Runners are prone to blisters and they can range from a small water filled bubble to a large red tomato looking like you have grown a sixth toe! Below I have outlined what to do if you already have a blister.
LET IT HEAL
Blisters are commonly caused by excessive friction so a few days off running and resting would be of great value to the healing process. If your on your feet during the day then cover the blistered area with a dry non adherent dressing. When resting put your feet up and allow the area to air. Keep your feet clean and dry thoroughly after showering/bathing. Wear clean socks each day and monitor the blister for any redness or discharge. If it does pop then keep the area covered at all times until fully healed but DO NOT remove the blister fully (i.e. do not de-roof it).
If you need to continue running make sure you reduce friction as much as possible and dress the blister properly. Using Zinc Oxide tape is useful in this instance however do cover the blister with a non adherent dressing before applying this tape.
TO POP OR NOT TO POP?
With any wound there is a risk of infection, this can delay healing and could see you facing a couple of weeks off running.
The sensible answer is usually don’t pop it – A blister is a fluid filled sack that is natures own barrier to infection and is protecting raw healing skin. Sticking a needle in there may introduce bacteria and increase your infection risk.
However it may be that the blister is so large or deep (usually blood blisters) that the pressure build up is painful and causing walking difficulties let alone being able to run. This is where there is an argument for ‘popping it’. When you run it’s quite likely it will pop anyway, so it may be safer and less painful to do this in a controlled, relatively sterile manner. You could go to your Podiatrist for them to aspirate and dress it. This is the safest option and Podiatrist are well versed to dealing with these issues.
When dressing a burst blister don’t remove the overlying skin (de-roofing) as it naturally protects the healing skin underneath. Allow the fluid to drain and cover with a dry, sterile dressing.
Watch out for signs of infection – these include swelling or redness surrounding the blister, yellow/green discharge or puss from the wound (not to be confused with normal transparent yellowish fluid you might expect from a blister) increase in pain and excessive heat from the area.
HOW TO AVOID IT HAPPENING AGAIN
Think about what may have caused the blister - yes it is friction but where is that friction coming from?
Are your running shoes too big? Your foot can be moving backwards and forwards constantly causing irritation in the arch or at the ends of your toes. Perhaps you need to change your shoes or think about re-lacing them to stop movement.
Select the right socks? There are many running socks out there however I personally find wearing two thin pairs of socks works best. The friction will be taken off your skin and help reduce skin irritation
There are many reasons for friction and perhaps warrants another blog. I will do a blog on re-lacing techniques and other common friction issues with running. So keep an eye out!