When a blister forms between two toes, mild discomfort can give way to real pain, especially if you’re spending a lot of time on your feet.

There are two main types of interdigital toe blisters: those caused by friction and those not due to friction.

Blisters not due to friction that form directly between two toes are typically caused by infection or an allergy. More commonly, blisters between toes develop when one toe repeatedly rubs against another, irritating the skin. These blisters are also called friction blisters or pinch blisters, and they can usually be treated at home.

A blister is a fluid-filled bubble that forms on your skin. The fluid may be completely clear or contain some blood. Friction and nonfriction blisters may look alike. However, the location of the blister and events leading up to how and when it formed can help you or a doctor determine its type.

Interdigital blisters not due to friction

Your feet are vulnerable to many types of infections and allergies. These can cause several types of symptoms, including rashes and blisters.

If a bubble appears in between your toes — and not on a toe that’s pinched or pressed by another toe or by the inner lining of a shoe — it’s probably unrelated to friction.

The blister may be easy to see, as it can form on the top part of your foot in between two of your toes. In some cases, though, an interdigital blister forms in between the bases of two toes, on the bottom side of your foot.

Because an interdigital blister can be caused by an infection, you may need to have the blister evaluated and treated by a doctor. Medications and proper foot hygiene are usually enough to resolve the problem.

Pinch blisters

As its name suggests, a pinch blister usually forms when one toe is somewhat curled under the toe next to it and is pinched. Sometimes the force of one toe rubbing against the other can cause the blister to break before you ever see it. Tight shoes can also press too hard against a toe, causing a blister to form.

A pinch blister tends to form near the tip of a toe or by the base of a toe. Unlike other types of interdigital blisters, the cause of a pinch blister can often be identified easily.

Knowing the cause of your new blister will help you find the right treatment and possibly help you avoid similar problems in the future. Because your feet take a pounding and are at the mercy of many potential problems, it’s important to be aware of the kinds of problems that can get between your toes and make walking, and even standing, uncomfortable.

Interdigital blisters that aren’t due to friction can be signs of a health problem. Sometimes there are other symptoms that can help you diagnose the cause. In other cases, a trained medical professional may need to evaluate the condition.

Fungal infections

One of the most common types of fungal infections is athlete’s foot. Wearing damp socks or exposing your bare feet to warm, humid conditions, such as a locker room floor, raise your risk for athlete’s foot. Usually this condition causes an itchy, scaly rash on your foot. It, and other infections, can also cause blisters between your toes.

Allergies

Certain allergies can also cause a blister between toes or elsewhere on the foot. A biting or stinging insect can raise a blister if you’re allergic. Another potential allergen affecting the foot is polyester. If you’re allergic and you wear polyester socks, an interdigital blister can form between any two toes.

Eczema

This inflammatory skin condition can be triggered by sweat, excessive dryness, bacteria, allergens, and other irritants that lead to an eczema flare-up. The most common symptom of eczema is a patch of dry, red, scaly skin. Eczema can also lead to blisters between the toes and anywhere on the body.

Sunburn

A bad sunburn can cause blisters to form just about anywhere. If you’re barefoot for a long period of time on a sunny day, the top of your foot can easily become sunburned — raising your odds of blisters in between your toes.

Pinch blisters

Pinch blisters are related to the shape and alignment of your toes, as well as factors such as footwear and the way you walk. Though the cause of a pinch blister may be relatively easy to discern, preventing reoccurrences may be a challenge.

Toe alignment

If one or more of your toes curls in toward the toe next to it, you’re likely to get frequent toe blisters if you don’t take preventive steps. It could be a condition as pronounced as hammer toe — in which a toe bends abnormally in the middle at one of its joints — or even just a slight bend that allows one toe to place pressure on another.

Sweat

Feet that remain sweaty for an extended time allow moisture to build up between the toes, increasing the risk of skin irritation and friction blister formation.

Ill-fitting shoes

The wrong shoes can cause numerous foot problems, including blisters between your toes and blisters on your heel or sole. When the front of the shoe pinches your toes together you could develop multiple pinch blisters, especially if you do a lot of walking or running. Likewise, running in shoes that allow too much movement by your toes can also place excessive pressure on certain toes, causing painful blisters.

You can usually treat a toe blister yourself. In addition to letting it heal, your other priority is preventing an infection. That means you should avoid popping the blister or picking at it. Unbroken skin can help prevent bacteria from infecting the area.

There are other things you can do at home or with the guidance of a healthcare professional to properly care for a blister. Whether a blister is just forming or it’s already bubbled up, cover it carefully with a bandage. If possible, change your shoes, loosen your laces, or better yet, go without shoes for the rest of the day.

If the blister has broken, you can soak your toes in a clean tub filled with warm water and Epsom salts. Gently cleaning the area with warm water is also fine.

Use an adhesive bandage or place a round piece of moleskin over the blister to protect it while it heals. If the skin inside the blister is exposed, you may want to apply a moisture barrier such as Aquafor or Vaseline over it before applying a dressing.

Watch for signs of infection:

  • redness
  • swelling
  • pus draining from the blister
  • pain
  • fever

If you suspect the blister is infected, see a doctor. If caused by bacterial infection, you may be given an antibiotic. If your blister is caused by a fungal infection, your doctor might recommend an antifungal cream or spray to apply to the affected area.

You should also see a doctor if you have a blister and other symptoms, such as dry skin patches, suggesting eczema or another underlying skin condition. Consider seeing a dermatologist or a podiatrist.

If blisters tend to form in the same spot, you can take several different steps to prevent future problems. Also, if you know you’re going to be on your feet for a long time, consider the following precautions to keep your toes healthy and feeling good:

Wedges

You can find a wide range of soft pads or wedges that fit between your toes to help prevent blisters. The drawback to wedges is that they can slip out of place, especially if you’re doing a lot of running.

Toe sleeves

Also made from gel material, toe sleeves or socks fit all the way around a toe to help protect it and keep it from rubbing against its neighbors.

Lubricants

Placing a little petroleum jelly on a part of your toe that tends to get blisters may create enough lubrication to prevent a friction blister.

Socks

Many runners and other athletes wear two pairs of socks to prevent blisters on the soles of their feet. If the sock closest to your skin is made of wicking material, it can help remove sweat from your feet, reducing your risk for friction blisters.

Taping

Wrapping a piece of moleskin that’s slightly larger than the area experiencing blisters may help if other prevention strategies don’t. Even wrapping two adjoining toes in medical adhesive tape may help.

If you have questions about the best way to treat and prevent blisters between your toes, speak with a podiatrist. The doctor may also be able to diagnose a toe alignment problem, such as hammertoe, that can be treated.

They may also be able to guide you in purchasing the right athletic shoes. A running shoe salesperson can fit you with the right shoes. If the problem is a dress shoe or work shoe, look for alternative footwear that provides a better fit.

If you know you can’t avoid shoes that cause blisters, take precautions. A pad or lubricant can save you a lot of pain at the end of the day.