Let's face it, getting blisters on your feet is one of the most irritating injuries from running. Most runners have had at least one run or race destroyed because of a painful foot blister.
Detailed below are the side effects, causes, and tips on the best way to prevent and treat blisters.
Here are the products that I mention below with links so you can check pricing on Amazon.
What Causes a Blister on your Foot?
The folks from drugs.com define blisters as a "bubble of fluid under the skin" These fluid-filled pockets are created when the mix of warmth, friction, and sweat irritate the surface of the skin. Blisters typically form on the toes, soles, and heels of the feet.
Furthermore, irritation seems to be the most prominent contributing factor for blisters, especially in runners. Put simply, irritation is caused mostly by excessive rubbing between your skin and an external object, namely your shoes or socks.
Considering this, here are three typical ways of how blisters form, all of which are easy fixes. Of course, there are other variables that can cause blisters while running, but I have found that these three to be the main culprits.
- Shoes that don't fit well
- Socks that don't secure the skin
- Extremely sweaty feet
Even if you do everything correctly, it’s totally possible to still get a blister while running, so try not to let it bother you. Just do your due diligence, make sure you take care of it, and then you’ll be back in no time.
Let’s look at the most common blister location for runners, the toes.
Why do I get Blisters Between my Toes ?
There is no doubt in my mind that the most annoying and irritating place to get a blister is between the toes. Blisters between the toes (or the medical term is interdigital blisters) are similarly caused by the same issues that you would get foot blisters but because of the proximity of one toe to another and the natural shape/curl of your toes, these happen more often than not.
Some external factors contributing to this rubbing could also be shoes that are too big or too small, socks that bunch up or constrain your toes together, or excessive sweat causing extra wet rubbing between your toes.
The easiest fix is to purchase "toe socks" (# 3 on our Top 5 Socks to Prevent Blisters). Toe socks not your thing? Podiatrist Rebecca Rushton from blisterprevention.com.au also recommends toe wedges, silicone toe sleeves, and taping. All of which are viable options. They may be a little uncomfortable at first but after a few miles, it will start to feel natural.
How to Avoid Blisters when Running
The easiest way to reduce your risk of developing blisters on your foot while you run is by ensuring your foot fits comfortably inside the shoe. Too little or too much space allows your feet to foot's rub against the side of the shoe.
Here are a few quick tips on How to Avoid Developing Blisters.
- Got new shoes? Gradually break in your shoes - don't go for a 10-mile run the first time you lace them up. Try a shorter distance to break them in gradually, or even consider a couple of walks to get comfortable first.
- Make sure your shoes are no more than a 1/2 size larger. Feet swell when you run. If your shoes are snug before a run, it might be wise to grab a new pair.
- Make sure you don’t get shoes that are too big either, a “rule of thumb” is to have a thumb nail’s worth of space between your big toe and the front of the shoe.
- Don't over tighten when you tie your shoes. This added squeeze on your feet coupled with the warmth of feet when you run can equal blisters
- Wear good socks particularly ones that you would wear during a race that are appropriate for your feet (size and thickness) - Our Top 5 Socks.
- Do not wear worn-out socks - this one seems like common sense but if you are running with holey socks you are asking for blisters.
The 3 Steps to Treating Blisters on Feet from Running
1. Drain & Bandage it
When blisters do occur most would recommend not running at all and let it heal. This is mainly because the pain can cause you to alter your gait-cycle and stress other muscles/tendons unevenly. In some cases, it can also open up and become infected.
But let's be serious, most runners aren’t going to take time off for a blister. So here is how you can care for your blister and continue to train intelligently.
The first step is to slightly poke a tiny whole in the blister with a sterile object to drain any fluid from it. Once the fluid has fully drained be sure to clean the area with antiseptic ointment/cream. Once cleaned, cover it with a bandage.
If your blister is excessively red, colored discharge or irritation or sensitivity around the area be sure to contact your doctor. I really like the specific BLISTER Band-Aids. I've used these numerous times and they tend not to slip off of my feet when I run.
I also like how they cushion my blister without irritating it. Another item that I have used in the past is the Compeed Advanced Blister Care Bandage, which feels about the same quality.
2. Cover it
Once the blister has started to heal (normally takes a couple of days) be sure to wear dry, well-fitting socks. You might get the urge to wear the thicker cotton socks thinking that the extra thickness would serve as padding. However, this is actually counterintuitive.
The thicker cotton socks hold moisture and create friction which adds to the formation of blisters.
3. Clean and Protect it Regularly
Although it is easy to follow steps 1 and 2, this is the step that makes the biggest difference. The better you take care of your drained blister, the quicker it will fully recover.
Try to clean and reapply a new bandage to your blister twice a day for at least 3 days. Once you have gotten there, you can reevaluate your blister and go from there. If it is all good then you should be home free, if it is still healing, then repeat for as many days as it takes to fully recover.
These steps follow in line with the recommendations of the American Academy of Dermatology Association. For more information, you can check them out too!
Blister Relief For Runners
So you have drained the blister, cleaned the area, and bandaged it up. What are other ways to seek relief?I have used the padding rolls that you would put on a blister. Sometimes when I run I find that I get blisters in the same exact spot over and over again regardless of what socks I wear. So these Dr. Scholl's Padding Rolls work really well. The cushion for the area that creates friction or rubbing and reduces the risk of additional blisters from forming.
Some runners truly love the HikeGoo Blister Cream. I've never tried it but I do know several runners that absolutely love it. We received over 25 emails from fellow runners raving about the Body Glide anti-blister balm.
It goes on like deodorant for your feet and it keeps your feet cool and dry. Honestly, you could just get the regular Body Glide balm as well because it will work just as well and you might have an easier time using it for other parts of your body too!Toe socks have started to become extremely popular within many running circles. They separate your toes so that it removes the friction and removes the chance of developing blisters between your toes.
This movement has happened mostly among ultra runners and hikers, but it is slowly trickling down to the road running community as well. Here are the five best toe socks that we have tested
I hope these tips and recommendations help you keep blisters from forming or treat them so that you can get out and run pain-free