How to Prevent and Treat Blisters

Don't let a painful blister stop you in your tracks

Blisters can stop your stride, so preventing them before they form is a must. Whether you’re a new runner or adjusting to new footwear, there are some basic steps to set you up for success. But if you’re plagued by repeated, angry bubbles forming beneath your socks, you may need more tools in your first-aid kit.

Here are five ways to stop blisters before you have to decide whether to pop one (we’ll address that at the end).

1. Get fitted for running shoes.

This is one of the first recommendations by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) for new runners. A specialty running store has professionals who can analyze your feet and stride to pair you with shoes that will not only help prevent blisters but shin splints, knee pain and more.

READ MORE: The New Rules for Buying Running Shoes

2. Wear wicking socks.

Your feet will stay drier if you wear socks designed for sweating. “Cotton clothing is great for many things, but cotton socks are horrible for runners,” says ACE-certified Health Coach Andrea Metcalf. “As your feet sweat, cotton fabric stretches and rubs against your skin, which can cause blisters. Check out wicking fabrics in sock brands like Swiftwick, Thorlo and Puma. Almost every running shoe company has their version as well.”

3. Keep your feet clean and dry.

Dr. Marybeth Crane, a Texas podiatrist and avid runner, says those wicking socks will help with this effort, but she also recommends switching pairs of shoes if you’re running daily to give each time to dry out. “If you sweat profusely, then use antiperspirant on your feet. Certain Dri comes in a topical pad to use for feet,” she says, adding that powders are good for perspiration too.

4. Use an anti-chafing product.

Apply petroleum jelly or a balm such as Body Glide to problem areas or “boney prominences,” Dr. Crane says. If you have bunions, lumpy heals or bumps on your toes, you want to decrease potential repeated rubbing with every step you take.

READ MORE: Identifying and Treating Foot Problems

5. Try anything new if blisters keep popping up.

If you tend to get repeated blisters, I feel your pain. I used to have a terrible time with them, so I started trying all kinds of happy feet ideas such as regular pedicures (Don’t be embarrassed! Nail techs have seen lots of runners’ feet.), wearing bandages where I’d tend to get blisters, and using every kind of lotion, balm or cream whether I was running or not. RunGoo is the best product for me, since the thick cream has staying power as a barrier of protection. Dr. Crane says there are many good products on the market. “It’s trial and error because what works for one may not work for another.” So don’t give up!

Hopefully, one or more of these products will help your feet stay blister-free:

Foot Glide from Body Glide, a rub-on stick for hot spots and protruding areas.

Gold Bond Foot Powder, a medicated powder to sprinkle in your socks before you put them on.

2Toms BlisterShield, a natural powder that absorbs moisture and reduces friction.

Scholl’s Active Series Blister Treatment for preventing or healing blisters.

eNZees Foot Soother lambswool to be used in problem areas.

Certain Dri Feet antiperspirant pads.

RunGoo thick cream for use while running.

To pop or not to pop?

If your blister is full of fluid or blood, Dr. Crane says to use a pair of sterilized scissors (soak them beforehand in alcohol for 5 minutes) and pop the corner to drain it. Leave the blister top, because it will make a scab and help the blister to heal faster. “Do not use liquid bandaids on it,” she says, “because it is already contaminated and you can give yourself a terrible infection.” Simply wash with soap and water, apply a little antibiotic ointment where you popped it and cover with a fabric breathable bandage. Uncover it at night to let it dry, and eventually the skin will dry out and peel off.

READ MORE: What ‘Foot Core’ Is And Why It Matters

 

Nicki Miller

Nicki Miller is the former editor-in-chief of Competitor Running and managing editor of Women’s Running and is an RRCA certified coach. She loves encouraging runners, helping them avoid injury, covering sports nutrition and developing healthy recipes. Follow her at @nickiontherun