The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Podiatrist Secrets: 5 Ways Runners Can Beat Blisters Once and For All

Posted by on Wednesday, December 18th, 2013


At one ill-fated high school cross-country meet, I twisted an ankle tripping over a root, rolled down a hill, got stuck in the mud, suffered shin splints and got a thorn in my side. Yet, what troubled me most was the God-awful blister that had sprung up on both of my right baby toes. The stabbing, throbbing pain was nearly intolerable! If you know this feeling all too well, then consider these five podiatrist tips for beating blisters for good.

Blisters are a common complaint of runners.
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Blister Buster #1: Buy the right shoes.

Blisters form when the skin rubs against the shoe, causing friction. I had always fluctuated between 8.5 and 9, so I never really knew which size to order. When buying shoes, you should shop at the end of the day, when your feet are most swollen. You also want about a thumb’s width between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Search for styles by brands like Brooks, New Balance, and Asics, which feature deeper, roomier toe boxes.

Blister Buster #2: Break your shoes in.

A fatal mistake I often make is “breaking in” a new pair of shoes with a 45-minute run. This is a bad idea! It’s better to wear them walking around the house for a little while first. Wear them at night when your feet are a little more swollen. Next, wear them for a quick one or two-mile run. Work your way up to the long distances. Be sure to give them a good jog around the store to identify any possible trouble spots.

double layer socks
Wrightsocks specializes in anti-blister technology.
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Blister Buster #3: Select sock material with care.

Running socks are just as important as the shoes that you choose. If you remember nothing else, remember this: Cotton is evil. Same deal with wool. Dampness gets in your shoes and never leaves. Socks made from polypropylene or synthetic blends are much better at wicking away moisture and keeping the feet dry during a race. You may also consider Wrightsocks, which advertises an “anti-blister system” or Shea Butter Double Layer socks. At nearly $20 a pair, they’re not cheap — but it beats a blister epidemic! Foot powders and sprays can also decrease the moisture in your running shoes.

Blister Buster #4: Condition the skin.

prevent blisters
A thin layer of petroleum jelly can prevent friction-related blisters.
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Many runners say a thin layer of Vaseline applied to the feet before a workout will decrease friction. I could never bring myself to do it. Going to the spa for the occasional pedicure was much more my style. Torn up skin from old blisters could be removed and dry scales could be moisturized for added comfort while running. However, I make sure the technician leaves any protective calluses alone, since these are preventing me from getting future blisters. It’s also important to leave your cuticles in tact, since they protect your nail bed from bacteria and other microbes. The last thing anyone needs is a foot infection!

Blister Buster #5: Invest in cushioning.

Padded insoles or custom orthotics with non-slip surfaces decrease friction, improve comfort, and lead to a more enjoyable running experience all-around. The less your foot slips around inside the shoe, the fewer blisters you’ll have. Over-the-counter brands include Dr. Scholls, Superfeet, and Spenco, which you may try at first to see if you like them. Nothing beats a custom molding at your local podiatrist’s office, which will last much longer and give your feet the custom support you need to run your best.

Follow these five podiatrist-recommended tips, and you won’t be sidelined by a blister anytime soon!


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.