Blisters are one of those little things that can make a huge difference in your day out trail running. One moment you feel great, and the next, it feels like your foot is walking on coals! Blisters are common, but, luckily, there are lots of ways to prevent blisters and treat them and we’ve had our fair share of blisters to deal with.
Why Blisters Happen:
Friction is the most common cause of blisters. The most common friction on your feet comes from socks, shoes, and foreign objects in your shoe (ie, sand, rocks, or loose tape). You might get away with friction for a little while, but it will eventually damage the skin and cause a layer of fluid to bubble up, causing a blister.
The environment your foot is in might also cause blisters. Too much moisture or sweat in shoes or socks creates a perfect environment for blisters to form. If you are running long, through snow or streams, or don’t have breathable shoes, you’ll be more likely to get soggy feet. “Waterproof” treated trail running shoes are often much less breathable than their same normal fabric model shoes, and the waterproofing will likely keep more sweat in, creating a catalyst for blisters.
Blister Prevention Tips:
Toughen Up Your Feet.
If you are prone to blisters, try walking barefoot to build up callus. Start with something short, like a 5-10 minute walk on the sidewalk. Progress up to asphalt as you can tolerate it. It might take a few weeks to notice much, but your feet will get tougher, thicker skin to help put an extra barrier between you and any friction.
You could also train with wet feet. This could double as mental training too, especially if you are running an ultra in the Eastern US or in the mountains, where streams and mud are common. Start your run by spraying your feet with the hose, or walk in streams as you pass them. Exposing your feet to the elements that causes the blisters may also help build callus. Of course, go at your own discretion.
Get Your Shoes Fitted Before Buying.
Your local running store will let you try on all the shoes that your heart desires and probably take them out for a spin. Try out a different model if you keep getting blisters. Your running store will be able to recommend a fit based on your foot shape and gait. You might also consider a wide fit. Rule of thumb – have a thumbnail’s length of space from the tip of your big toe to the shoe fabric.
Use a Performance Wicking Sock
Purpose-built running socks will use materials like polyester, rayon, wool, or other hybrid materials to rapidly draw moisture away from your skin. Experiment with different weights and materials to find what works best for you. Some socks are even shaped like toes. Like em or leave em…
Use a Preventive Barrier
There are lots of products on the market to help manage foot moisture and friction. A variety of tapes, creams, and powders exist. Experimentation is probably the best way to find what works. (We’ve run our share of races though, and would def shout-out to 2Toms as a good anti-chafe/anti-blister salve.)
Don’t Pop Your Blisters
Blisters will eventually absorb back into your skin and leave a nice callus behind. This callus, or tougher skin, will prevent future blisters. The process is interrupted if you pop the blister, and especially if you cut the skin away. This also can lead to infection.
Run Without Getting Blisters
These different tips will allow you to manage and eliminate blisters throughout your miles. To summarize:
- Get the proper shoes
- Find a good fitting sock
- Toughen your feet up by exposing them to the elements well before the race
- Use preventive products like tape, balm, or salve.
What tips do you have? What worked well for your blisters? Leave a comment below!