Running with a foot blister is a real pain but an integral part of a runner’s life.
But, the good news is, a blister is no reason to retire your running shoes for good.
There are many measures you can take to not only treat them but to also prevent painful blisters from plaguing your runs.
In this article, you’ll get the full scope on the causes of blisters when running, how to safely treat them, and how to prevent them for good.
Let’s get started.
Running Blisters Explained
Run long enough, and blisters are bound to pop up. There’s no way around that.
What’s a running blister? Blisters are the annoying little bumps caused by continuous friction, forcing the outer layers of the skin to rub together, break apart, and fill with gross fluid.
Anything that makes the friction worse exacerbate running blisters, including improper running shoes (too tight or too loose), bad running form, and foot anomalies, like hammertoes, bunions, and heel spurs.
Blister-prone areas in runners include the arches, the soles of the feet, and the toe as these areas often rub against running shoes in a continuous, non-stop manner during a runner.
The Blistering Process
First, a tear takes place within the epidermis, which is the upper portion of the skin, then the outer layer separates from the inner layers, creating a space between the sheets while leaving the surface intact.
Next, lymph fluids seep into that space, building up under the affected skin area.
In some cases, a blood vessel rupture may result in a blood blister.
Gross, I know.
How to Treat Blisters For Runners
Most cases of running blisters aren’t medical emergencies, but shouldn’t be ignored—especially when they’re too painful. In fact, some blisters can get infected if you don’t take care of them early and properly.
Here’s how to safely treat running blisters in the comfort of your own home.
“To Pop or Not to Pop—That is the Question.”
If you develop a blister during a run, and it’s not aching, just let nature take its course. It will ultimately break, and the fluid will drain.
But make it a rule to always drain a throbbing, big blister. If you don’t take care of it soon, the blister may keep on hurting, and it could puncture on its own, which may result in infection.
To properly and safely drain a running blister do the following:
- Wash your hands. Don’t withhold on the water and soap.
- Wipe a needle with alcohol to sterilize it. You can also boil it for at least 10 minutes. Option, use 1cc medical syringe to suck the fluid in a sterile way.
- Cautiously pierce the blister in several spots. Choose spots close to the blister’s edge.
- Drain the fluid out with a clean piece of gauze or cotton but leave the skin covering the blister behind. This is an important defensive skin layer that helps prevent infection.
- Apply antiseptic cream on the wound, then cover it with a second skin (a product such as Band-Aid Blister Block) to stave off bacteria. You can also tape the blister overtop for extra safety.
- Never peel the excessive skin. Let it peel on its own by the time. The moment you peel it, the more surface prone to infection.
Dealing With Blisters in The Middle of A Race
If you develop a blister during a race (middle to long distance event), stop at one of the medical stations along the route and have it taken care of. The pros there will look over your blister and with some luck, you should be able to return to the race pain-free. This is the best way to deal with one of the most common causes of foot pain from running during a race.
How to Prevent Running Blisters
Want to avoid running blisters in the future? Do the following.
Shoes are often the source of the blisters for most runners.
Begin by running in proper running shoes. Ill-fitting trainers contribute to the formation of a blister, especially in the arches, under the toes, and on the ends of the toenails.
As a rule, leave enough wiggle room inside of the shoe—but not too much. Shoot for at least a thumb’s width of space between your longest toes and the end of the shoe.
What’s more? Try out different pairs before you make your mind. Then test drive it before you take it out for a run, wearing the shoe around until you break them in. This also helps soothe the pain of running bunions.
Choose Running Socks
Proper running socks offer extra support for your feet, stave off moisture, and can reduce the friction that causes those nasty blisters.
Start by avoiding cotton socks as these soak up sweat and moisture, increasing blister risk.
Instead, go for blister-free socks. I’d recommend synthetic, polypropylene, socks specifically designed for running, such as WrightSocks. Other good synthetic choices include Teflon or CoolMax.
Running-specific socks help wick moisture away from your skin faster than cotton material.
Do you have a bad history of blisters? Try doubling up on the socks to be double sure. When you wear two pairs of socks, the rubbing occurs amid the socks instead of between the sock and your own skin.
For rainy runs (or races), have an extra pair of socks to change into. Never run with wet socks. Not a good idea.
Another thing you can do to prevent running blisters is to moisten your feet before a run.
Lubricants help you minimize the friction that can lead to blisters. These provide a protective, unintrusive barrier between your skin and your trainers, keeping you blister-free from your first step to the last. That’s a good thing if you ask me.
Apply these lubricants regularly, especially on trouble areas. I’m talking about dry skin or skin with cracks. I personally prefer to use petroleum jelly because it’s cheap and easy to find. Popular running friendly brands include Sportlick, Runners Lube, Body Glide, Chamois, and Sports Shield. You take your pick.
Just slather on too much, or else your feet slide around in your shoes.