While running my first marathon, I developed 12 blisters on my feet which forced me to walk the last nine miles and adjust my stride. I wore the same socks & shoes as I used in my training and had run in the rain so moisture had never caused it before. My longest training run was twenty miles. How do I prevent this from happening?
Annoying and painful, blisters are caused by friction, usually your shoes or socks rubbing against your skin. Anything that intensifies rubbing can start a blister, including a faster pace, poor-fitting shoes and foot abnormalities, such as bunions, heel spurs and hammertoes. Heat and moisture intensify friction by making your feet swell. That explains why many runners, like yourself, only suffer blisters during races, especially marathons. You're perspiring more, running faster and longer, sloshing through water stations and, if it's warm, pouring water over your head.
To prevent blisters:
- Wear shoes and socks that fit. Shoes that are too small will cause blisters under the toes and on the ends of the toenails. Shoes that are too big tend to rub the back of your heel our along the side of your foot. There should be a thumbs width of space between the toes and end of the toe box. Your socks should fit smoothly, with no extra fabric at the toes or heels.
- Choose blister-free socks. Synthetic socks wick moisture away from the skin. Cotton may be lighter, but it retains fluid, which may cause blisters. Socks with reinforced heels and toes also help reduce friction.
- Run with coated skin. Cover problem areas of your feet with Vaseline or another lubricant before you run. Or use Second Skin, a padded tape that stays on even when wet. Both methods form a protective shield between your skin and sock.
- Moisturize your feet regularly. Just like sweaty skin, overly dry skin is also more prone to friction. Use skin creams and lotions liberally on a daily basis to maintain proper skin condition.
- Double up. Wear two pairs of socks so the friction occurs between the two socks, rather than between the sock and skin. If your shoe now feels too tight, go up a half-size as long as your foot doesn't slide around, making blisters a possibility. When using this option make sure the inner sock is a comfortable, synthetic material.
- Erin Kandel
Erin is a member of the MarathonGuide.com staff, writing articles, answering questions and generally helping to maintain this website.