How do I prevent blisters? This is one of the most common questions from long distance runners. Some simple prevention methods and prompt treatment when a blister occurs can help prevent infection, reduce pain, and will help you get back to running.
What is a blister?
Foot blisters can show up anywhere on your feet and are small to medium sized pockets of skin containing fluid. There are two layers of skin in the foot. The top layer is the epidermis and the bottom layer is the dermis. A blister occurs when the epidermis separates from the dermis leaving a space between the 2 layers and this space fills up with fluid.
Some blisters are small and barely noticeable while running, but others can be large, quite painful, and even stop you from running.
What causes blisters?
Most blisters are caused by friction due to rubbing of the skin against socks or shoes. Running causes your feet to sweat and this excessive moisture in the foot can increase your chances of getting a blister(s) as there is more friction. Furthermore, running in wet conditions such as rain or on moist ground can cause your shoes to take on extra moisture as well therefore leading to increased friction and blistering.
Another common cause of blisters is wearing running shoes that are not sized properly. Make sure that your running shoes are not too small or tied to tightly to prevent blistering.
How are blisters prevented?
The key to preventing blisters is to minimize friction. This is best accomplished by wearing properly sized running shoes. Your shoes should be about a half size bigger than your everyday shoes because feet tend to swell while running. When buying your shoes, make sure that you have a little room in your toe box (about a thumb’s width) and be sure that there is no slipping in the heel. When buying new shoes bring the same socks and any shoe inserts such as orthotics that you will be wearing while running. It is a good idea to purchase your running shoes at night since your feet will swell during the day.
Next, it is a good idea to spend a little bit extra and purchase socks that are specifically made for running. These socks are designed with fewer seams and are made of synthetic materials rather than cotton. This design creates a smoother surface and the material is designed to wick away moisture from your feet. This leads to less friction and this decreases the chance of blistering.
Next, consider purchasing blister covers or sporting tape from a drugstore and place them over the areas that you commonly get blisters. You can also purchase an anti-friction rub from a sporting supply store. This looks like a deodorant stick that you rub on your feet and is applied to the areas where you commonly get blisters. Be careful that you don’t apply too much of rub as your feet can become slippery.
How are blisters treated?
If you get a blister that is small, not causing pain, and does not affect your running, the best thing to do is to leave it alone. The skin covering the blister will act as a barrier to the raw skin layer below and the fluid will eventually drain. Always keep an eye on the area and know the cardinal signs of infection including redness, swelling, warmth, pain, and loss of function. If these occur seek immediate medical attention.
If the blister is more severe, appears infected, or if affecting your running, the best thing to do is to visit a podiatrist to have it treated professionally.
If you are experiencing pain when running caused by blisters or any other problem affecting your foot or ankle, call us today to schedule an appointment so that we can help you get back to running pain free as soon as possible.