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Running Niggles I - Blisters

It’s entirely normal for things to twinge and ache when you start running for the first time or after a break. These issues can be enough to convince you that running just isn’t for you. But if you know what you can do to minimise these problems and what to look out for that might need some attention, then you can begin your running journey well equipped and confident. We’ve created a series of blogs to cover all the common beginner niggles and what steps you can take to give you a smooth start to your running journey. We’re starting with blisters! They might sound minor but a good going blister can literally stop you in your running tracks.

What are blisters?

When skin is repeatedly rubbed, friction develops and the outer layers of the skin are damaged exposing the deeper layers. A blister is actually created to protect us and not to annoy us! The fluid filled bubble that forms acts to cushion and preserve the immature skin underneath it. It’s a germ free environment to look after that skin while it develops into tough outer skin.

How to prevent blisters

Blisters are sore and annoying. Prevention is better than cure. Here are some simple steps you can take to prevent blisters:

·         Check your shoes - Make sure you have enough space for your toes in your running shoes; go up at least half a size from your everyday shoe. If you have very wide feet, then you may be better with a men’s shoe. Get advice from a shop that specialises in running shoes and don’t forget it’s a good idea to wear them in gradually; walking around the house in them is a good way to start.

·         Think laces. – If you’re happy with the shoe itself then check out some different lacing techniques for problem areas. For example, if your blisters always form around your heel then using the ‘heel lock’ lacing will help your foot to fit more tightly in this area. Similarly, if there’s an area on your big toe that keeps getting irritated there’s another lacing pattern that will ese shoe pressure there. Have a look online and you’ll be amazed at the number of ways to lace your shoe1

·         Remember your socks. - Don’t forget that socks are as important as shoes. Too small a sock will squash your toes and undo all the good that our perfect shoe is doing. Experiment with different brands to find what suits you. Fabric that dries quickly will keep reduce the likelihood of blisters. Some runners prefer a single layer sock and others a double.

·         Try a barrier. – If blisters still form despite the above tips then try rubbing a lubricant into your skin before you run. There are different types available but good old petroleum jelly will do the job. You can apply all over the foot or just on your hotspots.  Runners with very sweaty feet often use a talc on their feet to soak up excess moisture and help prevent blisters. You can also use blister tape, padding or plasters on those problem areas to add protection.

How to treat blisters

Blisters will shrivel up eventually of their own accord. Keep your feet clean and dry and use a padded plaster or patch to add some extra cushioning for comfort.

If possible, it’s best not to pop blisters. Piercing the skin provides a route in for infection. The blister may burst of its own accord in which case you can milk out the fluid, clean it in warm soapy water or try a salt water soak. Dry your foot and cover the blister with a sterile dressing or blister patch. 

If you do want or need to pop your blister, then you should do it as hygienically as possible by washing the foot, using a sterile needle and covering with a sterile dressing afterwards.

If you develop a redness in the skin around the blister that is spreading outwards or the discharge from the blister is a green pus, then infection may have taken hold and you should consult a health care professional include.

Hope for beginners

If you are just starting your running journey, then you should be reassured that it’s unlikely that blisters will bother you for long. You’ll soon find the right shoe, sock and foot care routines that prevent blisters in your everyday running. Your skin will harden too making blisters less likely. Sometimes however, on very long or very wet runs, they’re inevitable but they won’t keep you out of action for long.

Are you bothered with blisters? What are your top prevention tips for other runners? We’d love to hear your experiences so leave them in the comments below.

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