Blisters can be the bane of any runner’s’ life. From minor discomfort to more serious complications such as infection, blisters can put you out of action if you’re not smart about how to handle them, so it pays to do your research. Even better is preventing them altogether.
This article lists some of the best ways to combat blisters and enjoy your running free of distraction.
What Is a Blister?
A blister is a small pocket of clear bodily fluid (usually plasma or serum) that occurs in the upper layers of the skin. This fluid builds up under the skin when it comes under stress. Blisters obviously don’t just affect runners, but they’re certainly more common among people who exercise. That’s because the main cause is friction, usually when your socks or shoes rub against your skin. Activities such as running can intensify this rubbing process, leaving you with a tender and painful area that can affect performance when you’re training or racing.
Common Causes of Blisters for Runners
The motion of running shouldn’t cause blisters alone, but when combined with a few other factors, they become more of a likely possibility. One of these factors is moist skin, so if you sweat a lot you’re at increased risk of getting a blister. Another is new or poorly fitting shoes. Before you’ve broken in your running shoes, they can be stiff and unyielding; causing friction with every stride. Likewise, if your shoes are too small, you’re also going to suffer from chafing that is likely to turn into blisters. Many runners are usually blister-free, but come race day, they start to suffer. This is because the increased exertion causes both heat and moisture, which will cause the feet to swell and lead to more friction.
How Can Runners Prevent Blisters?
Luckily, there are some simple solutions that can easily be applied, if you know the main causes of blisters for runners. Knowing that friction is the primary cause, and heat moisture can exacerbate this, there are several precautions you can take. Here are a few of them:
• Wear specialist running socks – regular fabrics like cotton retain moisture, and wet feet can chafe against your shoes. Opt for technical, moisture-wicking fabrics that will prevent your feet from getting sweaty even during intense activity.
• Try creams or other lubricants – it might sound counterintuitive to put lubricants on your feet, but just like excessive moisture, excessive dryness can also increase friction and cause blisters. Simple solutions like vaseline can help when applied to your feet.
• Wear properly fitted footwear – this should be obvious even without considering blisters, but if your shoes are even slightly too small then they’re going to be awkwardly rubbing against your feet and increasing the chances of developing a blister with every stride.
• Powders and tapes – specialist powders can also help prevent excess sweating, while taping your feet can act as a protective barrier. See what works for you.
How Should Runners Treat Blisters?
There are different schools of thought on blister treatments. On the whole, blisters are usually not a serious concern and will heal themselves in a matter of days if left alone. Sometimes this isn’t possible though. The most important thing is to be smart if you have to treat a blister yourself. Here are some of your options
• Rest – since they’re caused by friction and chafing, the most obvious blister treatment is simply resting for a little while and letting your body heal itself. If you have no important races coming up, you’re better off not making things worse by running again straight away.
• Draining it (if absolutely necessary) – inactivity can be hard for runners, so you might struggle to avoid running for several days, especially if you have an important race approaching. If you absolutely have to pop your blister, make sure you do it right. Use a sterilized needle to puncture the blister, then gently squeeze until you’ve drained all the fluid out. Finish by bandaging the blister.
While in an ideal world you would leave the blister to heal on its own, if you’re going to race anyway there’s a good chance it would burst, so it’s better to drain it before a race sometimes. Be careful of infection, use creams and bandages and obviously don’t use an unsterile needle. If it does seem to be infected, then see a medical professional and don’t keep running on it.
If you’re one of the lucky ones, you might not ever get blisters when running. Unfortunately, the majority of runners will suffer from this annoyance at some time or another. There are several simple precautions you can take if you want to minimize the risks and enjoy distraction-free training and races. If you can’t wait it out and have to pop your blister, make sure you’re sensible and do all you can to prevent infection.