How to treat and prevent blisters

Fleet Feet Podiatry can provide you with a home visit podiatry service before an important run to help you with preventing blisters. As many of us have experienced, a blister on your feet halfway through a run can be extraordinarily irritating or painful. Up to 39% of marathon runners experience this common injury, which ultimately affects their run performance. The good news is, there are several steps you can take beforehand to ensure that your risk of getting a blister is minimal.

Up to 39% of marathon runners experience blisters.

Who gets blisters?

Marathon runners are not the only ones who experience blisters. Hikers, recreational runners and endurance athletes and anyone who is on their feet with moderate to high amounts of activity. The risk of having a blister, is in the fact that it is an open wound susceptible to infections. A study of military recruits found that 84% of cases of cellulitis (bacterial skin infection) were due to blisters and 48% of all injuries can be accounted towards blisters.

Why do we get blisters?

There are many reasons as to why a blister forms. During a run there are four forces that are responsible for causing blisters: impact, friction, pressure and shear. When you are running your body impacts up to three times of your body weight on to your feet. Friction is caused by your sock or shoe rubbing against your feet. Pressure is caused when you load up a single limb during mid-stance of your normal running gait cycle. The friction and shear stress causes separation of the layers in your skin, which then leaves an empty space in which fluid is formed. These forces as well as perspiration and heat, attribute to the formation of blisters.

Good shoes

How do we prevent blisters?

Correct footwear

Shoes come in all shapes and sizes and they play an important role in blister prevention. Too many people are under the impression that a shoe whereby the big toe is hitting the absolute front of the toe box in the shoe, is a correct fitting shoe. The general rule of thumb is to have adequate space in the front of your toes in the shoe, about a thumbs width. A thumbs width from your longest toe in the shoe to the edge of the toe box would be a correct fitting shoe. Too loose and you increase your movement within the shoe during activity and chances for blisters. Too tight and the shoe itself will cause other problems such as toe deformities and blisters on your toes.

When shopping for shoes, it is best to look for them in the afternoon. After a few hours of activity, your feet swell up slightly and at that time, are the most realistic representation of the size of your feet. Its also important to break into the new shoes you are wearing progressively. Do not wear a brand-new pair of shoes to your event or race, shoes will take time to be broken into and mould to the shape of your feet. Shoes that have improved circulation of air can also reduce perspiration and rise of temperature.

General rule of thumb: a thumbs width of space from the longest toe.

The right socks

Cotton socks soak up all your moisture and perspiration during exercise which can lead to friction and decreases the integrity of your skin. So, it is best to avoid cotton socks and instead wear socks that are designed to wick moisture away. The sizing of the socks also need to be taken into consideration as well as the material used. Loose fitting socks will slip on and off your foot, and move around inside the shoe, causing increased friction from the movement. Ill fitting socks can also cause pressure when there are folds on the sock under your feet.

Sport stores will have these anti-moisture wicking socks. Here is an example:


Research on blister prevention is limited but what little there is, paper taping is mentioned as possibly effective in preventing blisters. Fleet Feet podiatrists use hypafix to prevent blister formation in problem areas for patients. It is often difficult to apply these tapings to your own feet without any folds and creases. If you don’t have someone to help you, one of our foot specialists at Fleet Feet Podiatry can come to your house before a run to tape up your feet and also show you how to tape up yourself for the future. Taping works by reducing friction/heat and also spreading the forces of shear load across a larger surface of the foot rather than have the shear force focus on one small part of your foot.

There are several choices for tape used for blister prevention.


Antiperspirant sprays and powders for your feet can reduce your chances of blister formation. General body antiperspirant is not as effective as antiperspirant made specifically for your feet and blister prevention. Its also important to note that some people have experienced skin reactions to antiperspirant. So, trial it before an important or long run/walk. Antiperspirant works by reducing one of the main cause of blisters, moisture.

How to treat blisters during or after a run/walk:

If time allows it, its important to adjust your socks and shoes to your comfort if there is any irritation that has occurred thus far. If a blister has formed during a run/walk, you have a couple of choices as to how to proceed. One option is to aspirate it, the positive of bursting the bubble is that it will reduce pressure and possible further enlargement of the blister. The negative is that you now have an open wound and are at risk of infection.

The other option is to bandage it and leave it alone, reducing your risk of infection but leaving the pressure in the area caused by the blister to increase the size of the blister possibly further. It comes down to your health, if you know that you have a condition or are taking medication that reduces your blood supply to your lower limbs and that you are in a state of having reduced immunity, it would not be advisable to aspirate the blister. If you are unsure, seek a podiatrist from Fleet Feet Podiatry to come have a look at your blister/wound for you.

Blister prevention involves several steps and factors, but it is much better to prevent than treat your blisters. I hope that this advice was useful to you and wish you blister free runs and walks.