Injury Advice

Written by

William Howell

The Runner's Guide To Preventing and Treating Blisters

Time to battle back against every runner's worst enemy...

Runner running along a trail route

To put it simply: when it comes to blisters, the struggle is real. As anyone that has run a semi-long distance before, that sudden telltale sting that a blister is forming cannot be ignored. It’s intense. The discomfort, the burn, the mid-run fiery feeling that takes over your foot. Ah man, blisters are an actual pain. And the worst thing is: those pesky little irritations have the power to turn your euphoric running experience into exasperation in a matter of moments. But as much as we hate to say it, they’re also an unfortunate part of every runner's journey.

But fear not, because we asked our world-class coaches for their expert wisdom to guide you through the ins and outs of life with those red, raised, gross-looking, fluid-filled, skin-bubble thingys – how to prevent them, how to treat them, and ultimately, how to show them who's boss. Let’s do this:

What Exactly Are Blisters?

Getting straight into it, blisters are a painful skin condition where fluid fills a space between the upper layer of skin, and they tend to show up just when you're hitting your stride. So for us runners, they can be a genuine buzzkill. Essentially, they are fluid-filled pockets of irritation that tend to be caused by friction, moisture, or ill-fitting shoes. But as normal as they are, you don't have to roll over and let them rob you of your running joy, because with a little know-how and proactive care, you can confidently lace up, hit the pavement, and keep those blisters at bay.

When Do They Usually Happen?

For most runners, blisters have a way of popping up during races, especially marathons, which is less because they’re sadistic and more to do with the prolonged friction between your skin and your sock-slash-shoes. That said, blisters can pop up at any time, including during training runs. 

Luckily, most blisters don’t pose much of a serious health risk, but they can still sideline you, possibly even get infected and leave your Hoka’s collecting dust. But like we said, it tends to be heat and moisture-intensified friction that leads to these annoying, painful, runner-obsessed injuries. As for what they are, it’s just your body responding to this friction by producing a protective fluid that builds up beneath the area of skin that’s being rubbed.

How Do You Prevent Blisters?

The best way to tackle blisters is to beat them to the punch and stop them before they even start. To help you do this, we’ve pulled together a quick, foolproof strategy:

1. Find Your Perfect Fit: Properly fitting shoes are your best armor against blisters. Too tight, and you risk rubbing; too loose, and your feet slide around. So visit a specialized running store and get a professional fitting. Trust us: it's a game-changer.

2. Master the Art of Sock Selection: Ideally, you want to opt for moisture-wicking socks that are made from synthetic materials or merino wool. These materials whisk away moisture the best, which will then reduce the risk of friction. High five.

3. Two's Company: We get that layering up on your socks might sound strange, but it's also a lifesaver for blister prevention, simply because the layers will rub against each other instead of your skin.

4. Embrace Lubrication: Chafing is a major blister instigator, so combat this with a thin layer of lubricant, Vaseline, anti-chafing balm or even talcum powder on your feet, focus on those areas where you tend to develop blisters the most. 

5. Test Drive New Gear: Before debuting your new socks or shoes on a long run, try breaking them in by taking them on a few shorter spins first. Doing this will help you catch any potential issues before they turn into blister trouble while your 8 miles into a tricky terrain run with no phone signal.

Treating Blisters

Alright, so despite your best efforts to break in those perfectly fitted running shoes and cover your feet in talc, you've somehow managed to find yourself face-to-face with an angry-looking blister. Not ideal, but not the end of the world either. And to prove it, here's how to handle it like a seasoned pro:

1. Cleanse with Care: Gently clean the blister and the surrounding area with a mix of mild soap and warm water, and then pat it dry. Don’t rub. Got it. 

2. Hands Off: We know the urge to pop a blister can be more tempting than buying yet another pair of running shoes you definitely don’t need, but you have to resist that urge. Blisters are not only a protective bubble of skin that help prevent infection, but you could end up making a very small problem much bigger by puncturing the barrier.

