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!