:15:51 MDT Print View

When I wore heavy hiking boots on long trips, I would wear poly liners under light wool and I would change my socks every time I stopped (every few miles) and hang them on my pack to dry. This is desert hiking, I'm talking about. Soaking the soles of my feet in rubbing alcohol a few days before the trip helps to toughen up your soles too, but changing out of sweaty socks made all the difference in the world.

I know it sounds silly to stop and change your socks so often, but once I discovered it kept the blisters at bay, I was more than willing to make it part of my rest routine.

Edited by Reluctantwaterhauler on 06/22/2011 06:31:50 MDT.

Arnold Levin
(surf1div1) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
What worked for me... on 06/22/2011 19:48:40 MDT Print View

I'll add my two cents as well. Since I have been using this strategy I have not had a blister. Prior to this I had blisters (Blood Blisters in the area that your referring to). I use "SportShield" Roll-On by 2Toms and liberally coat the bottom of my feet. I let it try and avoid making contact with the floor to avoid any of that stuff getting on the laminate floor I have (otherwise you'll skate over that portion of the floor). I then use a base layer sock (injinji lightweight cooomax liners with the crew top) and a outlayer of "Wright Socks Cool Mesh 2". I have severe pronation and as a result my feet would (without orthotics)get longer due to no arch support and get hematomas under my nail beds (yes, my nails are trimmed short). The injinji socks are good as I was not only getting blood blisters under the ball of the foot but also on my toes. Since using the above I'm not blister free. Good Luck and post back if any of the suggestions worked.


Al Nichols
(everready) - F

Locale: Sh!^^% Ohio
Duct tape? on 06/22/2011 19:56:21 MDT Print View

I remember reading a web page years ago. They writer had the same problem as you describe. He wrote that the only thing that worked for him was to apply duct tape to the balls of his feet before hiking.


peter vacco

Locale: no. california
blister prevention on 06/22/2011 20:02:20 MDT Print View

how thick are the callouses in this area of yer foot ?
both sides blistered ?
any other blisters in any other places ?

peter v

Curtis B.
(rutilate) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
thanks and update on 06/22/2011 20:14:20 MDT Print View

Thanks for the input folks! It may be that taping is the way to go, although I'd love to find a root cause. Might simply be time to find another orthopedic specialist.

I have blisters on both sides, and on the underside of the 4th toes on both sides where I've built up some calluses (but they are now gone!). One more blister on the heal where the insole rubbed. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, the play was marvelous!

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
blister location on 06/22/2011 21:21:21 MDT Print View

not to be autocratic and with full understanding that we all use different feet:

too narrow a boot will fold up the skin on the ball of the foot and give a blister running lengthwise at the junction of the insole and the upper.

the fourth toe blisters may very well be caused by the combination of heat and fungus (most likely cause). this be true for any under-and-behind the toes blisters.

the salamon's may break (bend) in an un-natural curve caused by a full length nylon shank/rockplate instead of having most of the stiiff in the rear 2/3 of the boot. this would give the ball blisters for sure. mine did.

goretex boots work fine, but will exaggerate any dis-optimal fitting issues due to heat in some instances.

real sweet fitting boots may require an abnormal amount of effort to achieve. it can be done, and it can be a lot of work.
not, by a long shot, are all boots "any good".

we are nearly to the end now of all i know about this painful subject.


Andy F
(AndyF) - F

Locale: Ohio
Re: Blisters on the balls of my feet... on 06/23/2011 07:58:46 MDT Print View

The only time I got blisters on the balls of my feet was when I was barefoot running on hard surfaces. I discovered that I was rotating my foot slightly as I stepped off.

If you're hiking in warm weather, your footwear and socks seem way too warm. I hike in a thin dress or running sock in warm weather (temps 50 F and above). See if you can find more lighter and breathable shoes or boots. These are more flexible, resulting in a better fit.

If you really need the warmth of your current footwear, Try a polypropylene liner sock under your wool socks. This is what I do for winter, and it works well.

