If you feel mid-race or mid-run blisters coming on, chances are that the affected area will get worse before it gets better. That’s why it’s best to try and prevent the onset of blisters before a race or before a training run.
Stanford University researchers found that cheap surgical tape, available online and at many local pharmacies, is an effective tool in preventing blisters among runners. The study, published April 11, 2016, appears in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine.
Lead author Grant Lipman noted that the running community has long been without an effective, low-cost solution for blisters. Paper tape can be purchased for as low as $2 per roll.
The research team enlisted 128 ultramarathon runners who raced at a 250K, six-stage race in the Jordan, Gobi, Madagascar and Atacama deserts in 2014. Researchers selected a spot on each runner’s foot that thought was to blister-prone and taped that area accordingly. If the area was not prone to blisters, researchers added tape to a random part of the foot.
Of the 128 selected athletes, 98 runners said they did not experience blisters under the tape. Meanwhile, 81 of the 128 runners said they got blisters in untaped areas.
“It’s kind of a ridiculously cheap, easy method of blister prevention,” Lipman said. “You can get it anywhere. A little roll costs about 69 cents (USD), and that should last a year or two.”
Paper surgical tape is particularly successful because it’s smooth and thin and provides runners with a buffer between the foot and the shoe. Blisters are typically caused by friction as the skin rubs against another surface.
Another feature of paper tape is its lack of adhesiveness, which allows runners to remove the tape without tearing off any portion of the blister. Runners often experience blisters on their heel, arch, or toes, especially during distance races in hot or wet conditions.
Others have also suggested the use of Injinji socks, which aim to prevent blisters with material between a runner’s toes.