Blister Care

pop-blisters

You are in the middle of your run, and you have a blister. What do you do? Hopefully you have a mini blister kit in your hydration pack. If you don’t, pray to god you have one with your crew or in your drop bag. None there either? Make some friends at the next aid station and come better prepared next time.

Here is how I treat blisters. Disclaimer: doctors do not recommend popping blisters because you risk infection. If the blister is small and not painful to run on, I don’t pop it. I tape over it with hepafix (bought on Amazon) or kensio tape and keep going.

If the blister is painful to run on, clean the area with alcohol then I pop it with a clean safety pin making a hole big enough that it won’t reseal and fill with more fluid. I make the hole on an edge where it will continue to drain as I run (the hole on the side closest to my heel usually). I try to get as much fluid out of it as possible. If you can get the skin to lay flat, it may reattach itself if you can stop the friction. After I pop it, I put Neosporin on it and then tape over it with kensio or hepafix tape. I treat blood blisters the same way.

If you don’t want to pop the blister you can use mole skin with a hole in the center for the blister, then put tape over it (do you see a theme here?). The mole skin will keep the pressure off of the blister and reduce the pain.

If the roof is torn or off, I clean the area with alcohol. Put Neosporin on it then a piece of Second Skin for burns (bought on Amazon) over the exposed tender skin and then tape over it. Second Skin acts as the roof. It protects the tender skin from being rubbed even more. Once you are done running, you’ll want to expose that skin to the air so it can dry out and harden forming your new top layer of skin.

Blisters can also form under callouses and toenails. Callouses should be kept under control because of this. It’s difficult to treat a blister covered by a thick callous. You have to go through all that skin to drain it, if you can get to it at all. A blister under a toenail, is easier than under a callous. Stick a clean pin in it and tape it with hepafix. Don’t use a tape that is rough on the outside. You’ll likely lose the nail.

The best thing is to try and prevent blisters as much as possible. You can read my prior post by scrolling down to learn how to prevent blisters.

Blister Prevention

taping-foot

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.