Blisters, how to avoid getting them!!!

Long distance running is the ultimate in endurance, strength and stamina. It can include both marathons and ultramarathons, running over flat roads and rougher terrain. When preparing for such gargantuan ventures, the right gear is a priority, but when running these kinds of distances it’s not just the clothing that’s the problem, but finishing the race without painful blisters. The trick is to take care of your feet long before you reach the starting line, and if you do that, then your chances of running into serious problems with blistered feet are far less likely. Runners have been unable to finish due to painful blistering of their feet, but with care and attention this needn’t happen to you.

A well thought out foot care regime should be something you think about long before you tackle a run of this kind. Make sure you do some background reading on foot care for long distance runners and apply it to your running programme. If you are planning to run a marathon or ultramarathon then it is crucial you learn to take care of your feet in advance.

Let’s start with shoes and socks. A poor shoe fit is a recipe for disaster; you must start with the basics, make sure your shoe fits perfectly and make sure there is plenty of room for the toes, with a well-fitting arch area.  You need heels that fit well, so as to avoid pressure points and rubbing. The collar of your shoe should also be well fitting so that it’s not rubbing or hitting the back of your ankle and causing further damage. It’s a good idea to bring an extra pair of shoes with you, perhaps two, and a size bigger than normal. Remember, your feet swell with the heat, so if you have a couple of pairs to hand to accommodate swelling, your run is going to be a lot smoother, some runners can finish a race in one pair, but forewarned is forearmed.         

A good inner sole gives your feet cushioning and extra comfort for your arches, make sure you choose some that match the size of your feet. Check your shoes for any anomalies, rough patches or bubbles that might cause friction once you start running, there are patches you can buy that will help with this and reduce the chance of friction. Make sure your run in them prior to your big race and test them over various surfaces.

Socks may not seem that important, but trust me, they are. As we’ve already mentioned feet can swell and sweat while running, so buy a pair of socks that reduce the levels of moisture. Synthetic fabrics are best for this so avoid cotton or wool as these can be a little rough against your skin and absorb moisture. Five toe performance socks are used by some runners; they can be useful for eliminating toe chaffing and the inevitable journey to blistering, which could have you limping to the finish line.

Don’t neglect your toes. Don’t let your toenails grow too long, cut them across, and moisturize your feet regularly so as to avoid blisters; blisters can appear under the nail as well as underneath your foot, so it’s really important to take care of this area. Moisturize after the bath or shower and work to eliminate any developing calluses. Blisters often develop beneath already developed calluses, which can be difficult to treat as it’s practically impossible to reach them.If you apply tape to your toes, make sure that if you tape one, you tape the one next to it.

Keeping your calluses down is imperative if you want to finish your race. Taping is something you need to master in order to reduce the development of calluses. Tape your feet up the night before and the tape will be attuned to your foot and therefore be a more comfortable fit. Try and avoid duct tape as this could result in your feet being unable to breathe, making removal after a race a nightmare with the unpleasant possibility of your skin tearing. Pre-tape vulnerable areas where your feet have blistered before. Spread some tincture of Benzoin over the area which you are going to tape. This is very good for blisters so make sure you have some with you.

Finally, some things to take with you that will hopefully keep problems to a minimum, swabs, toe nail clippers, alcohol wipes, tincture of benzoin, sharp scissors with a point and some tweezers for blisters. Bring extra tape, foot powder, Betadine; an antiseptic, extra socks and shoes and of course some second skin, a hydrogel dressing for blisters.

Books to recommend for foot care are few and far between unfortunately with the most comprehensive and most recent being; John Vonhof’s “Fixing your Feet,” Wilderness Press (2011) and the rather hilariously titled “Never Wipe Your Ass with a Squirrel: A trail running, ultramarathon, and wilderness survival guide for weird folks” by Jason Robillard Create Space Independent Publishing Platform (2 April 2013) a rather unconventional look at how to survive long distance running for those planning ultramarathons.