Avoiding blisters while running

Avoid blisters while running

Blisters on your feet can cause significant pain or even force you to drop out of long-distance events like marathons and ultra trails. These blisters are caused by friction inside your shoes, which leads to heat and ultimately blisters.

Sometimes, you might even get hematomas under your nails, causing them to turn purple and eventually fall off. This is due to the repeated impact and the fact that our bodies must absorb three to four times our weight when running. However, there are some tips to prevent blisters while running or purple nails by preparing your feet for the stress.

Choosing the right shoes to avoid blisters while running

First and foremost, make sure your shoes fit properly. They shouldn’t be too large (causing your foot to slide around) or too small (constricting your foot). In wet conditions, you might opt for waterproof shoes for short to medium runs, but breathable shoes are better for long runs.

Lacing your shoes properly

It’s important to learn how to lace your shoes correctly. Tighten them enough to prevent microtraumas, but not too tight, as this could restrict blood flow and cause tingling in your feet. This is especially crucial for long runs, as feet can swell, so avoid lacing them too tightly.

Breaking in your shoes

Never wear new shoes for the first time in a competition. Break them in at home first, then on a few long-distance runs before your marathon.

The same goes for socks, make sure you’ve worn them before and that they feel comfortable. Ideally, they should have reinforcement at the heel and toes. Some socks have double layers to minimize friction between the layers, which can be beneficial if you frequently get blisters.

Preparing your feet before a race

Trim your nails straight across, not too short, and file the corners instead of cutting them.

Tanning your feet weeks before

Three weeks before your event, remove any hyperkeratoses (excess rough skin, like calluses) from your feet. Start “tanning” your feet to strengthen the skin, making it more resistant. This helps prepare your feet for long efforts or humid environments.

To tan your feet, use a citric or picric acid solution. The easiest way is to use a half lemon. Apply it to the soles of your feet. The acid hardens the skin, making it more resistant to blisters. Do this in the morning on clean, dry feet and let them air dry.

In the evening, apply a moisturizing cream (or vegetable oil) to nourish the skin, as the acid can dry it out. This routine will give you well-tanned and hydrated feet, ready for long walks, trails, or road races.

Hydrate your feet before the race

In the week leading up to the race, apply a moisturizing cream twice a day.

The day before, stop tanning, wash your feet well, and apply a “second skin” cream. On race day, use this second skin cream again, letting it absorb well.

What to do if you get a blister?

Keep a pack of anti-blister bandages in your bag if you’re prone to blisters. You can apply one to the blister. Do not pop the blister, as open blisters can cause more pain from friction.

If you have access to a podiatrist at a rest stop (common in ultra trails), take a few minutes to get professional care.

Now, you’re ready to tackle the many kilometers ahead of you! One kilometer at a time, those shoes are going to get a workout! Two kilometers at a time… Nothing’s stopping you, especially not blisters! 😉

Candice Davagnier
CandicePassionate about mountains and their landscapes, Candice grew up in the Alps and loves nature walks. She creates relevant content to provide you with the best advice!