Guide to blisters
Blisters are a pain!
Blisters are painful. Those horribly sore burning red areas usually on your heels and toes reminding you of the discomfort you suffered on the way to getting them. Worst still, they don’t go away quickly and affect your everyday life afterwards, let alone your next run if that’s even a possibility.
Blisters appear on the outer skin and often fill with fluid. They’re sore and often itch. Worst still, if you get a blister and have continued to push through the pain, sometimes because you’ve felt you have little choice (you might be midway through a marathon for example), the blisters can burst and the skin splits showing the raw flesh underneath. Oh, I remember that pain very well!
Causes and prevention of blisters
Most foot blisters occur due to ill-fitting footwear and also an increase in friction between the foot and shoe or the sock and the foot.
Friction is the enemy of all runners. The rubbing causes heat build-up and rapidly becomes uncomfortable. Check for the causes:
- Do your shoes fit well enough.
- Do you have enough room at the end of the shoe, a fingers width when standing?
- Do they slip at the heel?
- Are they tight across the front of the foot causing your toes to bunch and rub against each other?
- Do your toes have enough room to splay out?
- Toe box height – do you feel like you have enough?
- Is the heel tab of the shoe too high and rubbing on your heel?
- Do the shoes have any internal seams that are rubbing?
- Do they have an inner seam that rubs? Usually at the very front of the sock.
- Are the socks made of a decent tech or cotton material? Other sports socks such as soccer socks would not be recommended.
- Do your feet remain dry? Moisture can lead to blisters - either sweat, getting wet on a run such as running through a puddle, or maybe taking water during a race and spilling on yourself.
Shoes can be changed. We’ve covered things like seamless uppers, lacing and heel lock-down in our reviews to help minimise the risk of ill-fitting shoes. Having enough room in the forefoot with benefit your toes and making sure they’re long enough will stop blisters at the end of the toes or losing a toe nail or two.
Socks can also be changed. Some people wear two pairs of thin socks to minimise the risk of blistering in a race. If there is any rubbing, one sock rubs against the other and not your foot. You’ll need to try this in training before race day though. Some socks are made with a double layer of material to replicate this, but most are one piece of material and running specific socks can be quite high tech. Although they might have a high price point, it’s often worth buy a couple of pairs of great anatomically designed socks for those special occasions like the very long runs and racing.
Friction is the thing that make the blisters pop up and fill with fluid. The body produces fluid in response to friction to try and protect itself. Another good method of minimising the risk of friction is to rub some Vaseline or an anti-chafing balm on those high risk areas – heels, outside of little toe, top of toes, ball of your foot etc. I did this for my marathon races and it worked well, but again, worth practising on training runs.
As stated, blisters can last a while and the difficulty is, allowing them to heal without more constant rubbing from everyday shoes. Although painful, most do not While most blisters don’t present a serious risk although they should be treated correctly to reduce the risk of infection.
Treatment for blisters
Popping the blister with a needle!
That was the old method of dealing with a blister, right?! This is not recommended as it could lead to infection via an unsterile needle. Breaking the skin to allow bacteria to enter is not a good idea.
If the blisters are very bad and affecting movement, leave them to shrink back down. If still there after a few days, go and see the doctor to have them dealt with professionally.
If the blister has popped, clean it thoroughly with soap and water. Dry thoroughly then apply an antibiotic ointment and keep applying it until it has healed.
There are a number of blister treatment materials on the market. Band-Aids specifically for blisters, gel pads, blister treatment patches etc. They will all protect the area and allow it to heal while providing some comfort with luck.