The Fix

When Your Blis­ters Have Blis­ters

Canadian Running - - SEPTEMBER & OCTOBER 2017 - By Madeleine Cum­mings

Blis­ters don’t tend to rank high on run­ners’ in­jury sever­ity in­dex. They pop up all the time on our heels and toes. Though these dime-sized guys can cause a lit­tle dis­com­fort, they are noth­ing an­tibi­otic cream and a day in san­dals can’t fix.

Un­for­tu­nately, my blis­ters put gar­den-va­ri­ety blis­ters to shame. (They also cause me shame when­ever they are ac­ci­den­tally ex­posed.)

As a fore­foot striker whose feet twist ev­erso-slightly upon im­pact, I sub­ject my toes to a pun­ish­ing amount of fric­tion over the course of any dis­tance race.

Some­times I can emerge from a race rel­a­tively un­scathed, with burn­ing feet and bumps that go away on their own. But even­tu­ally, I’ll de­velop large blis­ters that stretch across the en­tire ball of each foot. Over the course of a sea­son, I’ll de­velop blis­ters on blis­ters. These can be so painful to walk on that I hob­ble around the house on my heels and cross-train un­til they have healed. Back in high school, I skipped my pro­vin­cial 1,500m fi­nal be­cause my blis­ters ripped open and bled dur­ing the pre­lim­i­nary race.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr. Richard Man­dal, a po­di­a­trist in Al­berta who has worked with run­ners, mas­sive blis­ters like mine are rare.

When he worked in Chicago as a co-clinic ad­vi­sor for the Amer­i­can Run­ning and Fit­ness As­so­ci­a­tion, peo­ple came to him with the worst blis­ters in late Au­gust or Septem­ber – about a month be­fore the Chicago Marathon.

“You have to do a con­sid­er­able amount of mileage to get to that point,” he said.

De­ter­mine the cause

Most fric­tion blis­ters are caused by ill-fit­ting shoes, Man­dal ex­plained. Choos­ing a rac­ing f lat that fits snugly from heel to toe will help en­sure the foot does not slip around dur­ing a run. If new shoes don’t solve blis­ter is­sues, po­di­a­trists can help de­ter­mine whether there is a biome­chan­i­cal prob­lem at play, like my twist­ing feet or a tight Achilles ten­don.

Prep be­fore tak­ing a step

Blis­ters can be nas­ti­est dur­ing the sum­mer months be­cause of ex­ces­sive mois­ture. When run­ners pour water over their heads at aid sta­tions dur­ing races, that water can drib­ble down the legs and into the shoes, mak­ing the sit­u­a­tion worse. Some run­ners claim they can pre­vent blis­ters by sprin­kling tal­cum pow­der on their feet (to keep them dry) or ap­ply­ing a lit­tle Vase­line or Body Glide (to mois­tur­ize and pre­vent skin from crack­ing), but sci­en­tific stud­ies on these in­ter­ven­tions have yielded mixed re­sults. Mois­ture-wick­ing socks and strate­gi­cally placed in­soles are more likely to bet­ter pre­vent blis­ters from form­ing.

To pop or not to pop?

Some blis­ters are tame enough that they will go away on their own. But the mas­sive ones? “You gotta drain it,” Man­dal said. Oth­er­wise, the blis­ters will be too painful to walk on. To safely pop a blis­ter, wash your foot, and use a ster­il­ized nee­dle to prick a small hole into the skin. Af­ter drain­ing the f luid, ap­ply an an­tibi­otic cream and make sure to leave the pro­tec­tive layer of skin on.

Don’t freak out

See­ing lay­ers upon lay­ers of my skin f lake off all sea­son had me wor­ried I might be dam­ag­ing my feet over time. Man­dal as­sured me that this is prob­a­bly not the case. “Un­less you have some sort of skin disease or it gets in­fected, your body can re­pair it­self,” he said.

Madeleine Cum­mings is a jour­nal­ist based in Ed­mon­ton. She also writes a col­umn for each is­sue of Cana­dian Run­ning.

Some run­ners claim they can pre­vent blis­ters by sprin­kling tal­cum pow­der on their feet (to keep them dry) or ap­ply­ing a lit­tle Vase­line or Body Glide (to mois­tur­ize and pre­vent skin from crack­ing), but sci­en­tific stud­ies on these in­ter­ven­tions have yielded mixed re­sults.

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