Wise Running

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run.

Running 101: Blisters and Chafing

cross country shoesRunning is awesome.  We love running fast and running far.  What we don’t love so much is the blisters and chafing that can come with it.  If you are a veteran runner, you have probably mastered the art of avoiding these painful skin ailments.  If not, here is some basic info to help get you started down the road to relief.

What Causes Blisters & Chafing?

Heat, moisture, and friction are the killer combination that cause skin to gradually weaken and become irritated.  Eventually irritation becomes damage.  The bloody nipple is the scourge of distance runner.  Ouch!  There are other areas that chafe, too.  These can be even more painful!  Blisters, of course, are usually on the feet.  We are all familiar with these.

Preventing Chafing

The best cure for blisters and chafing is prevention!  If you know the areas that chafe, then you can proactively use these techniques to avoid that chafing:

  1. Sometimes it is as simple as changing your clothes.  For example, I used to get chafing where my thighs rubbed each other.  When I switched to Under Armour underwear, the thighs no longer touched each other.  Problem solved.
  2. Applying a skin lubricant, such as Body Glide, will often solve your problem before it starts.  This handles the nipple chafing that I used to get when running over a certain distance.
  3. Other people use a combination of home remedies that they have tried.  Ask your running friends what they do!

Preventing blisters on your feet can be a bigger challenge.  You are coming down on your feet with the weight of your body. Any movement that your feet do within your shoes can potentially create friction and lead to blisters.  Here are some common strategies for avoiding blisters:

  1. Change your socks.  Cotton is not good.  Get a specialty wicking running sock.  Also make sure that the socks have a snug fit.  Even when wet, there should be no bunching or gathering.  These cause blisters every time!
  2. Moisturize with lotion regularly.   Even though moisture is a part of the equation, soft, moist skin is less prone to developing a blister.  Lotion.
  3. Put a layer between you and your socks.  Mole skin or a similar product can take the heat instead of your skin.  A layer of petroleum jelly can accomplish the same thing.  Some people even use two pairs of socks.
  4. Change your shoes.  Your shoes should be comfortable.  Not so loose that your feet slide around a lot.  Not so tight that your toes can’t wiggle freely.  Your toes should not be rubbing on the front of the shoes.

Healing from Chaffing & Blisters

For chafing, I personally apply triple antibiotic ointment on the area and simply avoid contact as much as possible.  I will put a band-aid over the affected area while I am running until it goes away.

For blisters, my first strategy is to let it heal on its own if at all possible.  When I succeed, this becomes a thick callous right where I need it.  It will prevent a future blister.  If it is too big or too painful, then you must drain it.  Clean a needle with alcohol and lance the blister carefully.  Gently press the blister to push the fluid towards the hole to let it escape.  I follow this up with triple antibiotic ointment and a band-aid.  I try to make sure the band-aid is on tight enough to not allow the blister to fill up again.  Then I try to avoid contact as much as possible.

Can you run on a blister?  Yes, unless it is huge and taking a thick layer of skin with it.  I dealt with this once.  I finally had to stop running for a week while my foot healed.

Take care of your skin and your skin will take care of you with less pain and more gain.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor


Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & future runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup


Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

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