How to Minimize Your Chances of Getting Blisters
One of my close friends in high school had a rule that only applied to me: socks stay on at all times. She wasn’t being mean or anything. My feet just grossed her out. All the miles I was running for cross country led to plenty of unsightly calluses and blisters.
In all honesty, I didn’t appreciate a new blister any more than my friend did. There just wasn’t anything else to do besides shrug my shoulders and own up to my ugly feet. Once you have a blister, there’s only so much you can do.
Things have improved a lot since then. Over the years I’ve come up with a mostly foolproof system for avoiding blisters. But before we dive into prevention, let’s start with a closer look at why we get blisters in the first place.
What causes blisters?
There are actually a lot of incidents and conditions that can result in blisters. Causes include burns, frostbite, and complications from certain medical conditions. When it comes to running, though, friction and pressure are to blame.
That probably sounds overly simplistic, but combatting any unwanted rubbing actually takes some thought. Everything from wearing an ill-fitting shoe to stepping into a puddle can quickly lead to blisters, so being proactive is a must. Here are my tips.
What you can do to minimize your risk
1. Take shoe shopping seriously
I treat shoe shopping with the seriousness most people reserve for purchasing a car. That means going to a specialty running store with knowledgeable staff. These experts can take a look at your foot shape and running form to determine your shoe needs. Once you have a few options picked out, take them for a test run. Seriously. I ran several blocks in no fewer than three different pairs the last time I switched shoes.
Test runs are crucial because you never know that a shoe is going to rub against your heel or arch until you give it a shot. Shoes that are even a bit too small or big could lead you down a painful road. And once you find a pair that works for you, consider sticking with it. I’ve been wearing new editions of the same kicks for about 7 years.
2. Think carefully about your sock choices
This probably sounds like a silly recommendation, but I’ve found myself regretting poor sock choices in the past. Those ultra-low ones that some folks favor simply don’t work for me. The same is true of socks with a lot of extra seams and ones that are too big. In each case, I wind up with painful blisters.
This doesn’t mean you should never try out new socks but think carefully about your choices. Material matters a lot. Water (or sweat) softens skin and intensifies friction against the fabric, so go for moisture-wicking fabric. And be sure they fit properly. Excess material means excess friction.
3. Know your trouble areas
You may still find you have some problems even with great shoes and socks. Whether it’s due to your form or something else, you can minimize your chance of blisters by using an anti-chafing product designed for athletes. I slick a little over the area just above my heels before every run. Dermatologists also suggest trying petroleum jelly.
4. Steer clear of puddles
All your careful preparation will be for naught if you step into ankle-deep water during a run. It doesn’t matter that you did everything else right. We already noted that sweat can make things worse, so just imagine how much damage you can do by submerging your entire foot in a puddle.
What if you still get a blister?
Sometimes all the preparation in the world just doesn’t cut it. I’ll admit that I still get occasional blisters in unexpected places on my feet. If it’s not too bad, your best bet is to keep it clean and try to protect it. You might be able to get by with just a bandage. Or you can cut a hole the size of the blister in moleskin, place it over the top, then cover it with gauze.
I have to confess that I typically drain mine. Most of the (rare) blisters I get are large and quite painful. Though there is always some risk of infection, Runner’s World points out it could just puncture on it’s own anyway. I’d rather be in control of the cleanliness.
To drain the wound, sterilize a needle as well as the area with rubbing alcohol. Puncture the edge of the blister, use your fingers to drain the liquid by pressing down, then cover it with a bandage unil the skin firms up again. You’ll be ready to run in no time.