A Cheap Cure for Blisters Could Be in Your Junk Drawer

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By: , – Melissa Rudy, Health & Fitness Journalist
  :  10 comments   :  42,075 Views

To a runner, walker or hiker, a blister is like kryptonite. It may not look like much, but even the smallest patch of irritated, inflamed skin is enough to stop any foot-propelled workout in its tracks.
 
Blisters are usually caused by friction, as your sock or shoe rubs against the skin during repetitive motion, which is why they're more likely to flare up during long races or hikes. The friction causes the top layers of skin to separate, and over time fluid gets trapped between them.
 
There's no shortage of products on the market that promise to relieve and prevent blistering agony, but some can be pricey. Before driving to the sports store and spending money on cushioned insoles, orthotics, powders, lubricants, anti-perspirants or special patches, you might want to try a cheap, no-frills remedy that you probably already own: Good old-fashioned paper tape.
 
The Blister Buster That Goes the Distance
 
In a recent study at Stanford University, ultra-marathon runners tested low-cost paper tape—also known as surgical tape—as a means of preventing blisters. The study's lead author, emergency medicine physician Grant Lipman, has served as the resident doctor for many extreme endurance events, and blisters were by far the most common pain complaint among ultramarathon runners. After hearing some runners rave about the effects of simple paper tape, Lipman decided to put it to the test.
 
The RacingThePlanet ultramarathon seemed like the perfect testing environment. During this grueling 155-mile event, participants run through Jordan, Madagascar and the Gobi Desert. Prior to the race, Lipman and his team of medical assistants applied paper tape to only one randomly selected foot of each of the participating runners. For runners who historically got blisters, the tape was applied to those same areas; for those who had been lucky enough to avoid blistering, the tape was placed on random parts of the foot.
 
Over the course of the seven-day race, medical assistants monitored the runners' feet. They found that no blisters formed on the taped feet for 98 of the 128 runners, while 81 of the 128 did develop blisters on the feet without tape. The overall incidence of blisters had decreased by approximately 40 percent.
 
As Lipman points out, paper tape is an extremely inexpensive way to prevent blisters. You can pick up a roll at your local drugstore for a buck or two, and it can last a year or more. Because it's thin, porous and only mildly adhesive, it works well for long-distance running. "The best way to make it to the finish line is by taking care of your feet," Lipman adds.
 
More Tips to Keep Blisters at Bay
 
Along with paper tape, you can also try these additional preventative measures for a blister-free run, walk or hike.
  • Ensure proper shoe fit. Although no certain type of shoe is guaranteed to ward off blisters, the right fit and lacing style can help keep your foot in a stable position and prevent chafing. Too-small shoes can cause blisters on and around the toes, while shoes with too much room can rub against the heel.
  • Never wear new shoes in a race. Always break them in first, so you can see how they will rub against your feet.
  • Choose moisture-wicking socks. Blisters thrive in sweaty environments, so skip the pure cotton socks and choose a wicking material that doesn't absorb moisture.
  • Moisturize. Dry feet can also be more susceptible to chafing, so apply lotion or cream to the feet on a daily basis. (The key is to find that sweet spot between too dry and overly sweaty.)
  • Lube up. Some runners swear by Vaseline as an anti-chafing lubricant for various areas of the body, including the feet. 
Do you suffer from blisters when running or walking? What remedies have worked (or not) for you?


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Comments

  • 10
    And if you notice a hotspot forming on your foot, stop and tape it BEFORE it becomes a blister. - 9/22/2017   2:34:30 AM
  • 9
    I've always gotten blisters, from both regular & running & hiking shoes & boots, even sandals! until I 'break' them in; most shoes just are too narrow for my bones - I will give paper tape (plus the under socks nylon socks someone mentioned) a try - 'moleskin' works but it's quite pricey. - 6/10/2017   8:53:59 PM
  • 8
    What a great idea. I'll have to give this a try. - 6/8/2017   10:14:50 PM
  • 7
    Oh!! I think this is answering my question late last night. I've lost 15-20 lbs and my old shoes are now loose. My right leg is longer than left leg, so recently I've been getting blisters deep inside my heel after walking ... not in the surface but the heel starts feeling hot and itchy, and I keep rubbing until eventually the blister runs through. Sooo. For now I will continue with paper tape as preemptive strike, and wear two pairs of socks. May also get some new thicker insole liners to take up the extra space until I can find shoes at a reasonable price. - 12/5/2016   1:40:35 AM
  • 6
    I suffered with terrible blisters when training for my first marathon. My feet were a mess. Taping didn't help. Socks didn't help. What did help? New shoes that fit right.

    Suggestion for those who are running. Go to a real running shoe store. Most have return periods that are 30-60 days. What fits in the store or feels "right" will feel different once you're running in it.

    The shoes do cost more at the running store. Tell the clerk what your budget is and they will help suggest shoes in your price range. Please don't try them on in the running store and then order them on-line because they're cheaper. Local shops sponsor events and have these return policies and can be places to meet up with other folks. Buy a second pair on-line if you need to.

    I'm not a running shoe store owner. I am a knitter and like to get some service when I buy products. That knowledge and service costs more than a place that just picks your order. - 12/2/2016   2:00:48 PM
  • 5
    Paper tape is also great with you are wearing dress shoes that you don't usually wear. - 5/23/2016   8:33:28 AM
  • 4
    I was going to suggest the 2 pairs solution as well. They keep the skin from having to rub against the outer sock or shoe as the inner pair can move with foot and the rubbing then occurs at the junction between the 2 pairs. I had a friend who swore by Watkins medicated ointment (he was a British Army vet). - 4/21/2016   8:36:17 PM
  • HOTMOR
    3
    Thanks for sharing.I rob lots of shea butter. - 4/17/2016   4:52:11 PM
  • FROGSMILE
    2
    Another simple thing to try is two pairs of socks or hose. Years ago, I was very subject to blistering when walking. My husband, who was a golfer, recommended adding a pair of thin hose next to the skin. I use trouser socks or nylons. I haven't had any blistering since. The thin nylons wick moisture to the outer socks and protect against rubbing and chafing the skin. - 4/16/2016   7:34:37 AM
  • 1
    These are great remedies. I do not get blisters from walking. But I have bought regular shoes that caused blisters. Very painful. I soak in Epsom salts and rub the with lotion before bed to help dry skin! - 4/15/2016   10:01:50 PM

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