Blisters are the bane of every runner’s existence. In a study
published last week in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine,
researchers found that putting paper tape on runners’ feet in
blister prone areas, reduced blistering by 40%.

An abstract of the journal article is at:

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Blisters form as a result of friction or rubbing of the skin. A pocket of fluid (serum) collects between the top layers of the skin forming a bubble.  When they form on the feet they make walking and running painful. A number of conditions increase the risk of blisters including: poorly fitting shoes/sneakers, heat and sweat (moisture), fast pace walking/running, foot abnormalities such as bunions or hammertoes.  These conditions are intensified in runners, but they can happen in anyone.

While blisters are not generally dangerous, they can be painful and prevent a runner from finishing a race or cause significant discomfort when walking, for those of us non-runners. The prudent action to take prevention, is to prevent them, if possible.

As the research study above showed, using paper tape does prevent blisters a good portion of the time. Try it on blister prone areas – the back of the heel, ball of the foot, and tip or top of the toes. Make sure the tape is smooth and the edges are adhered to your skin.

Other ways to prevent blisters include:

  • Wearing synthetic socks that wick away moisture (cotton socks retain moisture) with reinforced toes and heels
  •  Keep your feet moisturized. Dry skin is more prone to blistering.
  • Use a lubricant like petroleum jelly before a race to keep your feet “slick” and reduce friction between your foot, sock, and sneaker.
  • Get properly fitting footwear. Sneakers that are too light/small will cause blistering. Always make sure there is at least a thumb width of space between the end of your longest toe and the end of the sneaker.
  • Wear properly fitting socks. Socks should be smooth across the toes, with no extra fabric there or at the heel.  


If a blister does form, the Mayo Clinic suggests the following to relieve pain, drain the fluid and leave the overlying skin intact:

  • Wash your hands and the blister with soap and warm water.
  • Swab the blister with povidone-iodine (generic) (brand name- Betadine)
  • Sterilize a clean, sharp needle by wiping it with rubbing alcohol.
  • Use the needle to puncture the blister. Aim for several spots near the blister's edge. Let the fluid drain, but leave the overlying skin in place.
  • Cover it with a nonstick gauze bandage and antibacterial cream/ointment. 
  • Change the dressing every day or more often, if needed.


For more information
Runners World – Blisters

Podiatry Today – Foot blister prevention

Mayo Clinic – Blister first aid

Joanna Hayden, PhD, CHES is the principal health education specialist at Associates for Health Education and Behavior in Sparta, a practice focused on improving health through education. For more information please see  To contact Dr. Hayden, email her at