Most runners know too well the discomfort of blisters. Blisters are caused by friction as your socks or shoes rub against the skin of your feet. Some culprits that make it more likely you’ll have to deal with a painful blister when running include poor-fitting shoes or socks, heat, moisture, foot abnormalities or running at a fast pace or for long periods of time.
The good news is that blisters aren’t serious. They are simply a build-up of fluid beneath the area of skin that is being rubbed. If you have a blood blister, it means the friction ruptured tiny blood vessels in the area.
The bad news is that blisters can cause pain. They can make it difficult to run, or may even cause you to call it quits. In fact, these little “annoyances” can be a runner’s worst nightmare.
The key to dealing with blisters is to learn how to prevent them in the first place. If you do get a blister despite your best laid plans, it’s important to keep in mind that although localized pain and a burning sensation are the primary symptoms of a blister, if you pop a blister or it opens on its own, there’s an added risk of infection, which can be very serious.
Here are five tips to help you prevent pesky blisters from ruining your run:
Make sure shoes fit properly
If shoes are too big and feet slide around, it’s more likely you’ll get blisters. If shoes are too small, you can get blisters at the ends and bottoms of your toes. You should have about a thumbs-width of space between the end of your toes and the front inside edge of the shoe.
Keep your feet dry by wearing moisture-wicking, breathable socks
Moisture can lead to blisters, so by keeping feet dry, you’re less likely to suffer the pain. Antiperspirants can be used to keep skin dry, although some people experience skin irritation. Powder is another way to keep feet dry, reducing moisture and therefore friction.
Cotton socks retain moisture so instead choose synthetic socks that wick moisture away from skin. Socks should fit snugly, with no extra fabric that can rub. Reinforced heals and toes can also help reduce friction.
It may seem counter-intuitive to add moisture to your feet, but if you do so in a way that keeps skin slick, it’s less prone to friction. Use lubricants, like Vaseline, anti-chafing gels, creams or lotions. Studies indicate that although effective, lubricants may lose their effectiveness in about an hour.
Tape your feet or your shoes
Apply duct tape or paper surgical tape to blister-prone areas on your feet. A study of ultramarathon runners in 2014 showed that only 24 percent of runners had blisters when using paper tape during a race while 63 percent had blisters in non-taped areas. Some runners prefer to use duct tape on the inside seams of their shoes rather than their feet to prevent rubbing.
Apply padding to blister-prone areas
If you know areas of your feet are prone to developing blisters, applying moleskin or padded bandages under your socks can prevent the skin from being rubbed. The key to making this work effectively is to know how to apply properly (or having a physical therapist do it) so that padding doesn’t move around as your feet get moist, causing even more friction while running.