Blister Prevention for Runners

As your runs get longer, the chance of getting blisters goes up. Blisters happen when some part of your shoe or foot or sock rubs hard enough to tug on skin again and again until the top layer of skin finally loosens from the underlayer. Then it hurts like crazy and makes you want to avoid putting more pressure on it, which makes you slow down or run funny or both. Running funny can cause other injuries as you overload other body parts.

Moisture makes the situation worse by softening the skin and making it stickier at the same time.

You can prevent blisters by any trick that prevents the hard rubbing. If your shoes fit so perfectly that they move with your feet and don’t rub, you are golden. Unfortunately, for a lot of people there is no such thing as a shoe that fits that well, so other tricks are needed. Here are some tips:

1. Don’t wear cotton socks when you run. Have you noticed how hard it is to pull up cotton socks or underwear when you are wet from the shower? Wet cotton becomes extremely sticky against skin, causing rubbing and blisters when you run. Nylon, polyester and most other synthetics work better. Wool is okay too. Be willing to experiment a bit with different socks. The cut of the sock and placement of seams can be important along with the material. Too large socks can fold, causing thick spots and rubbing. Too small socks can press toes together, also causing rubbing and blisters.

2. Adjust your laces. Hard rubbing that causes blisters. You may be able to make your shoes loose enough that they don’t rub hard, or tight enough that they don’t rub at all. Experiment, including loosening some sections of the laces while tightening others.

3. Wear double socks. A very thin sock or ped will move with your skin and slide against your outer sock so the socks take the abuse rather than your skin. This only works if your shoes are big enough to comfortably fit the socks.

4. Make sure your shoes are big enough and the right shape for your feet. One nasty source of blisters is toes hitting the inside front of the shoe on a long downhill. Make sure that when you kick your foot into the front of the shoe by scuffing on the floor, your toes don’t quite touch the front of the shoe when the laces are comfortably tight. If you are hitting the front, get bigger shoes, at least for days when you’ll be running downhill.

5. If the blisters are on the soles of your feet, consider a custom insole to reduce pressure spots and cradle the foot so it rubs less. Blisters on the heel may also indicate the need for a custom insole to minimize the vertical movement of the foot inside the shoe or a different shoe that rubs less.

6. Check shoes for offensive bumps. If a particular part of your shoe presses and rubs against a part of your foot, see if it can be cut off, softened by beating with a hammer, made looser by not lacing that part or otherwise made not to press on your foot. If not adjustable, try different shoes.

7. Vaseline, antiperspirant or other lubricant. Rub your whole foot with the stuff. A thin coat everywhere, especially between toes, can work wonders. Antiperspirant keeps the feet dry a little longer and also works as a lubricant.

8. Trim your toenails and get a pedicure, or do your own. Too-long nails and hard dry skin around the nail bed can increase rubbing and blisters. Don’t just hack off the nails though; too-short nails can become ingrown.

9. Apply coach’s canvas tape to a known problem area and an inch or more on either side before running. The tape moves with your skin so you can’t be rubbed raw or blistered. You have to be creative to get it to stick and not to constrict your foot too much. There are also fancy fabric blister treatment products and silicone rubber toe-socks that can be worth trying if you are having trouble making the tape stick where you need it.