Q+A: As I get older I get more blisters. Why?

Our experts answer real-life questions


Posted: 9 September 2000
by Bryan English

Q I’ve been running for over 20 years now, but have noticed that I’ve become much more susceptible to blisters. I don’t think I’m doing anything differently, so could my age have something to do with my sore feet?

A This is a problem that is surprisingly common among older distance runners. As we age, the skin loses a degree of its elasticity (that’s why we get wrinkles), and the healing process of tissue also takes longer compared with that of younger people. Blisters can therefore occur more frequently with ageing skin, and the amount of time needed for full recovery can be weeks rather than days (even though the blister appears healed).

A s a rule of thumb, you should allow approximately one week for healing of a blister for every decade of your life. So, if you are 40, a blister the full thickness of your epidermis (the superficial layer of the skin) will take one month to heal, grow new skin and toughen up. Your blisters may just need time, exposure to air and less repetitive trauma.

Foot hygiene is also vital for all runners, however old, when it comes to preventing blisters. If you determine what actually caused the blisters, then you go a long way to preventing them recurring. If you’re happy that your feet aren’t slipping in your running shoes, that your socks are absorbent and breathable, that there’s no unnecessary hard skin on your foot (if there is visit a chiropodist) and that your feet have had time to heal, you may need to see your doctor or podiatrist to ensure that you do not have a skin disorder (eg a fungal infection), which could be causing the blisters.—Bryan English, chief medical officer for UK Athletics


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