Running and Blisters: Coping

Most runners have had a painful foot blister. Today we look at risk reduction and management.

I walk a lot. And occasionally do some running (typically alternating with walking). Today, I have a small blister on the underside of my foot. Being ever curious, I began to explore the available literature about foot blister risk reduction and management. Have you ever had a blister that ruined a run or a race? Or that just nagged at you at a low level for a couple of days?

What causes a foot blister?

If you have formed a small pocket of fluid on some part of your body, you may have had a blister. These bubbles vary in size and have many causes. For example, you may get one after infection, trauma, or even an insect bite. The location of it can influence the effects on your quality of life. For example, foot blisters may lead to challenges in walking, standing, or exercising.

Let’s turn to some of the causes of blisters. For ones on foot, friction is often the causative agent. Walk or stand for hours, and you put pressure on various parts of your feet, including the heels, toes, and soles. Poorly fitted shoes may result in fluid-filled bubbles, whether the shoes are too tight or too loose. The resultant friction causes a fluid buildup just beneath the upper layer of the skin.

Other potential causes include:

  • an allergic reaction
  • chemical exposure (for example, to cosmetics or detergents)
  • chickenpox
  • eczema
  • frostbite
  • infection (fungal, bacterial, or herpes)
Photo by Gabby Orcutt on Unsplash

How do you know if you have a blister?

Usually, blisters on the feet that result from friction will spontaneously resolve after a few days. If they don’t heal over time or in response to treatment, please see a valued healthcare professional, particularly if you have severe pain, fever, nausea, or chills. You may have an infection. A doctor or other healthcare professional may drain the blister using a sterile needle. If she suspects an infection, the fluid can be examined to get to the root causes.

Got any home remedies?

Why yes. First, don’t pick at the blister or burst it. If you do so, you may cause an infection. First, many blisters that are left alone will eventually harden and go away. However, in the interval, you may experience discomfort, depending on the size and location of the lesion. Instead of bursting it, Healthline suggests these steps to properly train a blister at home:

  1. Wash your hands with warm water and antibacterial soap.
  2. Using a cotton swab, disinfect a needle with rubbing alcohol.
  3. Clean the blister with antiseptic.
  4. Take the needle and make a small puncture in the blister.
  5. Allow fluid to completely drain from the blister.
  6. Apple antibacterial ointment or cream to the blister.
  7. Cover the blister with a bandage of gauze.
  8. Clean and reapply antibacterial ointment daily. Keep the blister covered until it heals.

Blister risk-reduction

  • If you are in a race, check-in at a medical station.
  • Make sure you have properly fitted shoes. If your feet rub along with a certain area of your shoe, wearing an insole may provide extra padding and reduce friction. Leave a bit of room in the toebox, and learn what amount of lacing is optimal for you.
  • Check your socks. Many prefer ones made specifically for running, including WrightSocks or synthetic-fiber (non-cotton) brands such as CoolMax to reduce moisture. Running socks are often shaped better for those who jog or run. Try some smooth socks with no seams or even double-layer socks.
  • Keep your feet dry. Some apply foot powder, while others wear moisture-wicking socks designed for sports.
  • Keep your calluses. Don’t remove them with an emery board, for example.
  • Consider tape or pads. You may wish to try moleskin or athletic tape over high-risk areas that are prone to blisters. If you try this approach, avoid wrinkles, and don’t apply it too tightly.
  • Use lubricant. Substances such as BodyGlide or vaseline on high-risk areas may help, but keep the amount small. We don’t want your foot slip-sliding around.
  • If powders, lotions, or soaps trigger blisters, stop using them.
  • If a medical condition triggers the blisters, consult a valued healthcare professional.


Medika Life has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by Medika Life

General HealthRunning and Blisters: Coping
Michael Hunter, MD
Michael Hunter, MD
I received an undergraduate degree from Harvard, a medical degree from Yale, and trained in radiation oncology at the University of Pennsylvania. I practice radiation oncology in the Seattle area.

More from this Author