The Runner's Guide to Blisters
Blisters can develop anywhere on the body and are not exclusive to runners. They develop anytime the skin is rubbed to the point of extreme irritation, but they are more prevalent for those who participate in demanding sports that require long periods of vigorous exercise.
For runners, there are particular areas of the body that may be at higher risk of developing them. While this is definitely not a race-stopping running injury, it is something all runners must know how to prevent and treat.
They can range from small bubbles under the skin to larger sacs on the skin filled with fluid. They actually develop as a protective feature for the skin.
When something starts rubbing on the skin it develops a lot of irritation, and with time will cause the skin to go into protection mode. The top layer of the skin separates from the lower layers and fluid fills in between to protect the lower layers and add some cushioning.
It starts out as a small bubble, but will expand as needed to protect the skin from intense rubbing.
Anything that rubs on the skin continuously can cause blisters. Many people experience them from clothing that fits too tightly and rubs on the skin during movement or from shoes that do not fit properly.
For runners, they often form on the backs of the ankles or toes from shoes that are too tight for the activity.
Some runners may also develop them between the thighs and in other tender areas, if their clothing fits too tight and rubs the skin during running.
The palms of the hands are also a hot spot for runners to develop them. This is because they are gripping some type of equipment to much while running the soles of the feet may also blister at times if the shoes are not well fitted to the feet or the socks are too rough for the intensity of running.
You should leave smaller ones alone, as they will heal on their own rather quickly. If it is allowed to become larger, it will naturally be more sensitive and a lot more painful.
These larger ones can either be left to heal while wearing looser shoes with a lot of air circulation, or they can be popped using a hot needle.
You have to cleanse the surface of the blister and surrounding skin with rubbing alcohol, heat the tip of the needle, and then gently insert it into the top skin of the blister.
A popped blister must be kept clean and dry, with the top skin left intact. It should be bandaged and watched closely for any signs of infection. If it starts to appear red, swollen, or gets hot to the touch, it is likely getting infected and may need medical attention.
Most running blisters do not get to the point that they need treatment by a medical professional. If you treat them properly and avoid further rubbing on the skin until it has healed, most will heal naturally in a very short period of time.
This is not a condition that requires a complete stop to physical activity. You just have to take it easy and make sure the blisters are properly dressed.
How to Prevent
Many runners believe that there is no way to prevent blistering. In fact, many beginning runners assume that they will have to endure blisters in order to train intensely and progress with time. Many see them on the feet as a rite of passage for serious runners who want to become elite runners. Unfortunately, these runners are suffering needlessly.
There are products on the market that can be coated on the skin to help eliminate the irritation of rubbing. Runners can also prevent a lot of blisters simply by making sure their running shoes leave enough room between the heel of the foot and the heel of the shoe. Making sure there is extra room around the toes is important as well.
Runners can also wear moisture wicking socks that are designed from softer fabrics intended for intense activity. This will ensure the bottom of the foot does not rub intensely across the bottom of the shore, causing blisters.
Clothing used for running should be soft, flexible and comfortable. If there is any rubbing on the skin, that clothing item should no longer be worn for running. That along with proper fitting shoes will prevent the majority of blisters experienced by runners.
Do you want to get more tips on how to prevent and cope with running injuries? You should give Running Doc's Guide to Healthy Running, written by Lewis Maharam, definitely a try!
Recommended further reading:
- How to prevent achilles tendonitis
- How to prevent ankle sprains
- How to prevent DOMS
- How to prevent hamstring injuries
- How to prevent muscle cramps
- How to prevent overtraining syndrome
- How to prevent plantar fasciitis
- How to prevent shin splints
- How to prevent stress fractures
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