Blisters! They’re fluid-filled monsters that can knock out every runner. Whether you’re a marathoner or a novice runner, blisters on your feet can impact your kinetic chain and hinder your running routine.
Most runners think that the proper footwear would solve their blister problem, but there is more to it. It is essential to consider your foot movement inside shoes, the surface where you run, and the types of socks you wear. Although blisters do not pose a severe health risk, they can sideline a runner.
Here’s a detailed guide to help you treat and prevent blisters like a champ.
Why Do Blisters Occur In Runners?
Although blisters are a natural protective mechanism of your body, if ignored, they can wreak havoc on your kinetic chain and running routines.
Most people think that heat and moisture are the main culprits causing blisters. But what mainly contributes are the underlying shear forces between your foot and shoe soles that lead to the formation of blisters.
When the foot lands on the ground, the outer layer of skin moves vigorously against your shoe or shocks. If you’re wearing tight shoes, there is no space for your feet to move around, and this causes the production of excessive frictional forces.
As the bump and grind continue, the inner layer separates from the outer layer. As a result, fluid builds up, and a sac-like shape is seen.
Marathon runners or casual runners must be cautious as these blisters can lead to bacterial infection. If you have diabetes, report to your doctor immediately.
4 Ways To Heal Blisters Faster in Runners
With such wear and tear on your feet, no wonder running for longer miles can lead to these pesky sacs. Blisters can pop out during your marathon or even during your training periods. And dealing with them can be a real pain sometimes. Here are five things you should do to treat blisters as a runner.
What’s The First Thing You Should Do?
The first thing to decide is: to leave it or burst it? Simply put, if the blister is small while your skin is intact and you’ve difficulty bending your toe, leave it as it is. Cover it with gauze and let it rest for two days to shrink on its own.
Next, prepare a blister running kit. A blister running kit will help you treat mild to moderate blisters between the runs or after your daily running. However, immediately consult your sports physician if your blister is extremely painful.
Blister Kit For Runners
Here are some essentials to have in your running blister kit:
- Gauze pads
- Alcohol swaps
- Kinesio tape
- Needles or small scalpels
Ignoring your blisters when you run will change your running pattern, affect your kinetic chain, putting tremendous pressure on your foot, knees, and glute muscles.
1. Clean The Blister With An Antiseptic
During your workout or running session, if the blister starts forming, it’s better to cover it with a zinc oxide tape or bandage. However, after your workout, you should consider cleaning it properly.
If you’ve not popped your blister, just wash it with clean water, apply antiseptic and cover it with gauze or moleskin.
On the other hand, if you’ve punctured your blister:
- Do not remove the covered skin unless it’s dirty or torn
- Avoid using ethanol, iodine, or other antiseptics to clean a popped blister
- Wash the area with clean water
- Apply petroleum jelly to the blister
2. Cover It With A Gauze Bandage Or Padding
Covering blisters with a band-aid or non-stick gauze protects your blisters and keeps them intact. During running, when you cannot pop your blisters or when your blisters are not painful, it’s better to leave them covered. Before covering it with gauze, apply vaseline to it to prevent friction.
If you’re leaving your blister unpopped for two days, clean it daily and secure the gauze with adhesive tape.
Blisters on heel areas bear pressure when you walk or run. Hence, most podiatrists suggest runners cover pressure-bearing blisters with proper padding. Cut the padding in a doughnut shape and place it around the blister to give it a proper covering. Next, cover the blister with a bandage.
3. Do Not Pop Blisters If It’s Not Painful
Whether you should pop your blisters or not depends on the blister itself. Most podiatrists suggest that if the blister is not painful, you should avoid popping it.
Some other conditions where you should avoid puncturing are as follows:
- If the blister is not too large
- If it’s not getting irritating
- If you do not have any scheduled running races
Once you leave the blister for two to three days, the damaged skin will heal itself. The body reabsorbs the fluid once new skin forms. Consequently, your skin will dry after some time, and you’re good to go running on the field.
4. Apply Aloe vera Gel To Promote Healing
Aloe vera gel contains constituents that work as an astringent for your blisters. It will help to reduce inflammation and swelling when applied to the affected area. As a runner, if you want to fasten the healing process, do not miss out on trying aloe vera gel.
