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A Cheap Cure for Blisters Could Be in Your Junk Drawer

By , Melissa Rudy, Health & Fitness Journalist
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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Very helpful information. I am diabetic so I pay close attention to my feet, I see too many diabetics lose their feet. Report
KITTYHAWK1949 12/9/2020
good to know. thanks Report
ISNESS 9/21/2020
I used to have bad blisters in my young years, wearing too small shoes on purpose. One can imagine, I got halux valgus... but against blisters I started to wear two pair of socks. Very thin ones and the normal ones. It helped! Vaseline every day helps, too. Thanks for the article. Report
CKEYES1 6/18/2020
I'm going to try the tape Report
Don't get blisters when I do my walking! Report
3 pairs of socks with my hiking boots works well so far. Will keep these tips in mind, though. Report
We are heading out for a long hike so I will give some of these ideas a try! Report
Great ideas! Report
Have to try it. Report
Great suggestions. Report
Wonderful tips Report
My husband and I hike the Missouri bluffs along the Mississippi River and about the second time out I got a blister. The next weekend I used a bandaid and added a pair of cushy Nike short socks over the Nike compression knee socks and the Darn Tough wool socks. That worked well enough until my heel toughened up. Didn't have to buy new boots! Still using my heavy leather boots from the 70s! Report
Amazing discovery. Thanks so much for sharing this! Report
I love paper tape!! I use it proactively... first I used it to protect a callus that kept forming on my big toe. Not only did it go completely away, but since I put a couple of small pieces of tape on that place daily, the callus has not reformed, and I have not had the pain. Report
Thanks for sharing. Report
When I get one I normally just burst it with a needle to relieve it but make sure it is clean Report
The article and the comments were both very helpful. Lots of good ideas! Report
Good tips. Report
FWIW, an old soldier I met while in the Army said that putting duct tape (Duck Tape) on the soles of your feet would protect them when doing long road marches! I never actually tried this suggestion; I felt taking the tape off afterwards would be a pain. Now that I've read this article, maybe the old dog was on to something! Report
Good to know info! Thanks! Report
I get terrible blisters when hiking, tried all kinds of things to prevent. Tried tape & it made things even worse for me; the tape moved & bunched up causing even more rubbing, same thing happened to me with mole skin & specific blister bandaids. Report
I get terrible blisters when hiking, tried all kinds of things to prevent. Tried tape & it made things even worse for me; the tape moved & bunched up causing even more rubbing, same thing happened to me with mole skin & specific blister bandaids. Report
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
Thanks for sharing Report
Since it's cooler/cold weather my feet are totally covered with socks and boots so the chaffing begins. I will definitely try some of the quick fixes. My hubby's friend would loads of vaseline on his feet and then put socks on this was at night. She said his feet were smooth as silk I just can't remember and I don't like to wear socks in bed either..... Report
Duct tape is my favorite, because it actually stays on my foot! Report
It be nice to show some examples of the paper tape Report
And if you notice a hotspot forming on your foot, stop and tape it BEFORE it becomes a blister. Report
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. Report
What a great idea. I'll have to give this a try. Report
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. Report
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. Report
Paper tape is also great with you are wearing dress shoes that you don't usually wear. Report
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). Report
Thanks for sharing.I rob lots of shea butter. Report
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. Report
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! Report