Blister Doctor

No matter what shoes and fancy socks I wear, or how much lube I slather on my feet before a run, blisters are a stark reality.  You’d think that running regularly for the past 12 years would toughen up the soles of my feet, but I have not been so lucky.  There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to when they show up, but their periodic appearances have made me fairly proficient at dealing with them.

In high school, my cross country coach (who doubled as a guidance counselor and EMT) would play doctor of blisters and taper of feet every single afternoon.  He had blister treatment down to a science: a sterilized needle, an unknown and dreadfully stinging bright yellow spray, a generous dollop of petroleum jelly, and a quick round of pre-wrap.  He’d repeat this process with sometimes dozens of runners each and every day, getting us all out the door on time for practice to begin.

As I got older, I used Mr. Jones’ technique as an example and started doctoring blisters on my own.  However, that yellow spray was the first thing to go.  First of all, I had no idea what it was.  Second, it was almost surely a form of torture.  Also gone was the protective pre-wrap bandage – mostly because I never bothered to buy my own supply.  My revised plan of attack was simpler, yet as I’ve found over the years – still quite effective.

Friends, it might seem disgusting, but I still firmly believe that the best way to heal a blister is to give it a precise prick with a sterile needle – like letting the air out of a balloon.  It should be completely painless – just be careful to prick only the blistered skin and not the sensitive stuff beneath it.  Draining the blister gets rid of that puffy cushion that rubs against anything and everything, leaving a patch of skin that sits flat against the foot.  This flat, properly-proportioned patch of skin eliminates the possibility of bursting mid-run, and decreases the likelihood that it will tear and expose the tender, raw skin underneath.

Keep in mind that I’m an accountant, not a doctor.  But in my experience, exposing the raw skin to that tiny flow of air helps prepare it for the possibility of being exposed to the world.  If that blistery skin does come off, the skin beneath is much drier and ready for contact.  But more often than not, I’ve found that after draining, the skin heals right back to its original condition with no open wound whatsoever.

I still make a diligent effort to prevent the doctored blister from further friction.  I’ve tried a multitude of products advertised as blister remedies – moleskin, second skin, you name it – but the stuff I prefer to use is plain old Neosporin (actually, it’s generic equivalent.)  Since it is not designed to be a lubricant, it requires more frequent application than other treatments.  But I love the fact that it’s actually healing, and warding off infection while simultaneously guarding against friction.

I must emphasize that I’m not an advocate for careless self-treatment.  Be safe. Be smart.  Go to a doctor if things look ugly.  But with a medicine cabinet stocked with rubbing alcohol and antibiotic ointment, this has been a nearly failproof method of getting my tender feet back on the roads.

I’m always on the lookout for safe and effective home treatments for common running injuries.  Do you have other methods? Tell me about them!


About stillarunner

I used to run. Some days, I even ran fast. Then I got a job. And met a boy. And bought a house. And rescued a dog. And rescued another dog. And went back to school. And created human life. I might not run every day, or even every week. There’s a good possibility that I will never be fast again. But I’m still a runner.
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6 Responses to Blister Doctor

  1. Pam Rizza says:

    Sarah, I love your blog. How true about the difficulties of trying to keep fit in our mid-twenties. I am currently on a 90 day rampage to get my post-pregnancy self back into “shape”. As far as blister care goes, I feel like I have a bit of professional advice to offer. Yes, I will offically be a M.D in May, and no, blister care will not be my specialty. However, I am doing dermatology at the moment, which boosts my credentials a bit. 🙂 Your logic is sound. Using the I&D technique (incision and drainage) helps alleviate tension on the bister and prevents further friction damage. It is vital to leave the blister skin in tact, because that fragile new skin underneath will be very painful if exposed. You logically explained this beautifully. One thing I might caution against is using neosporin. Turns out, many people are actually allergic to Neomycin (the antibiotic contained in the ointment) which can lead to further inflammation and irritation. Polysporin cream is actually less irritating for most people. Anyhow, if neosporin seems to work for you… great! If you have trouble with thick callouses on your feet, you may consider a visit to your friendly dermatologist. You can appy a lactic acid cream (prescription only) to dissolve callous if they become thick and sore. Well that is my 2 cents. Sorry for the long post. Good luck with your training!

  2. Amy says:

    Hi Sarah! Just wanted to comment that I’ve been reading your blog. I’m starting to run again and it sucks. I hate the first part when I am trying to get back in shape. Luckily I haven’t had any blisters from my new shoes (yet). Are you doing Ground Hog on Sunday? I’m doing the 5k. It should be nice and slow. 🙂

  3. Megan says:

    Wow! I agree with a doctor! I feel so smart. 🙂 What you’re describing is just what I do. A lot of people think about “popping” blisters, but I think that’s too forceful a word. Instead, thinking about carefully draining it.

    On the word of caution side, any blister that has thick or yellowish drainage or angry red lines radiating from it is probably infected and should be shown to a doctor.

  4. Dana says:

    sound dumb, but diaper rash cream always worked well for me. and since my credentials as a mom don’t quite match up to the good dr-to-be, it’s quite acceptable to have a good laugh at this and nothing else =)

  5. Jen says:

    Agreed on the draining and Pam makes the perfect point of still leaving the skin on for protection!! I buy those Band Aid Blister Shield band aids. They help protect the troubled area and stay on for a couple days (through showering, sweat, etc.). They are expensive buggers, but worth it for bad ones! Also, buy some Smartwool Running Socks. They are awesome. Never a blister problem when wearing them 🙂
    Your local running store may also sell something similar to those Band Aid brand ones. We sell ProTec’s Liquicell Blister Bands. Same idea………
    Glad to see you back at the running!!

  6. Pingback: Marathon Footnotes « Still A Runner

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