According to research in 2019, Aloe vera gel demonstrates impressive healing in almost all skin diseases. Various researches have proved that Aloe vera increases cell proliferation and collagen production.
You can apply aloe vera gel on the blister as a home remedy and leave it for drying. Wash it with lukewarm water and cover the skin with a dry bandage.
However, no research-based evidence explicitly highlights the effects of aloe vera on blisters, but its advantages on skin healing cannot be neglected.
5 Simple Ways To Prevent Blisters In Runners
As a novice or experienced runner, you’d want the blisters not to reoccur. The best way to prevent the formation of blisters is to narrow down the cause. It is possible that your running shoes are tight or too wide, or you’re not wearing the right socks. Look out for all the possible symptoms and work on them.
1. Never Run Wearing Cotton Socks
Wearing cotton socks is big nay for runners!
Cotton socks retain sweat and moisture, contributing to blisters, calluses, hot spots, and chafing. Before running, ensure you’ve bought top-quality socks specifically designed for running.
Most podiatrists suggest trying out nylon socks to remove moisture and reduce friction between your shoe soles and skin. Furthermore, the thickness of your socks matters the most when choosing the right shoes.
Do not wear tight and thick socks as there will be minimum ventilation and no room in the shoe for proper foot movement.
The best way is to buy your socks and shoes and test them during training to know what works best for you.
Pro-tip: Consider changing your socks between your marathon as soon as your socks get wet or you feel hot flares in your foot. This is why most expert runners keep two pairs of socks with them.
2. Do Not Wear Tight Running Shoes
Wearing well-fitted shoes for a runner is essential to prevent blister formation. If your shoes are too loose, your feet will slide forward during your running stride. As you take each step, the outer skin layer begins to separate, leading to fluid buildup.
Similarly, tight-fitted shoes minimize ventilation and toe movement and as you run for longer miles, continuous friction causes blister formation. Look for running shoes that are comfortable and protective. Before hitting the track, visit a running specialist to ensure you’re wearing the right fit.
When you’ve bought a new pair, go out for short walks or run for shorter miles so that your feet get accustomed to them. New shoes are more susceptible to developing friction. Thus, most podiatrists suggest building up your speed in new shoes gradually. Make sure to break in running shoes before running.
3. Wear Two Socks
It might sound odd to wear two socks, but it helps minimize the frictional forces between your socks and skin. Now, friction will occur between the two socks rather than your skin and shoe.
The inner layer of the sock will absorb all the moisture and keep your feet dry, preventing blister formation. On the other hand, the outer layer of the sock absorbs excessive moisture and also reduces underlying shear forces.
Doubling up might not work for everyone, as some of you might feel tight after wearing one pair. But if you have enough room in your shoe after wearing one sock, try this option.
4. Keep Your Feet Clean And Dry
Healthy foot hygiene is essential to prevent the formation of blisters, calluses, or athlete’s foot. Besides blisters, excessive moisture retention for more prolonged periods can cause red rash, swelling, or even bleeding. Therefore, keep your feet dry at all costs.
Before hitting the track, wear wicking socks that keep the moisture away. And try to change your socks when you’re running for longer miles. Also, try sprinkling plain cornstarch, baby powder, or talcum powder in your socks to keep your feet dry.
After each run, it is advisable to wash your feet with clean water to remove all the buildup bacteria.
5. Lubricate And Cover Your Problem Spots
If you repeatedly get blisters on one area of your feet, it is best to lubricate it and cover it with moleskin or bandages. You can lubricate your foot with petroleum jelly, ointments, or sports lubricants.
Most podiatrists do not recommend putting lubricants before the run or even one day before. When you put lubricants on the affected area, it gets slippery, which is desired. But what happens very soon after that is that it gets dry and sticky. This causes more stretching between your skin and shoes, increasing the likelihood of blister formation.
So, all in all, put on the moisturizer a few days before your run.
Running with Blisters: Summary
Never let your blisters slow down on your tracks. Narrow down the cause and work on it to prevent blister formation in the future. Invest in running shoes that provide maximum comfort and fit your foot well.
PharmD, Salim Habib University | A Medical and Healthcare Writer