One of the most simple elements of training can sometimes be the most painful and lead to the most disappointment. BLISTERS. I’ve seen blisters so bad at races that they have caused serious injuries just because it forced them to alter their stride for so long. Long term injuries like knee, hip, or ankle issues can be caused by miles of limping or favoring a foot or toe, etc… Even if you don’t end up with a long-term injury from them, BLISTERS HURT and make everything else seem secondary. So what can we do to prevent these blisters and how do they sneak up on us even when we haven’t had them before? READ BELOW!
Whether your training for an organized race or simply trying to reach a mileage or distance goal, 90% getting there is–well–all the training leading up to that goal! So when it comes to subjects like blister and chafe protection (as well as nutrition, injury prevention, etc…) it’s best to address and work on these well before your actual race so you can prepare and PREVENT issues at the race! BLISTER PREVENTION is one of those details you should think about BEFORE it happens, ideally.
Here are the top FIVE WAYS runners and walkers are surprised by blisters:
1.) NOT FAMILIAR WITH DISTANCE: he distance completed on race day was simply longer than they have gone before. Sometimes, all it takes is a few extra miles and those light hot spots that you could ignore become full-fledged BLISTERS. SOLUTION: Make sure you keep that training going to get as close to race distance as possible!
2.) NEW SOCKS OR SHOES. Fresh socks or shoes (ie. a pair that you haven’t sweat in or washed before) can be so slick and smooth, that they create more slipping and friction than normal. SOLUTION: Avoid wearing brand new shoes or socks on race day. If you HAVE to get shoes within a week of race day, it’s a good idea to wear them as much as possible simply walking around the house or at work so you can “sink” and “sweat” into them a bit more.
3.) WEATHER. We’ve seen this at a lot of races in the extremes of the seasons. Winter races in December are great, but often come with rain here in the Northwest. Rain and fabrics that soak up moisture are not friends. Likewise, races in July when the heat is at it’s peak can result in foot/shoe temperatures that are dozens of degrees warmer than your normal workouts. This creates more heat on your foot and more sweat (ie. moisture!). SOLUTION: 1.) Try not to be a fairweather runner or walker ALL the time. If you are training for a half marathon or a 10K in a typically wet season, you probably want to head out in the rain for at least a couple workouts to see how things shake out.
4.) WRONG SOCKS: As we mentioned above, moisture from rain or simply moisture from sweating during a long race can lead to issues. SOLUTION: Make sure you are wearing the RIGHT kinds of socks and the RIGHT kinds of shoes. SOCKS: If you are wearing cotton socks, you are in for trouble. Cotton soaks up that moisture and friction is just waiting to trip you up. Synthetic socks like Feetures, Balega, or our own brand of socks in our shops do a great job pulling moisture away from the skin and back out of the shoe. One of our FAVORITE fabrics for moisture is a lightweight WOOL sock like Smartwool (not an itchy, low quality wool, but really fine well made wool socks). BUT, it’s not just fabric that makes a difference. It’s FIT. Make sure you go to a shop that knows about shoes and socks and how they should fit on your foot (not too big, not too small). And not all synthetic socks are created equally. There are plenty of bargain socks out there, but sometimes you get what you pay for with fit and comfort. The way the sock fits around your arch and heel makes a HUGE difference in performance.
5.) WRONG SHOES: No matter what you do above, if you didn’t get fit for a pair of shoes or at least had a chance to try on multiple pairs (we’re talking 3-6 pairs to compare), then you are in for trouble. Shoes are quite simply the only major piece of equipment you need for the sport. SOLUTION: So here’s how to decide on shoes. 1.) Go in and get a proper fitting by someone who looks at your feet. 2.) Decide what kind of shoe upper (the top part of the shoe) makes sense for the season. In the summer, it’s a simple choice: Well-made running shoes that are properly fit with LOTS of breathable mesh on top. In the rain…not so easy of a choice. Waterproof shoes? Open mesh shoes? That part is a matter of preference, but I will say on a very wet day, moisture tends to make it’s way down your leg and into your sock. Eventually, your foot is going to get wet if you are out there long enough and that waterproof shoe is going to keep that moisture INSIDE at this point. We usually suggest a shoe that has a well-made upper that breaths really well and allows the sock to do what it does best–move moisture away from the foot so it doesn’t bog down in the shoe. If you have the right kind of socks, you will find that a wet foot doesn’t bother you nearly as much. If you choose a waterproof option, there are some great ones from brands like Brooks, New Balance, Hoka, Saucony and others that are built on some of their most popular models. A good waterproof shoe should still be a good shoe overall–but it will have a Goretex membrane in the upper that keeps a lot of the moisture out. PRO-TIP: Sometimes these waterproof shoes can be a little stiff and tight so sometimes sizing up a half size helps with the extra space. Give them time to work-in a little too.
OTHER TIPS AND NOTES:
- Blisters and chafing can effect other areas as well. Think of sports bra straps, under arms, between thighs, and nipples (men, primarily).
- It’s suggested to use a anti-chafing material like Body Glide that doesn’t wear off like Vaseline does. You can use it on your feet and any other hot spot area to reduce friction.
- Wear proper fitting clothes with the same principles of socks above (moisture wicking, etc…).
- Get familiar with different blister bandage options and test them out and/or have them with you on event day or in your car. After all, despite our best efforts, sometimes it JUST HAPPENS. Having a GOOD blister band-aid can make the blister situation just a little more tolerable until you can put your feet up.
If you ever have any questions about blisters, training, gear, or anything running or walking related at all, remember that you can always CALL or email our stores to chat with our super knowledgeable and friendly staff (even if you aren’t in the Pacific Northwest!). If you’re local, pay us a visit! We love to help! Happy trails!