Every runner has experienced a bad blister. When not monitored properly, these small skin abrasions can turn into bigger issues.  

Toronto based physiotherapist, Lauren Roberts, has seen many blisters cause bigger injuries. Roberts explains, “Any time our body starts to experience pain, we can interpret that pain in two different ways, positive or negative.”

“Positive pain refers to muscle fiber breakdown, or your body’s physiological protective response to exercise. For example, if you’re halfway through a repeat mile, muscle pain can be perceived as positive because it reiterates that you’re doing what you want to be doing. Our body knows that it’s not in danger.”

Roberts continues, “The second category of pain tends to be the injury type of pain. This kind of pain isn’t normally associated with pain from running or training. This is a different kind of feeling that is associated with trouble.”

Blisters are linked with the second category of pain. The discomfort from a blister can alter a runner’s gait pattern, and cause utilization of different muscle groups. Roberts says that, “Altering your gait is a common cause of injury.”

Most people don’t consider their blisters as real injuries, but Roberts encourages runners to take care of skin abrasions, even when they seem like minor issues. 

Robert’s recommends getting properly fitted for a shoe, and buying running specific socks to help avoid blister formation. Socks designed specifically for running have extra padding where blisters typically form. 

If you feel a blister forming during a run and you can sense your form chaning because of it, consider stopping. If you’re on the fence about calling a run, always err on the side of caution. Roberts says that, “From a rehab perspective, if the patient continues running, the therapist often has to go back and unwind all of the complications that were caused by this silly blister.”

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Once a blister has formed, Roberts encourages runners to try their best to let it drain on its own. Popping a blister means risking infection.

Other suggestions to promote healing are: cover it with a band-aid, and wear appropriate shoes that won’t irritate the affected area. Blisters will usually subside within a couple days. If it’s really not healing, Roberts suggests seeing a doctor to drain it. 

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