Rinse and dry your feet whenever you can.

Use a friction reduction product like BandAid Friction Block.

Mark Ries
(mtmnmark) - M

Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
I had a similar problem once on 06/23/2011 10:04:10 MDT Print View

I had a problem kinda like yours two pairs of boots I used both felt great until like day 4 of a trip then the balls of my feet started killing me but I dont blister easily and I put bandaids and mole skin on to help get me in These boots were well broken in.I tried different kinds of insoles same problem. Short two-three day trips were ok. And I had worn out boots b4 and never had this problem Heavy boots have stiff shanks that dont bend much if at all. There is a flex point in the boot that needs to match your foots flex point at the ball and toes.Boot fitters told me this occurs especially in to long of a boot I believe this was my problem. I went to lighter more flexable trail shoes and have not had the problem since. I think the fit on more flexable shoes is more forgiving. I miss my heavy old boots in a few situations but not much.

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Sock fit is important too on 06/23/2011 10:50:34 MDT Print View

Sounds obvious, but make sure your socks are a good fit. Most manufacturers make their socks to cover a range of sizes, ie 10-12 for example. Try to choose a manufacturer that has your size at the top of the range. Too much extra fabric can bunch at the front, causing blisters.

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
RE: Blisters on the balls of my feet on 06/23/2011 11:32:14 MDT Print View

When I started backpackin in the 1970's no one wore liner socks. I would get blisters when wearing just a heavy rag wool sock under stiff leather boots. I started used thin liner socks under a heavier sock in lightweight (for the time) fabric boots and never got blisters. Then came the UL revolution and, based on posts on BPL, I skipped the liners and just wore mid-weight Merino socks. I started getting blisters on the ball of my foot. I started wearing thin liners again and no more blisters.

Chas Ho
(i_charles) - F
Blisters on the balls of my feet...two pair of socks on 06/23/2011 12:20:22 MDT Print View

Try wearing two pair of thin socks. Or, one thin and one medium. I rarely get blisters with this method. the inner sock rubs against the outer sock and greatly reduces friction.
Not sure why everyone in the universe doesnt adopt this method even for day to day living..?

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Blisters on the balls of my feet... on 06/23/2011 12:55:20 MDT Print View

I have been making my own shoes because I can't find shoes wide enough for me. I can no longer stand to wear shoes that are extra long just to fit my width. I'm not the best shoemaker though, and sometimes I have made my shoes a little too wide and loose. Then my foot moves around too much and I end up with blisters on the balls of my feet.

What I have done to rescue the shoes is put a 1/8" EVA foam insole inside. I've made the insole myself, but I believe you may be able to find something similar at the pharmacy. Look for an insole that doesn't have fabric on top, or find one that is flat and has fabric only one side and then turn the rubber side to the top. Your foot won't slip so much and the insole will take up some of the extra space.

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Blisters on the balls of my feet on 07/01/2011 11:29:05 MDT Print View

Looks like there is no one solution and many have this issue.

Mike In Socal
(rcmike) - MLife

Locale: California
Get some barefoot time on 07/01/2011 11:47:20 MDT Print View

I agree with others have already stated and you can also try walking barefoot as much as you can (around the house, in the yard, on weekends) to build up some toughness on your skin.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Me Too on 07/01/2011 20:23:46 MDT Print View

Curtis, I often had the same problem on backpack trips in the '70s.
Two things cured me.

1. get heat-moldable insoles (this is the most important thing)
2. do daily training hikes of 5 miles in the boots/shoes your will use on your trip with your pack loaded to 25 lbs. This toughens the skin on your soles. The term "tenderfoot" wasn't invented by Boy Scouts but by pioneers - who mostly walked.

Oh, yeah, as mentioned thin, tightly woven polypro liner socks are a must. And I do use GTX lined boots too.

Edited by Danepacker on 07/01/2011 20:29:19 MDT.