We’ve suffered the annoyance of blisters. And you might be more prone to them if you run a lot. Blisters can appear in a lot of ways from a small one that makes a short training run uncomfortable, to a major outbreak of blisters that makes a long trail run an excruciating trial.
In this short article, we’ll cover all the details about blisters and running so that you can start running blister – and pain – free!
What causes blisters?
It’s a pretty simple answer. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, chafing causes blisters. Any time that body parts rub together or rub against clothing, there’s a chance for blisters.
In addition, if you’re running when it’s raining, or your feet are wet from sweat, you might be more susceptible to blisters due to excessive moisture softening your skin. Add in shoes that are too small, or too big, or tied too tight, or too loose, and you might be a good candidate for blisters.
How do you treat blisters from running?
Ideally, you should leave your blisters alone. While it may be slightly uncomfortable, the bubbled skin is actually protecting you from infection. So avoid popping them, if at all possible.
As someone who has had an infected blister, I can promise you this: all the time in the Urgent Care, the excess fluid in your body, and the meds you have to take for an infection are not a fair trade for the comfort of popping a blister.
If you have a small one, it will break and drain or reabsorb in a day or two, so leaving it alone is the best course of action. If you can’t do that, though, you have a couple different options, depending on your situation.
Put a bandage or moleskin over it
If you want to keep running, you’ll probably want to cover the blister so that you have more protection and it doesn’t exacerbate the problem. If you’re able, create a doughnut-shaped covering from moleskin.
Mid-race, stop at a medical tent and they can apply a bandage
If you’re in the middle of a race, particularly a longer one like a half-marathon or a marathon, you probably want to stop at a medical tent. There, medical professionals can treat your blister, apply a bandage, and get you back into the race.
If the blister might burst, you can puncture it yourself
If you have a particularly painful blister or if it looks like it’s going to burst on its own, you’ll want to drain it and leave the skin intact to help prevent infection. Sterilize a needle, which you can do with rubbing alcohol, a flame, or boiling water.
Next, gently pierce the blister at points around its edges and carefully push the fluid out. Once it’s drained, put antiseptic cream on it and cover the area with moleskin to help prevent infection and provide cushioning.
You’ll want to keep an eye on your blister every day to make sure it hasn’t gotten infected. Some signs of infection are redness and pus, and if you see these, you should call a doctor, particularly if you have a pre-existing condition such as diabetes where you are more prone to infection.
How do you prevent blisters from occurring?
Ideally, though, you won’t ever have to deal with treating blisters, because there are ways to prevent them from occurring in the first place. In this section, we’ll cover a wide variety of tactics you can use to prevent blisters.
Don’t skimp on socks
Just as good running shoes are important for runners, so are good running socks. High-quality, moisture-wicking socks that are contoured to your foot stay in place when you run. This means less rubbing, and less rubbing means fewer blisters.
Socks made of synthetic fibers, not cotton, and socks with no seams are the A-standard. Plus, if you get socks specifically made for running, they will be anatomically shaped.
Some people even choose to wear two pair of socks to deter blisters, thinking that any friction will occur between the two sock layers as opposed to the skin and the sock.
Wear the correct size shoe
This might be a bit paradoxical, but you want to wear at least a half of a size larger in a running shoe than your street shoe. You need to have a little room in your toebox.
Most people wear shoes that are a half a size too small, so if you find yourself getting blisters a lot, you might want to check the size of your running shoes. If it’s the size you’d normally wear for a street shoe, go at least a half a size up and see if that gets rid of the blisters.
Use glide or petroleum (or non-petroleum) jelly
If you know the places where you are prone to get blisters, you can use a lubricant like BodyGlide or Vaseline on problem spots. But make sure that you don’t overdo it on your feet, as too much lubricant there will cause your feet to slide around in your shoes.
Use tape or padding for added protection
Another option if you know your “hot spots” is to use tape or padding for extra protection. Make sure if you do, though, that the moleskin or athletic tape is tight and smooth, but not too tight. Also, you don’t want any wrinkles, as that can cause rubbing and chafing.
Don’t shave calluses if you get a pedicure
This probably doesn’t apply to any men reading this article, but for all of us women, who doesn’t love a pedicure? You come out after a relaxing hour with your feet feeling so much smoother thanks to the removed calluses!
If you’re a runner, though, no calluses isn’t a good thing, because they serve as blister protection for your feet. Just tell the individual giving you the pedicure to nix the removal of calluses with a razor or emery board. You don’t want to be more at risk for blisters!
In the end, if you have any chafing going on when you’re running, there’s a good chance that you might develop some blisters. Hopefully this article gave you some good tips about how to prevent blisters as well as how to treat them. Good luck running blister-free!