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Runners Guide How to prevent and treat blisters

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Runners blisters


Blisters can pack a pretty mean punch when it comes to running and other athletic activities but there is hope.

Blisters can pack a pretty mean punch when it comes to running and other athletic activities but there is hope.

These little bumps or bubbles result from friction against the foot, causing the outer layers of skin to rub together, separate, and fill with fluid.

The culprit can be anything from new or poorly fitting running shoes to wet feet caused by non-absorbent socks.

Log in enough miles, and they’re bound to pop up.

Blisters shouldn’t be ignored, covered with a band-aid, and forgotten for another day, because they can get infected and cause a whole new world of trouble.

Aside from causing localized pain and burning sensations, when blisters are infected they fill with pus and if the blister ruptures, there runs a risk for secondary impetigo, a contagious bacterial infection, or cellulitis, a more serious skin infection.

Continuing to let infected blisters go untreated could also result in Sepsis, a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection in the bloodstream or body tissue.

Individuals with diabetes are more susceptible to foot blisters, as a result of diabetic neuropathy, and should handle treatment with caution in order to prevent infection.

Luckily, there’s more than one way to stop blisters before they ruin a run.

From moleskin and Vaseline to socks and shoes, here's a list of key ways to spare your feet and keep you running for the long haul.

Your best bet is to prevent blisters before they start and here’s how.

  • Choose socks wisely: The right socks are super important when it comes to blister prevention. Socks provide extra support for our feet, keep moisture away, and can minimize the friction that leads to those nasty blisters. Steer clear of cotton socks, though, which soak up sweat and moisture and, as a result, are most likely to cause blisters. Try nylon socks instead, which allow for more breathability and less moisture buildup on the foot. Some runners also swear by wicking socks, a wool blend sock that pulls moisture away from feet.

  • Double up: If one pair of socks isn't cutting it, try wearing two! That way, any friction can happen between the two pairs of socks, rather than one pair of socks and your own skin.

  • Try tapes and bandages: For spots on the feet that are notorious for blisters, try adhering moleskin or other soft but secure bandages to problem areas before throwing on socks and hitting the pavement. One study showed that Blist-O-Ban bandages not only stayed on sweaty feet but also prevented the formation of blisters.

  • Prevent friction with powders and creams: Try a special foot powder. Simply pour it into socks to create a frictionless surface on the foot. Good old Vaseline can also keep friction to a minimum.

  • Buy well-fitted shoes: The least we can do for ourselves is make sure we’re wearing the right training shoes. Before hitting the road, visit a specialty running store to make sure you’re wearing the best fit. A running specialist can also perform a gait analysis if blisters persist despite bandages, creams, or other means of prevention.

If a blister isn't too painful and isn't preventing you from walking, then it's best to keep it intact to help prevent risk of infection, besides, blisters are pretty good at healing themselves when left alone. Cover small blisters with an adhesive bandage, and large ones with a porous, plastic-coated gauze pad, so the blister can breathe.

If popping looks to be the best course of action, always check for potential signs of infection before touching a blister.

See a doctor if the blister is secreting yellow or green pus, if the area becomes increasingly swollen or inflamed, or if you have any other reason to think it could be infected.

If there are no signs of infection, follow these steps to pop blisters safely on your own:

  1. Don't skimp on the water and soap!

  2. Use a clean swab with water and soap, rubbing alcohol, or iodine.

  3. Use a small, sharp needle or a pin should do it. Use rubbing alcohol and a clean swab or pad.

  4. Try not to freak out about poking yourself with a needle.

  5. Aim for spots close to the blister’s edge. Soak up the draining fluid with a clean piece of cotton or gauze.

  6. Then place gauze and/or an adhesive bandage over the area (think of it as a construction site, you want that whole section quarantined). Secure gauze with medical tape.

  7. Then cut away and remove the dead skin (Use sterilized scissors or tweezers and rubbing alcohol to keep the area clean.).

  8. Apply more antibiotic ointment and bandage again until healed.

While there may be more than one way to get a blister, there are at least as many ways to prevent and treat them.

Don’t get discouraged if one pops up early on in your running career, just assess the issue, find a preventative method that works for you, and get back on the roads when the skin is healed and free from pain.

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