Training: Look after your feet
7 Ways to Prevent Foot Blisters

For walking, running and even cycling events, your feet are one of your most important pieces of equipment. You need to look after them!

Blisters are a common complaint. If you have just started exercising, changed your shoes, or started doing longer distances, you may get blisters on your feet and toes.

But blisters are by no means inevitable and there are ways to toughen your feet and to prevent most blisters.

Tip 1. Find the Right Shoes 

Your shoes are often the source of your blisters. You get a blister due to friction where your toes, heels, and the sole of your foot rub against the shoe. Everybody has feet of different shapes and sizes, and there is no single shoe will be right for everyone. Getting the right size and shape of shoe can help prevent blisters.

Cause: New Shoes: It is inevitable that new shoes will take a little time to wear in, even if they are the same brand and model you have been wearing. They will rub different areas of your feet and may cause blisters if worn for too long, too soon.  
Solution: Take it slowly and only go short distances with new pairs of shoes. Build up your mileage and speed in each pair of shoes.

Cause: Cramped Shoes: With a cramped toe area, your toes rub against each other and the sides or end of the shoe. As well as blisters, this can lead to more serious issues such as blackened toenails or losing the toenails after a long walk.
Solution: Your shoes or trainers should have a finger's width of length between the end of your toe and the end of your shoes to allow your feet to expand while exercising. Select shoes of the proper width for your foot so that toes have enough room. Do you need bigger shoes?

Cause: Feet Sliding Around in Shoes: If your shoes have a sloppy fit and your feet slide forward and back within the shoe with each step, or slip at the back heel area, you are adding extra blister-causing friction. This can also cause a black toenail.
Solution: You want your feet to have enough room to expand, but not enough to slide around. Wear a thicker pair of socks or buy insoles to take up some of the extra space. Learn how to lace your shoes to keep your heel in the heel cup with each step rather than sliding forward. If you still seem to have too much space, buy shoes that fit better.

Cause: Rough Edges in Your Shoes: The seams and the edge of the insole can rub against your foot or toes. This is often a problem for very new or very old shoes.
Solution: You can try changing the insole of your shoes. Some shoes are designed to be seamless inside. But, generally, the solution will be to lubricate or cover the area that is getting rubbed. Or it may be time to invest in a new pair.

Tip 2. Toughening Your Feet

If you are just starting out, it is quite likely that your feet won’t be used to the rigours of continuous rubbing for long periods. However you will have fewer problems with blisters if your skin gets a little tougher.

Calluses are your friends: No really, they are! As your feet get more of a workout, they build up calluses which act as a natural pad against the friction that forms blisters. Do not give in to beauty and shave off or pumice down the calluses—at least until after your event.

Tannic acid to toughen: Tannins, most commonly found in tea, will help harden up your feet. Apply tannic acid to your feet, or soak them in strong tea, twice daily for two to three weeks.

Moisturise Away Heel Cracks: To keep your calluses from drying out too much and developing painful cracks, moisturise your feet after each bath or shower with a good foot cream or hand cream.

Tip 3. Wear the Right Socks

When it comes to socks, synthetics rule! A natural fibre like cotton retains your foot sweat, which then softens the skin and leaves it more prone to breaking with friction, and blisters form.

Wick it Away: Synthetic socks made of an acrylic or polypropylene fabric wick moisture away from the foot, keeping it dry. These are available at specialist shops.

Double layers: Double-layer socks may be the answer to preventing blisters. The inner layer should be of a wicking fabric. The two layers work to prevent friction on the foot itself. You can also try wearing two pairs of socks.

Padded Socks vs Thin Socks: From a blister standpoint, experiment with the thickness of your socks. If your socks are so thick that your toes have no room, you need bigger shoes or thinner socks. When having shoes fitted, bring along the thickness of sock you plan to wear to ensure a correct fit.

Change Your Socks En Route: There are plenty of marathon runners who recommend changing your socks whenever your feet get wet due to rain, or at the halfway point of a marathon. The same would apply to walking and cycling.

Wear’s the Rub: Check where the sock seams are hitting your toes. Is that where you are getting blisters? Some running socks are specially designed to keep the seams away from the feet.

Socks are an Investment: They can be just as important as your shoes and are worth spending the time and a little extra money to get right.

Tip 4. Lubricate Your Feet

Friction - the rubbing motion between foot, sock, and shoe—creates heat and tearing forces, which make the skin prone to blisters. Reduce the friction, reduce the blisters. One way to reduce friction is by lubricating your feet so they slide rather than rub.

Petroleum Jelly:  Vaseline or generic petroleum jelly is an inexpensive lubricant. Be aware that it won't easily wash out of your socks, and it makes dirt cling to your socks. That can mean there is more grit in your shoe to irritate your foot, which could, in turn, cause more blisters.

AD Ointment: This preparation is thicker than petroleum jelly and is another inexpensive way to lubricate your feet. It’s often found in the baby section of supermarkets (for nappy rash) or to help with the healing process after a tattoo. 

Body Glide, Run Goo et al: These products can be found at specialist shops or online and go on like a stick of deodorant, or come in a handy tube. They vary in their formulations, with some of them being petroleum-free. Most are less likely to gunk up your socks compared with petroleum jelly. It would be a good idea to re-apply during a walk. They are also designed to prevent chafing of other body parts.

Teflon: Some socks are incorporating Teflon to prevent friction.

Tip 5. Keep Your Feet Dry

Keeping your feet dry starts with wicking socks, but you can also use other strategies.

Cornflour and Talcum Powder: First, plain old cornflour (yep, just like you use in cooking) in your socks and shoes can keep your feet dry. Reapply it at least once in a long distance event. Talcum powder does the same job, and smells better!

Antiperspirant: A military study showed that using a special heavy-duty antiperspirant on the feet reduced the incidence of blisters. While regular antiperspirant is less concentrated, it might be worth trying.

But Drink Up: Keep your feet dry, but don't let the rest of you get dehydrated. Keep drinking water for the first hour, then a sports drink with electrolytes (salts) to keep your body fluids in balance. Getting dehydrated can contribute to blisters.

Tip 6. Cover the Problem Spots on Your Feet

If you have a spot that is prone to blistering, or have developed a hot spot while you are out exercising, covering it can help protect it. There are several options, including sports tape, moleskin, gel bandages, or ordinary plasters. At a pinch, you might even use duct tape (although be careful when taking it off!). 

The drawbacks of covering the area is that these bandages and pads don't necessarily stay where you've put them, especially as you continue walking or running. You may have to try various kinds to find the one that sticks best for you. As always, prevention is the best solution for a blister.

Tip 7. Stop and Readjust When You Feel a Hot Spot

You will often feel a pain point developing that can turn into a blister.
While you may want to keep going, the best thing to do is stop immediately.
If you are carrying a blister kit, place a blister bandage or other cover over the spot.

Readjust your socks and shoes to try to eliminate places where your socks may have become bunched up.

Please seek medical advice before starting any kind of intensive training or exercise plan.

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