Q: How can I avoid and treat blisters from running? They’re terrible creatures.
A: There are 3 basic steps to avoidance, and then some ideas for treatment that can help.
Full disclosure – I’m actually the one who asked this question.
To get the ideas for the steps to prevent blisters, I reached out to the awesome community of fellow FitFluential ambassadors. The prevention ideas come down to three major categories:
- Friction Avoidance
- Watch for Hot Spots
If people responded to my call for ideas with one thing the most, it was to buy good socks. Notice I’m not saying which ones are best? That’s because a few people responded swearing by a few different brands. Why? Well, several are good, and none is universally best for everyone, so I’d say look into each of these and maybe try a few. They are (with Amazon links to help support this site):
- Feetures (from Melanie Stella Wright)
- Balega Blister Resist Socks (from Lisa Welch McLellan and Cynthia Picket Steele)
- Drymax (from Lisa Welch McLellan)
- SmartWool (from me and Laura Norris)
- Saucony Kinvara No Show Tab Socks (from Theresa Ferguson)
What do all of these socks have in common? It’s what they don’t have that they have in common. Namely, cotton. They’re all either a sweat-wicking synthetic blend, or, in the case of SmartWool, a synthetic/wool blend. The reason is that cotton doesn’t wick moisture, but rather retains it. That’s bound to make your feet raw. That’s why runners, hikers, skiers and more are all warned not to use cotton socks.
As a note, while I’ve linked to these products at Amazon, I would strongly suggest joining The Clymb or Active GearUp as they regularly have these brands on clearance. Alternatively, watch your local running store as they often do big sock sales. That’s how I got the 10-12 pairs of SmartWool socks I have – half from my local running store when they had a BOGO deal, and half from Active and TheClymb. These socks are expensive, but getting $30-40 socks for $7.99 and staying blister-free is a good deal in my book.
2. Friction Avoidance
Theresa Ferguson recommends 2Toms Blister Shield. I decided I’d give it a try and got a single-use pack from my local running store. OK, I’m 100% sold. It’s kind of like baby powder, but it doesn’t go away without soap and water, so it keeps your skin from generating friction – the root of all blisters. You put a small scoop in your socks, shake it around, and then put the socks on. I’d suggest ensuring you get the stuff on the areas you tend to blister. See, my left foot was perfectly covered and came out of my sock after an 11.6 mile run still white from the powder, and 100% blister-free. My right foot had insufficient coverage in the toe area, and my big and second toes ended up rubbing each other to the point of blistering. It’s neither pretty nor enjoyable, and made for discomfort for more than half of the run. And discomfort means your gait (or running form) will likely be off, which is how runners tend to get injured. And, yes, I now have pain in my right Achilles.
3. Watch for Hot Spots
Nicole Rose Scott recommends stopping at the first sign of a ‘hot spot’ and taking action. She carries a couple of these Band-Aid blister cushions with her when she runs. I’ve run with Band-Aids with me before, but think the best thing I’ve had with me is a little piece of Tyvek (I save the meal or beer tickets from races I do that give you these are tear-offs from your bib). They work really well at creating a tough yet thin barrier you can position over the impacted area. I’ve also used pieces of paper, and have read plenty of tips that include taking cash and putting a dollar bill (folded over) over the area.
Basically, you shouldn’t ignore a hot spot, but rather stop and try to do something to make it stop getting hot before there’s a blister there. You can’t stop everything, but you can stop nothing if you’re unprepared, which is why Nicole packs cushions with her. Very smart.
So you ended up with a blister despite your best efforts…or no effort because you’re reading this amazing piece too late. Unfortunately, no one provided any remedies for once you get a blister. So, end of article, right?
- Clean the blister with rubbing alcohol, open it, remove any detached skin with sterilized scissors, and clean it again. Yes, it will hurt. But you need to avoid infection.
- Soak in hot water with epsom salt and a little alcohol. The epsom salt is great for drying and healing, and the alcohol (really, just a touch) will help with keeping things sterile.
- Let it air dry after soaking, then use a Band-Aid with a mix of zinc oxide (to dry it) and an anti-bacterial ointment (like Neosporin).
- If you can soak twice a day, even better.
- Try to sleep with no Band-Aid so it can breath and dry.
- Try not to run for a few days so it gets better.
- Use moleskin, an adhesive-backed felt to protect your skin from abrasion, to help protect the blistered area when you do run again.
It can take a few days, but it will take a few more if you don’t give it the chance it needs to get better.
So that’s my thinking. I’m not a doctor, and I don’t live blister-free. I’m a runner who has learned a bunch through trial and error, and am generally in a better place than I was before getting new socks, BlisterShield and a few (ok a few dozen) bags of epsom salt a tub to soak my feet in.[tweet_box design=”box_12_at” author=”#newbodies” inject=”#enlightenyourbody”]I’m a #runner who has #learned through trial & error[/tweet_box]
Blisters are injuries in and of themselves, but the way they change how we walk, run, jump, etc can lead to much bigger injuries. Be smart with avoiding blisters, and give your body the care it needs when you do get them. After all, avoiding injury is important on the path to enlighten.your.body.