Should you pop a running blister? It’s a question I get asked often from my athletes I coach to followers on Instagram. Thankfully, I don’t get many blisters from running anymore because I know how to prevent blisters.
But I do remember when I started running more seriously after having my kids and a gnarly blister formed on my heel. I had a half-marathon to race in a couple of days and wasn’t sure what to do. Should I pop a running blister? Should I leave the blister alone? Will it hurt less running with a blister if I pop it?
I asked every runner I knew and everyone seemed to have a different opinion. My husband’s ultra running friends told me to drain the blister and apply duct tape to it. That seemed like a bad idea. Others said leave it alone.
I ended up doing nothing to the blister except lubricating it with Vaseline, and it was the right call. The blister from running didn’t bother me during the race and it ended well (I even won the half marathon!).
But running blisters come in all different sizes, shapes, and locations. So when should you pop a blister and when should you leave the blister alone?
I am here to answer all your running blister questions thanks in large part to the help of my dermatologist Dr. Carley Fowler!
In this article, I will cover:
- What causes blisters from running?
- Should you pop a blister?
- How to pop a blister from running?
- Should you pop a blister before a race?
- What to do if you have a blister from running
- What are the best socks to prevent blisters?
- & tips to prevent blisters from running
(Please note, I am not a doctor, but I did consult with one to write this article. If you need medical advice related to your own blister, see a healthcare professional).
So, let’s get going!
What causes blisters from running?
Friction causes blisters from running. Your skin rubs against your socks and shoes with each step you take and over time that creates space for fluid (also known as serum) to fill in between the layers of your skin. This fluid-filled skin bubble becomes painful to the touch, especially when your running socks and shoes rub against it.
Related: How to Do Long Runs
Will Vaseline prevent blisters?
The best way to prevent running blisters is to lubricate your feet with Vaseline or a Body Glide. This is allow your running socks and shoes to glide over your skin, eradicating the friction that can cause blisters from running.
Before every long run or marathon, I apply Vaseline all over my feet including my heels to prevent blisters. I also wear anti-blister socks. More on my favorite no blister socks below.
Why am I so prone to blisters?
Some runners are more prone to blisters than others. The main reason why some runners may get more blisters than others are:
- Moisture: if you are a sweaty runner, the moisture from your sweaty feet can amplify friction leading to blisters on your feet. Running wet shoes and socks will also lead to blisters.
- Socks: if you are running in socks that do not wick moisture, are too big, or slip and rub, then you could get more blisters.
- Wrong shoes: if you are running in running shoes that are too big or tend to rub against your feet more than others, that can lead to foot blisters. Also make sure your shoes have heel locks that keep your feet from sliding. I love the heel lock in the adidas Solar Glide running shoe and the Goretex model keeps your feet dry in rain lowering your risk for running blisters.
- Running gait: how you toe-off and land when running may cause more friction, leading to more running blisters.
- Your feet: the shape of your feet and abnormalities such as bunions or hammer toes (don’t worry, I have the beginning of ones too!) may increase your risk friction and therefore running blisters.
Related: 26 Pro Marathon Race Day Tips
Is it better to burst a blister or leave it?
Now to the pressing question (that was kind of clever), should you pop a blister or leave it? In most cases, you should leave a blister alone, says Dr. Fowler.
As with pretty much everything, remember your body is smart and knows how best to heal itself. Your skin acts as a band-aid to the skin below. The serum inside your blister helps protect the skin below. Therefore, it’s best to allow your body to do its thing—just like with healing a pimple…or even a running injury…sometimes doing less is best.
If you have a blister, use vaseline or body glide to minimize friction when running.
Related: Do NSAIDs Help Heal Injuries?
If you pop or drain a blister, the open wound could get infected—especially if you run and sweat with it open. You could also slow the healing process.
If you leave a blister alone, it should heal on its own in about a week, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Do blisters heal faster if you pop them?
Blisters do not heal faster if you pop them. In fact, if you pop a blister on your foot from running, there is an increased risk of infection. Having an open wound from popping a blister can can delay the healing process.
Related: When to Replace Your Running Shoes
When should you drain a blister?
There are some cases in which you may want to drain a blister to decrease pain while running, says Dr. Fowler.
If your running blister is large, full, and painful when running (and you fear running will pop the blister), you can delicately drain it.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends draining a blister before running by:
- Cleaning the blister first
- Putting a tip of a needle into a flame to disinfect it
- Pierce the blister on the distal end (far end of the main part) with the clean needle and blot the fluid as it drains
- Keep the top skin intact to act as a band-aid
- Apply a moleskin, blister tape, or loose bandaid
- Periodically apply an antibiotic ointment like Neosporin to aid in healing.
- Regularly wash your open blister to prevent infection.
What happens if you don’t pop a blister?
If you don’t pop a blister, the fluid will gradually decrease and heal within about a week. Not popping a blister will prevent scarring and reduce risk of infection.
Related: How to Avoid Runner’s Face
Should you tape a blister?
In many cases, taping a friction blister may open the blister or further injure it. If you tape a blister, use zinc oxide tape or tape purposed for blisters such as KT blister tape. You want tape that will adhere even when moist without ripping the skin. The tape for blisters should also be breathable.
In fact, there are many options for covering a blister to prevent infection during running, such as:
- zinc oxide tape
- tape purposed for blisters such as KT blister tape
- hydrocolloid bandage
- a loose cotton gauze pad secured with surgical tape
- blister plasters
- thin micropore tape and medical adhesive spray
You can also just apply some vaseline to it.
Do blisters heal better moist or dry?
Keeping blisters moist will aid in healing, says Dr. Fowler. Keeping them dry or allowing them to “breathe” is an old wive’s tale, she says.
Instead, apply Neosporin and/or Vaseline and cover the blister, especially when open. Keep it covered with a dry loose cotton pad and medical tape, blister tape, moleskin, or a hydrocolloid bandage.
If your blister is not open, you do not need to keep it moist and covered.
How can you tell if a blister is infected?
You can tell if a blister is infected if your running blister is:
- Increasingly red and painful
- Worsening swelling
- Leaking pus
Should I put Neosporin on a blister?
Yes, you should put Neosporin on a blister if it has popped. Neosporin is an antibiotic ointment that will help reduce the risk of infection and aid in healing. It can also relieve pain. Keep the blister clean and apply Neosporin several times a day.
What are the best anti-blister socks?
The best no blister socks to prevent friction blisters from my experience include:
- Balega blister resist socks
- Swiftwick Aspire zero tab socks
- Injinji socks (toe socks)
- Darn Tough ultra-lightweight no show socks
- Feetures elite cushion socks
Related: What to Wear for Running in the Rain
What are the best ways to prevent blisters while running?
The best way to prevent friction blisters is to prevent friction when running. Here’s how to prevent blisters while running:
- Get properly fitting shoes and insoles
- Buy good no blister running socks or toe socks
- Lube up your feet with Vaseline or Body Glide
- Change your socks if your feet get sweaty throughout your run
- Tape or cover areas prone to blisters with moleskin
I hope these tips help you stay blister free or keep blisters from ruining your goals
If you want guidance with your running or 5k goals, check out my run coaching services. Also, be sure to check out my free training plans:
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- After a Break Training Plan
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