3. Pad It Up: If the blister is causing serious discomfort (and, let’s be honest, they always do), try protecting it even more with a blister pad or moleskin. Simply cut a hole the size of the blister in the middle of a piece of moleskin, place it over the blister, cover with gauze and then let the blister dry out and heal on its own. This extra cushioning will provide relief and prevent further friction.

4. Keep It Dry: Here’s a not-so-fun-fact for you – moisture can slow down the healing process. So use some breathable bandages and change them as needed to keep the blister dry.

5. Let It Breathe: Once the blister has started to heal and is no longer painful, try and allow it to be exposed to some fresh air to speed up the recovery process.

When to Get Professional Help

In most cases, you can pretty much manage blisters on your own. They come and they go, and you won’t even have time to name them. However, there are certain scenarios that might warrant a visit to a medical professional, like these:

  • Signs of infection: If a blister becomes red, swollen, or oozes pus (mmmm, yummy), there’s a chance it has become infected. That’s when to seek medical attention pretty quickly.

  • Diabetic Concerns: If you live with diabetes, you should be particularly cautious with blisters as they can lead to more serious complications. Our advice would be to chat with a healthcare professional if you have diabetes and develop a blister.

  • Unusual Recurrence: If you're experiencing frequent, unexplained blistering, it's a pretty good idea to consult a doctor, as this could suggest there’s an underlying issue worth looking into.

Best Blister Treatment Products

Runna Performance Socks: As our dear old grandma used to say, “it’s better to prevent that aid’ – something we carried with us when designing our performance running socks. Made with moisture-absorbing AEROREADY features, they work to keep your feet dry, while being padded in high-stress areas to keep you comfortable until the end of your run. 

Compeed Blister Cushions: When blisters strike, it's time to call in the cavalry, by which we mean the Compeed Blister Cushions. These little wonders are like tiny clouds that cradle your blistered feet, providing instant relief and preventing further friction. Ultra-thin and discreet, they're perfect for those who refuse to let blisters steal their thunder. Whether you're racing towards a PR or tackling a scenic trail run, Compeed's got your back… we mean feet.

BodyGlide Anti-Chafe Balm: When it comes to blisters, prevention is the name of the game, and BodyGlide Anti-Chafe Balm is the master strategist. Swipe this magic stick onto your trouble spots – think toes, heels, and wherever your shoes tend to rub – and witness the power of friction-free bliss thanks to the invisible shield.

Second Skin Blister Pads: When the blister battle intensifies, Second Skin Blister Pads come to the rescue. These hydrogel pads not only offer a cushioned oasis for existing blisters, but they also foster a healing environment that accelerates recovery. Simply toss these into your kit bag and embrace the peace of mind that comes with knowing your feet have a little sidekick should a blister pop up.

Dr. Scholl's Moleskin: When it comes to tackling blisters head-on, Dr. Scholl's Moleskin is an absolute game-changer. Providing a cushioned barrier between your skin and your sock-slash-shoe, it offers instant relief while also preventing further friction. And because it has an adhesive backing to ensure a secure fit, you can keep moving without missing a beat.

Spenco 2nd Skin AquaHeal Bandages: When your feet need some tender loving care, Spenco 2nd Skin AquaHeal Bandages are the healing whisperers you've been looking for. These hydrocolloid wonders create an optimal moisture-rich environment for blister healing, while gently adhering to your skin to prevent further irritation. 

The Road to Blisters-Free Bliss

As every runner to ever lace up will know, blisters are an inevitable part of the journey, but they don't have to rule the road. With the right prevention tactics and proper care, you can keep those horrid little irritations at bay and enjoy your runs without unnecessary discomfort. Whether you're tackling marathons or testing yourself on the treadmill , remember that your feet are your allies. Give them the TLC they deserve, and they'll carry you forward – blister-free, confident, and ready for the miles ahead.

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