Blisters caused by running are the bane of runners everywhere.
And they can take a runner off their feet for weeks.
It doesn’t matter if the blister is on their feet or their thighs. As soon as one develops, it’s game over for the runner. At least until the blister heals, that is. There are ways to prevent these all-too-common nuisances, thankfully. Runners can easily apply most remedies at home. Blister treatments differ from those most common for sports injuries. But useful remedies do exist and they are easy to apply, once the blister has been identified.
Causes of Blisters From Running
There are several ways a blister can form. But there’s only one way you can get blisters from running. And that is chafing. Friction causes the irritation that leads to chafing. This friction can be between two areas of skin or between skin and fabric. Chafing is especially common if the skin is moist. If a runner stops when they first feel this irritation, they’re likely to avoid a blister from running. If they choose to push on, however, the irritation will eventually become a blister. This is especially true if the runner already has calluses in the area. Calluses cause clothing to catch and rub against the skin. This, in turn, increases their risk of a blister.
Identification of Blisters From Running
There are three types of blisters that runners should look out for. The first is a common blister. Runners can easily treat these at home.
The second type is a blood blister. This type of blister requires a different treatment method.
The third type, an infected blister, requires medical attention.
Common blisters look like bubbles of skin. They are often sensitive to touch and may cause pain in their general area. These blisters are a few shades paler than the skin that surrounds them. They may be so pale that they appear white, regardless of the skin’s original color.
Runners aren’t likely to develop blood blisters unless their shoes pinch their feet or a rock gets into their shoe. Blood blisters only occur on pinched skin or after focused impact. These blisters have the same texture as a standard blister but are either red or purple.
Infected blisters do not form automatically. They develop after someone improperly drains a “healthy” blister. Blisters turn yellow, brown, black, blue, or green when infection sets in. The surrounding skin becomes hot and the blister fills with pus. Anyone who has these symptoms, whether the blisters are from running or not, should seek medical attention immediately.
Other Warning Signs
Runners should see a doctor if their blister is not in a running-related location. They should also seek professional medical help if the blister does not go away in a couple of weeks. These blisters may be symptoms of a more serious issue.
The best way to treat a blister is to never get one at all! This means that runners must proactively fight chafing and calluses before they cause problems.
A runner’s first line of defense is reasonably dry skin. This means a runner should invest in moisture-wicking socks. Consider our own brand of compression socks below.
They should also consider purchasing foot-drying powders.
On the flip side of this, a runner’s feet should not be too dry. Dry skin leads to calluses which lead to chafing. This is why the recommendation is to have reasonably dry skin.
Most skin-drying powders offer a dual purpose. They keep skin dry while also reducing friction. This could mean reducing the friction between a runner’s thighs or between their skin and their clothes. Petroleum jelly will also reduce friction for runners who don’t mind the texture.
Cotton absorbs moisture and holds it close to the skin. This will increase a runner’s chances of chafing. Alternatives include synthetic moisture-wicking materials or linen. Such materials dry quickly and reduce the risk of chafing.
Adhesive moleskin or soft bandages can help prevent chafing. Stores usually shelve these items beside standard bandages. And while they may not be great for paper cuts, they will reduce friction. Runners can also cut Moleskin. This means they can create custom sizes and shapes when needed.
We’ve already covered the fact that calluses can lead to blisters. And it makes sense for runners to remove calluses as they develop. But runners need to do more than that. They need to keep their feet dry and properly moisturized. Runners should also keep their nails properly trimmed. These steps work together to ensure that socks don’t catch on rough skin or nails. And socks won’t chafe if they aren’t caught against the skin.
Start Treatment Immediately
Chafing is the early warning sign for blisters. If a runner starts treatment when they experience chafing, blisters aren’t likely to develop. Runners who push through, on the other hand, will probably develop blisters. Prevention is the best medicine. And, in this case, prevention means taking care of chafing before things get worse.
Turn Your Socks Inside Out
This final tip might sound odd. But those who try it swear it works. Most socks have a thick seam in the toe. This seam then rubs against the runner’s foot as they move. But when worn inside out, the seam rubs against the shoe instead. This ultimately reduces friction against the runner’s skin.
Treatment of Blisters From Running
Most runners can avoid blisters from running. There is hope for those unlucky enough to get one, however. Runners can handle most blisters at home. There are, of course, a few exceptions. Runners should see a doctor if their blister developed under a nail or if it becomes infected.
There is one guiding rule for the majority of blisters, including those from running: leave them alone. Yes, a blister may stop someone from running for a few days. And, yes, they are uncomfortable. If left alone, however, most blisters fade in a week to ten days. Runners can use this time to work on strength training or flexibility. They can still work out. Their only restriction is to let the blistered area rest.
Some runners might feel that a week or two is too long. In these cases, there are a few things the runner can do to speed up the healing process. The blisters will still need time to heal, of course. But the less agitated they are, the faster they will heal. Runners can loosely cover the blister with a bandaid. In this case, the runner can create a little tent with their bandage. The easiest way to do this is to keep the bandage adhesive close to the edges of the blister. This will cause a bump in the middle. The bump will, in turn, protect the blister from more chafing. The runner can also apply petroleum jelly around (not on) the blister to further reduce friction.
To Pop or Not to Pop
Doctors and dermatologists really want people to stop draining blisters. Most people don’t properly sterilize their tools or the wound. Infection sets in when this happens. And what was just an inconvenient blister can land someone in the hospital. This is especially true for blood blisters. A person’s blood supply feeds their blood blister, unlike normal blisters. If the blister becomes infected, it can quickly spread to the bloodstream.
Runners should only drain their blisters if the pain becomes unbearable. A doctor should drain the blister if possible. This is, unfortunately not always an option. In these cases, there are a few steps the runner can follow that might reduce their chances of infection.
Sterilize Your Equipment
Do not sterilize your needle or sharp tweezers with an open flame. This technique may be great in survival situations. But rubbing alcohol is a far superior option. An open flame can introduce carbon to the tool. This then leads to carbon in the runner’s blister and increases their infection risk.
Minimize Entry Points
The best place to pierce a blister is from the side. Insert the needle at an edge where the blister meets healthy skin. Once you pierce the blister, gently press against it to drain the fluid inside. Runners who choose to drain their blisters should make sure they only pierce it once. In this case, less is more. Each new pierce-point creates a possible infection point. Fewer piercing points mean lower infection chances.
Keep it Clean and Covered
Some people remove the dead skin off the top of the blister. Don’t do this! That skin will protect the new, raw skin underneath until it is healthy. Experts suggest covering the blister with moleskin or a soft bandage so it stays dry until it’s healed. At that point, the “roof” of the blister will fall off like a scab.
When it comes to blisters, prevention is the best medicine. Runners should keep their feet dry, healthy, and clean. Their clothes should wick moisture without holding onto it. And they need to pay attention to early warning signs. Following these steps will help keep runners on their feet. If prevention fails, it is up to the runner to decide how to deal with their blister. Just remember to stay safe and keep an eye out for infections!