Blister Care For Runners

After getting cellulitis in both ankles, I will forever take blister care more seriously. Part of the reason I ended up with this infection is because I skipped the simple step of cleaning my wounds before putting a bandage on it. To people in the medical field or those who are just more diligent than I, not cleaning a wound seems ridiculous.

However, how many times have I had a blister, cut, scrap etc and not cleaned it and not gotten an infection? Too many times to count. However, it took getting one infection to change my lackadaisical approach to blisters.

In an effort to help both you and I out, I asked my friend Toni Church, a nurse who blogs at Running, Loving, and Living to answer a few questions and give us proper instruction on how to care for blisters.

Toni Church

Toni has been an nurse for 10 years and has worked in the medical field for 18 years. She currently works in dialysis, spent two years in a medical-surgical unit and six years in home care. While working in home care she provided wound care for patience on a daily basis.

Why is blister care so important?
Blister care, or any wound care for that matter, is important to avoid an infection. As you recently have experienced if bacteria makes it’s way into a blister or a wound an infection or cellulitis can occur. The only way to effectively treat cellulitis is with antibiotics and when oral antibiotics aren’t strong enough they need to be given via an IV which requires hospitalization.

How easy is it for a blister to become infected?
If the blister remains intact, the risk of infection is pretty slim. It is when he blister breaks or “pops” that the risk for infection significantly increases because now there is an open entry for bacteria to enter the wound.

What are the proper steps for managing a blister? Is it different if the blister is popped vs fully intact?
The first step in blister management is to avoid breaking the blister if at all possible. Protect the area with a heavy gauze and leave the blister intact, eventually the fluid will reabsorb and the area will heal without any treatment. Keeping the blister intact is the best case scenario, unfortunately the majority of the time blisters are in areas, like the bottom of your feet, that make this impossible.

If the blister does break follow these guidelines

  • Make sure you clean the area with soap and water or Normal Saline.
  • Avoid products like peroxide and Betadine as recent studies have shown that they actually can cause damage to good tissue.
  • You can apply some antibiotic ointment to the area (if you have it) and cover it with a Non-stick dressing or bandaid.
  • Make use you use non-stick or else the dressing will stick to the wound and it will be quite painful to remove.
  • Clean the area and change the dressing daily, more often if you notice a lot of drainage. If you leave a dirty dressing in place this can also contribute to infection.

What about chaffing? Can chaffed areas get infected as easily as a blister can?
Chafed areas do not tend to get infected as often as blisters because is more of an irritation of the skin rather than a large open wound. If you care for the chaffed area by cleaning it with soap and water and protecting it from further injury it is likely to heal without an issue.

Is there anything else people should take into consideration when dealing with blisters?
Seek professional treatment if you see any signs of infection including redness, swelling, hot to touch, foul odor or fever and chills.

Connect with Toni on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and subscribe to her blog.


Let’s rewind back to September.

A photo posted by Jess Underhill (@racepacejess) on

After struggling all year to feel like my old self, I was finally hitting numbers I wanted to see during my training runs. I felt like my consistency and patience was playing off when I executed a nearly perfect training run at the Bronx 10-Miler. The plan was to run a strong race at Rock’n’Roll Brooklyn, then build upon that race experience to hopefully PR at the Gore-Tex Philadelphia Half Marathon in November.

The week after the Bronx 10-miler was scheduled as a taper week in preparation for Brooklyn RnR. On Tuesday, I took the day off from work to run a few errands that included getting a much needed haircut in the Meatpacking District. Wearing a new pair of slip-on sneakers I managed to accumulate painful blisters on both heels while running around all day.

When my band-aids were no longer helping to reduce the blister pain, I popped into a Duane Reade to see what else I could purchase to alleviate the situation.

These blisters were so painful! It feels weird that something so insignificant could be so painful!

Anyhow, I purchased a product, but decided to not use it since I wasn’t sure anything was going to help at this point.

By Friday, the blisters were feeling better. I wasn’t thinking much about them as I threw on a pair of sneakers to head out to meet with clients. For some reason these sneakers, that I wore quite often re-aggrevated the blisters. Since I was short on time, I couldn’t go home and change shoes.

Once I was done meeting with clients, the blister situation was bad.

**Here’s where I made the mistake that cost me**

 I just needed relief, so I used the blister product I purchased on Tuesday and went about my work day. By early evening the blisters were feverish, but I didn’t think much about it. I went to a Soul Cycle class and on my walk home in the rain, I kept thinking about how wimpy I was being about these dumb blisters.

It turns out I wasn’t being wimpy at all. My left ankle (my good one) was swollen and red.

Like any good google doctor, I found a running forum discussing how infected blisters had sidelined people for months after being hospitalized! That was the only scare I needed, to rush myself to City MD.

Turns out I had cellulitis in both ankles. Luckily, I caught it pretty early on and was given a hefty dose of antibiotics and strict instructions not to workout or wear shoes for at least a full week. This meant missing out on RnR Brooklyn, a race I had looked forward to all year.

I had never even heard of cellulitis! Since getting the infection, I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about hospitalizations and about symptoms that linger well after the infection is gone.

Here’s what I learned:

#1) Cellulitis has nothing to do with cellulite.

#2) My doctor at City MD said to never use products like what I used (a Compeed bandage) on blisters. They are a factory for breeding germs that cause infections.

#3) Although I get blisters regularly, I should never dismiss them as “just a blister”.

#4) Always clean your wounds!


If you are getting nervous about the big day coming up on November 1st, this calendar is a way to help you stay sane. It gives you something to do each day of the week beginning on Sunday, October 26 so that on Saturday, October 31st you aren’t scrambling to get everything done.

Doing something always helps me feel less nervous during the taper and these are ways you can continue to prepare for the race now that the majority of your training is behind you. This list isn’t comprehensive, but it’s a good place to start. You’ll also still need to charge your GPS watch and iPod, pack your pre-race bag, foam roll, hydrate, go to bed early, etc.


NYCM 2015 Race Week Calendar Large

If you’re looking for more of my marathon tips, read these posts:

What To Do In The Final Minutes Before A Race

The Dos and Don’ts of Tapering

Should You Run With A Pace Group?

Train Your Brain: 4 Things To Do To Build Confidence During The Taper


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