Blister 101 For Runners

Lara Rosenbaum
by Lara Rosenbaum
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Blister 101 For Runners

Good news: You can treat blisters on your own — and even drain them with a podiatrist’s blessing. Of course, you can also prevent them before you even leave your house. Here are some easy ways to keep your feet in prime form, even if you’ve been rubbing them the wrong way.

BLISTER PREVENTION

“Blisters come from high-frequency friction, whereas a callous is from low-frequency friction,” explains Dr. Lisa Schoene, a Chicago-based sports-medicine podiatrist who often serves as a race doctor. “In other words, a callous can take a while to form, while a blister arises from fast rubbing, like when you run, and typically when you add moisture to the picture, whether it’s from sloshing through puddles or sweating like crazy.”

The best way to prevent blisters? Keep your feet dry. Choose socks made from technical fabrics or wool, which tend to wick sweat away from your skin. (Try UA HeatGear SoLo socks, which are not only designed to keep your feet dry in high temps, but they also help prevent microbes from growing, to keep your soles odor free.)

“If you’re prone to excessive sweating, you could try a foot powder or even an antiperspirant,” Schoene adds. “You may find relief using an antiperspirant spray on your feet a few times per week or every other day. And if that doesn’t help, there are stronger products your doctor can prescribe that can help keep your feet dry.”

It goes without saying to make sure your shoes fit properly and the usual rules apply. Shop for new running kicks late in the day, when your feet are at their largest and go up a half- or full-size from your dress shoes, to allow your toes enough room to spread. “You also shouldn’t feel the need to break in your running shoes,” Schoene says. “They should feel race-ready from the start and not irritate any issues your feet may have, like hammer toes or bunions.”

BLISTER TREATMENT

Yep, you can treat them. Draining blisters was once thought to be a no-no because it could put you at risk for infection. But now it’s known to help you heal faster. “I recommend draining blisters; just don’t take the roof off,” Schoene says. “Clean a pin with alcohol, and then poke the blister in a couple places along the edge of it. Once it drains, make sure the roof is ‘sealed,’ and use a little antibiotic cream before applying a Band-Aid.”

RUNNING WITH BLISTERS

Yep, you can run with blisters, too. Schoene favors newer, jelly-like blister bandages over moleskin, because the latter is thick, and can bunch in shoes. You can also try a liquid bandage, or newer, waterproof tapes, some of which are designed to protect blisters from further damage. Cover the blister with some gauze first, so the tape doesn’t pull at the blister’s roof. “You have to be careful with tape, too, because it can wrinkle,” Schoene says. “Make sure your feet are as dry as possible, to give the tape a better chance to stick.”

If you’re mid-run or even mid-race, Schoene suggests pausing as soon as you feel a hotspot, to cover it. “Some runners who are prone to blisters even pin Band-Aids to their race bibs, to have them handy on the go,” she says.

About the Author

Lara Rosenbaum
Lara Rosenbaum
Lara is a writer, athlete and wellness expert living in Nashville, Tennessee. She has held editorial positions at several magazines, including Women’s Health, where she was the founding fitness editor. Lara is a former elite athlete, traveling the world as a member of the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team, as well as a certified personal trainer and yoga teacher. In her free time she enjoys playing with her dogs, spotting art and strumming her guitar.

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