Stop blisters in their tracks: Treatment and prevention for runners
Blisters can really cramp your running style, and if you're training for a 5K, half marathon or marathon, they can pack a mean punch. Even if you've taken steps to prepare for your training, chances are blisters could still strike. You'll hear all kinds of prevention tips such as duct tape in your shoes, blister pads, gels and powder – some people might even suggest your running shoes are to blame. We want you to enjoy your training, and the good news is there is hope out there! If you want to enjoy pain-free morning runs, here's how to prevent blisters before they occur and treat them if and when they do happen.
What are blisters?
Painful bubbles or bumps under the skin are caused by friction – it could be from ill-fitting running shoes, the wrong socks, or a whole host of other factors. If you're a serious runner, you're likely to be affected by blisters at some point. The outer layers of your skin rub together before separating and filling with fluid. They can become infected if ignored and untreated, causing pain and a burning sensation; they can even leave you unable to run, so don't pop a plaster on your blister and carry on training!
Although unlikely, there's always the chance a blister could rupture, leading to cellulitis or secondary impetigo, two very serious forms of infection. Infected blisters could even lead to a form of blood poisoning known as sepsis. As with anything, prevention is better than cure, so you should tackle the causes of blisters to stop them rearing their ugly heads.
There are plenty of things you can do to prevent blisters and stop them from ruining your run! Try a few of these tips that will keep you in the running and keep blisters at bay.
Shop for the right socks
Yup, the right socks could mean the difference between no blisters and a whole crop of them! When running, your socks wick moisture away from your feet, reduce friction and even provide additional support for your feet (1). Runners should opt for nylon socks, as they are more breathable than cotton. They keep moisture at bay, unlike cotton socks, which absorb moisture and sweat. Special wicking socks can also be purchased which could help to keep your feet dry. Whilst we're on the topic of socks, try wearing two pairs of socks instead of one! This can be really beneficial when it comes to reducing friction and preventing blisters.
Try creams and powders
Head for your local pharmacy, Boots or Superdrug and look for sticks and powders designed to help prevent blisters. Boots own-brand (great if you're on a budget) or Compeed anti-blister sticks can help, or simply try some Vaseline rubbed onto your toes, heels and other blister-prone areas. These can all help minimise friction.
Your heels and toes are problem spots for blisters, so why not try wrapping them in soft bandages (moleskin is ideal) to cover problem spots and protect them whilst you're out for a run? This can also help to keep your feet fresh and dry.
Shop for the right shoes
We can't stress enough how important it is to choose the right running shoes. The wrong shoes will not only provide you with inadequate support, they could cause problems, leading to injury and of course, blisters! Don't grab the first pair you see at your nearest discount sports shop – it's well worth spending some money to get the right pair as they will last longer and enhance your performance. Visit a running shop or store with a dedicated running department, so you can ask for advice on the right pair for you. It's important to get the best fitting running shoes possible, so take your time.
Caring for blisters
Leaving your blisters alone is the best way to prevent infection from occurring. Most blisters will heal by themselves if left alone (2), so try covering your blisters with a gauze pad and tape or adhesive bandage. If your blister is really painful and/or it is preventing you from running, you could consider popping it. DON'T attempt this if your blister shows any signs of infection (red, inflamed or swollen, secreting pus etc.) It's essential to ensure you have clean hands before attempting to pop a blister and remember that this is really a last resort for seriously painful blisters.
You'll need a clean needle or pin, sterilised with some rubbing alcohol. Puncture the edge of the blister in several places and use a clean piece of gauze or cotton to soak up the fluid which seeps out. At this point, it's important to apply antibiotic ointment and cover the popped blister with an adhesive bandage or clean gauze secured with tape. Leave it alone for 2 to 3 days, to allow the area time to heal. When you remove the dressing, use a sterilised pair of scissors to cut away and remove any dead skin, before reapplying antibiotic ointment. Re-cover with a clean dressing until fully healed.
Blisters can be a complete pain (literally) when you're motivated and training for a marathon, but there's no need to let them affect your training sessions. Prevent them and treat them with our tips and you should find that you're able to train without interruption – so you can meet your fitness goals and fitness challenges for 2015!
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