How to Treat and Prevent Blisters

When you hear that someone has a blister, you probably don’t think twice about it. It’s just a tiny blister, right? There are certainly worse problems to have. While this may be true, all the runners out there know how dangerous a blister can be to their training schedules. Blisters don’t typically cause serious issues, but they can sideline a runner and prevent him from completing a race if left untreated.

What is a Blister?

A blister itself is simply a small pocket of fluid that builds up in the upper layers of the skin. For runners specifically, blisters are most common on the bottoms of the feet or around the ankles that can cause enough pain and irritation to disrupt a training run.

Causes of Blisters

Blisters are caused by the friction and pressure put on the skin. During a training run, the skin of your feet rubs against your shoes and socks, leading to nonstop friction. In response to this irritation, your body builds up fluid at the part of your foot being affected the most, leading to a blister. In extreme cases, the friction is so severe that it ruptures blood vessels in your foot, leading to a “blood blister.”Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get blisters every time you go on a run. But your likelihood of getting a blister increases the more you run with worn out or tight running shoes that don’t offer enough cushion and room for your feet to breathe.

What to Do if You Have a Blister

If you already have a blister, it’s important to take care of it the right way to avoid more serious problems:

  • Start by not ignoring it! Listen to your body and don’t push a training run if a blister starts to cause more irritation and pain. It’s much smarter to lay off the running for a week or two to let the blister heal instead of fighting through the pain and making it worse.
  • For a small blister, it’s best to let it heal on its own over time. Just continue to monitor it to make sure it doesn’t turn into a more serious problem.
  • For a large blister, you want to drain all the fluid. Start by washing your hands and thoroughly cleaning the blister. Then, use a sterilized needle to drain the fluid. Tightly bandage the affected area to avoid infections, and make sure to change the bandage regularly to keep the skin covered until healed.

Blister Prevention

If you’ve had bad experiences before or just want to avoid blisters altogether, there are some preventative measures you can take:

  • First, make sure the skin on your feet is moisturized. No one likes rough, dry skin —except for blisters. Use moisturizers to keep your feet hydrated and smooth enough to limit the risk of developing a blister that could sideline you from a race or training run.
  • Second, choose your running shoes and socks wisely. When seriously training for races, it’s always a good idea to consult a local running shoe store to identify the right shoe and size for your foot and running gait. There are also running-specific socks that can limit friction and keep your feet comfortable during a long run.

If you’ve had a history of developing blisters, consider getting new running shoes and socks, and check out orthotic insoles to add a bit more comfort and support for your feet.