Keep Blisters from Ruining Your Race!

It’s race season! Here in the Knoxville, Tennessee area we’ve got two big races coming up this month. First is The Pistol Ultra Run this weekend, March 16-17, in Alcoa, Tennessee where runners will meet to take a shot at distances ranging from 1 to 100 miles or greater over 32 hours. Second is the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon on March 31. Runners will race a 5K (on March 30th), half or full marathon through the downtown area ending at World’s Fair Park.

A sore spot (pun intended!) for many long distance runners is developing painful blisters that have either slowed or ended races painfully. There’s good news though! Here’s several tips to help prevent those unsightly and painful fluid pockets that totally gross out our non-runner friends and family!

SOCKS

  • Blister-free socks – synthetic socks, such as nylon, that wick moisture away from the skin and breathe better
  • Avoid cotton socks that trap fluid in them when they get wet from sweat, puddles, or rain
  • Reinforced toes and heels on socks can help reduce friction
  • Turn socks inside out so the seams don’t rub against your toes
  • Wear a pair of ankle length nylons under your running socks
  • Double up – Wear two pair of socks so the friction occurs between the layers of socks rather than your skin and the sock (make sure your shoes still fit comfortably if taking this approach – two pair of socks may cause your shoes to be too short)
  • Socks need to fit smoothly with no extra fabric at the toes or heels

SHOES

  • Wear shoes that fit properly! Here in Knoxville, both Runners Market and Fleet Feet take great care of our running community’s feet.
  • Not too big that allow your feet to slide (creating friction)
  • Not too small that your feet rub against the end and cause blisters under the toes and on the ends of the toenails

SKIN PREP

  • Make sure your feet aren’t too dry going into the race – dry skin is more prone to friction, just like sweaty skin
  • Use foot cream or lotion on a daily basis to maintain proper moisture

LUBRICANTS & PROTECTIVE BARRIERS

  • Clean your feet and dry them thoroughly
  • Apply a moisture barrier such as Vaseline, Trail Toes, or Aquaphor to reduce friction
  • Other skin barriers include powders, sprays and creams that protect skin by reducing moisture and/or friction – some examples include 2Toms Blistershield and Footshield and Body Glide

TAPES & BANDAGES

  • Clean and dry your feet well before application – rubbing alcohol will help make sure the skin is free of oils, soaps, and lotions
  • Many brands of tape can be used for blister prevention – some examples include RockTape, KT Tape, Leukotape, and Elastikon – the key is to make sure it goes on the blister-prone areas wrinkle free
  • Other options include moleskin and blister specific bandaids to cushion areas
  • Apply tape or bandages to areas that have blistered in the past or on areas that you’ve felt “hot spots” before on long runs

ULTRA RUNNERS CHANGE IT OUT!

  • Bring extra shoes and socks to change into as the race progresses – multiple pairs of both if rain is forecast!
  • Dry shoes and socks could be a race saver
  • Consider having a pair of running shoes a half size bigger than your normal ones to put on overnight once you’ve been on your feet for multiple hours because your feet will swell
  • Swollen feet can end up rubbing and cause blisters because shoes become too small as the race progresses

Follow these tips to greatly reduce your chance of developing painful blisters that can turn a great race day into a painful, hobbling finish or the most dreaded DNF!

P.S. – For runners at The Pistol Ultra Run, stop by the Quest tent inside the school as soon as you notice any hot spots developing on your feet so Dr. Jeanne can fix you up and keep it from getting worse and turning into blisters like the one in the picture below. She will be onsite from noon Saturday until the end of the race at 4pm on Sunday. But if you do end up with blisters, she can treat the blisters and patch you up so you can keep going and finish your race! All blister treatment during the race is provided by the race at no additional charge.

Dr. Jeanne Williams, PT, DPT, OCS
We help endurance athletes (from beginners to pros) train and cross the finish line faster and injury-free!

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