How to Prevent Blisters When Running

If there’s one thing that can stop a runner in their tracks, it’s blisters. Running shoes are sometimes, but not always, to blame.

David Witt, DPM, ProMedica Physicians Podiatry, says those pesky sores appear when frictional forces cause the mechanical separation of the skin’s outer cells.

“Everyone can get them, especially athletes,” explains Dr. Witt. “Moist skin increases frictional force and therefore increases blister formation. People with biomechanical issues, like flat feet or feet with structural deformities, such as bunions or hammertoes, are also likely to get blisters.”

The good news is there are multiple ways to prevent blisters. First and foremost, wear properly fitting shoes. “Shoes that are either too tight or too loose can produce sores,” says Dr. Witt. “Replace shoes that are worn out and buy shoes at the end of the day when your feet are the most swollen.”

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Below are other helpful tips Dr. Witt provides:

  • Wear inserts. Wear supportive inserts to prevent excessive pronation and use pads to off weight a bony prominence.
  • Double up on socks. The use of two pairs of socks or anti-blister socks can help reduce frictional forces. Wear socks that are a polyester blend because they wick away moisture and do not hold onto the moisture like cotton socks do. Controlling moisture will decrease friction on the foot.
  • Use drying agents. There are prescription drying agents, such as Drysol, or over-the-counter drying agents, such as Certain Dri, and various powders with Aluminum Chlorohydrate.
  • Protect the skin. There are numerous products available to protect the skin. These include Moleskin, Band-Aids, blister plasters, silicone pads or simply medical paper tape, which can be applied to the bony prominences that are prone to blistering.
  • Lubricate the area. You can also lubricate the skin with Petroleum Jelly, blister defense, anti-blister sticks, dry soap flakes or any lubricating gels.

Dr. Witt advises people to not pop or de-roof blisters because they can become infected. “You can off weight the blister using non-medicated pads and if it breaks, apply antibiotic ointment and compression,” he explains.

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“Blood blisters under the toenail are common in athletes as well,” warns Dr. Witt. “To prevent this, keep toenails trimmed and follow the same guidelines for blister prevention.”

If you can’t manage blisters on your own, Dr. Witt advises people to see a professional to determine if there are underlying causes that can properly be addressed.