Dear Ann –
What do I do when my feet are covered in blisters so bad that I can’t finish the race, much less walk without pain for weeks afterwards?
Dear Blister Bob,
It’s always tragic when a BIG run gets taken down by a LITTLE culprit! Such is the case with blisters. While blisters can feel like a mystery, there are four solid basics to avoiding blisters that you should know about.
1. SOCKS The right socks are super important when it comes to blister prevention! Socks provide extra support, keep moisture away and can minimize the friction that leads to those nasty blisters. Steer clear of cotton socks at all costs! Running stores will provide you with a variety of nylon socks, wicking socks or a wool blend sock that pulls moisture away from your feet. You will find through experimentation what works best for your feet. As for me, I NEVER head into a race without a brand new pair of my favorite socks on.
2. TAPES AND BANDAGES For spots on the feet that are notorious for blisters, try adhering moleskin or other soft but secure bandages to problem areas before putting on your running socks. I prefer to use NuSkin on hot spots, which is painted on like nail polish and can be found at most pharmacy stores. Be sure to follow bandaging instructions, as poorly applied tape can cause more friction and problems than the original hot spot did!
3. POWDERS AND CREAMS Blisters are a symptom of friction. These products help solve the friction problem. There is a wide variety of speciality creams, glides and powders, as well as good ol’ Vaseline, available at your local pharmacy that will help to keep friction to a minimum.
4. PROPERLY FITTED RUNNING SHOES Be sure you are starting off on the right foot! Shoes that don’t fit the shape of your foot, or that don’t have enough space in the toe box to allow for downhill running can wreak havoc on a runner’s feet! If blisters persist, try an in-store running specialist who can perform a gait analysis.
So how do you deal with the blister once it has arrived? Before taking action, always check the blister for potential signs of infection. If you show any signs of infection, go see a doctor immediately. If everything looks okay, you have two options: either leave the blister alone and let the fluid reabsorb into the body (this is the safe option as you do not risk infection). If the blister is causing pain and/or is large in size, you will need to pop it to release the fluid.
Before starting, thoroughly wash your hands in warm water with soap. Gently wipe the blistered area with rubbing alcohol or iodine. Sterilize a needle or a pin with the rubbing alcohol.
Puncture by entering the side of the blister in several spots close to the blister’s edge. Soak up the draining fluid with a clean piece of cotton or gauze.
Apply antibiotic ointment and place gauze and/or a bandage over the popped blister. Keep the area very clean for 2-3 days. Apply more antibiotic ointment and bandage again until healed.
To learn more about foot care, I recommend an industry expert, John VonHof. I like to follow his blog at: www.fixingyourfeet.com/blog Good luck to you and your happy running feet!