Many ultrarunners tape their feet before races and even long runs to prevent blisters. There are different techniques for taping your feet and some tricks of the trade, which I’m going to go over, but I want to talk about why we get blisters in the first place.
Let me start with this, some people are just prone to blisters and try as they might to figure out what is causing them, they can’t. Blisters are caused by friction, cold and/or heat. The culprit during running is most frequently friction. When there is something rubbing against your foot over and over again in the same spot, it tears the top layer of your skin away from the layer below it. Fluid then fills the space and ta-da you have a blister, which continues to grow as the rubbing creates a bigger tear.
The way you prevent a blister is to stop the friction as soon as you feel it. This is usually a hot spot on your foot. When you feel this, immediately stop, and take care of it. It doesn’t get better on its own. It gets worse. You can spend five minutes taking care of a hot spot or ten to fifteen dealing with a full on blister (possibly multiple times during a race). I’m going to cover the care of blisters in my next post (two days from now).
Okay so you know you get blisters, what do you do? First, make sure your shoes fit right and breathe. Second, make sure you have good socks, AKA not cotton. Socks that pull the sweat away from your skin. Try thick, thin and double layer socks. You can also wear two pair of thin socks and see if that helps.
Then comes the experimenting foot powder can keep your feet dry, which reduces friction. Sweaty wet feet hold onto the fabric of your sock. Wet skin is softer and more pliant making it more susceptible to blisters. A lubricant, such as hydropel, can help reduce fiction by allowing your foot to slide and not have the sock or shoe grip your skin. Hydropel, is waterproof. With both powder and lubricants you will have to reapply throughout the race.
Then there is pre-taping. You can tape the entire bottom of your foot or just the section that is prone to blisters. Note: if you only tape a section, you could get blisters at the edge of the tape (more experimenting). You can tape from one side to the other or from toe to heel covering the entire foot. Make sure the tape does not have any folds.
Tape that comes off during a run can cause blisters, surprise, surprise. Use Tincture of Benzoin to secure the tape to the bottom of your foot. I buy it on Amazon. It’s an adhesive. Apply the Benzoin with a cotton ball, let it dry, and then add the tape. Your tape should overlap a little. If you line it right up at the edges, you can get blisters at the seams (aren’t blisters great?).
There are three different types of tape I use when taping feet elastiskin, hepafix, and kensio tape. I buy I buy all my tapes on Amazon. Elastiskin is very durable and sticky. It has some stretch to it allowing your foot to flex and move as you run. It is rough on the outside so don’t use it on toes unless every toe is taped and no skin is touching the outside of the elastiskin. Hepafix is also a little stretchy. It’s a thin tape and fuzzy on the outside. It’s great for taping toes or places that are likely to rub bare skin. Kensio tape (the stuff they use to support injured tendons and muscles) is very stretchy and thin. It works wonders for preventing blisters and fixing hot spots. With the thin tapes, I find I don’t have to tape the entire bottom of the foot, just the hot spot area.