Q+A: Why these blisters every time I run?

Our experts answer real-life questions

Posted: 9 September 2000
by Simon Costain

Q I’ve just started running and love the adrenaline burst I get from my 5K efforts, but I hate the blisters that I get almost every time I run. How can I cure this painful problem?

A. Painful blisters are caused by friction between the skin and another surface, whether it be socks, shoes or a combination of both. To solve blistering problems you need to look at the following.

1) Do your shoes fit correctly – are they wide enough, deep enough and long enough to accommodate your feet?

2) Are you using a lacing technique that holds your feet securely in position?

3) Do you kick the heel of your foot back against the running shoe heel before lacing the shoe up? You should.

4) Do you wear socks? If not, you should. If you do wear socks, try using two pairs of thin socks rather than one pair of thick ones. If you do this, friction occurs between the layers of socks rather than under the foot.

5) If your feet sweat profusely, this can increase the chance of blisters. Try soaking them in surgical spirit, or even better, three per cent formaldehyde solution once a day. This will help reduce the perspiration.

If none of these help, see a podiatrist for gait analysis, as you might find that the way your foot moves within the shoe could be the root cause of the problem.

To treat blisters when they occur, you can apply petroleum jelly, cover them with Compeed (or other blister plasters) or fleece/moleskin. These will soothe the problem, though they won’t eliminate the cause.

Simon Costain, podiatric consultant

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Discuss this article

Can anyone help me as this is driving me up the wall. In the last couple of months I have started to get blisters on the arches of both feet. Suddenly started with a pair of trainers that I had broken in. Got a new pair of Wave Riders and still the same problem. Seem to be a good fit. Tried putting loads of vaseline on which works for a few miles. I wear good quality running socks but it doesn't seem to make much difference. Running is style is fairly neutral with a slight under pronation. Any ideas?
Posted: 04/08/2002 at 21:54

Are you allowing one lot of blisters to heal before subjecting them to more torture. I had a bad bout of blisters a few months ago, one lot on top of another. I eventually had to take a couple of weeks off completely to let thme heal, as they were getting worse and worse.

Compeed plasters are very good for healing and preventing blisters. You warm them in your hands for a few minutes before putting them over the affected area, and they weld themselves to the skin. They stay put for a few days, and when they come off, the blister has, almost miraculously, healed. They take the pain away too!

I'm surprised that you say that you under-pronate, as blisters on the arches are more common with over-pronation. Have you had any injuries that may have caused a slight change in your style, possibly coinciding with the sudden appearance of the blisters?
Posted: 05/08/2002 at 14:24

I am a new runner and also get blisters on my arches - what is over-pronation?
Posted: 09/07/2003 at 16:19

I suffered this problem of blisters on my arches a few months back(by the way I am an under pronator and have flat feet, more rare). The cause in my case was simply the insoles. I was getting the blister where the edge of the insole was cutting into the arch. I replaced the insoles and have no problem.
Posted: 14/10/2003 at 16:12

Shoes. I had Saucony trainers which were great,- but the lure of the 50% off at the FLM Seminar with Adidas meant I bought some here. The scan machine was used, the fitting a bit quick as I had to get my train. NOW they seem to have too much support on the right arch and I had a blister after just 4miles on the treadmill. What do I do? Persevere and hope this will sort itself for April 17th - or play safe and get another pair of Saucony. (Current pair are OK - but will probably be too worn by then). Having put so much work in I don't want my choice of shoes and concern over the expense to stop me from getting to the end.
Posted: 19/02/2005 at 20:53

I have this problem with my new Asics trainers. Wearing thicker socks sorted the problem for a while but now it is back. Tried different insoles but didn't seem to help.

Nessie where can I get some of those plasters? Do they do them in Boots or do I need a specialist running shop?
Posted: 19/02/2005 at 21:17

Compeed plasters available from most chemists. I wouldn't be surprised to find them in the supermarkets either.
Posted: 20/02/2005 at 19:23

Got some from Boots at lunchtime thanks
Posted: 21/02/2005 at 14:01

Singing Angel, I had the same problem with Addidas shoes last year. My feet got absolutely mullered. My advise is go back to Saucony! Hope this helps
Posted: 21/02/2005 at 14:48

Thanks, I think you are probably right about returning to Saucony - every penny counts when you are also trying to fundraise - but there is no point in skimping on comfort. The plasters are good when you are still, but my first wrinkled out of place when I was on the treadmill.. I am going to persevere though. I think the recovery with them is good.
Posted: 21/02/2005 at 18:15

Hilly F I don't have any Saucony trainers, my original ones were New Balance 854 but they are quite a lot heavier than my Asics ones. Gonna persevere with them and see how I get on. The plasters are great but one has wrinkled a bit at the edge in the shower this morning so will see how it fares tonight. They are pretty expensive though!
Posted: 22/02/2005 at 12:01


You can harden your feet as with either sugical or methylated spirit. I have used this in the past with hill walking preparation. There is a theory that this just hardens the surface which leads to a deeper blister. I too have this problem with runs over the 5-7 mile range. I wear double layer socks which improve the previous blister distance of 3 miles. Zinc oxide tape is in my opinion the king of the prevention options. It is available in any chemist. Go for the thicker variety (it is the sticky material which held the soft gauze on old type plasters and is sold by the roll) rather than a thinner one which was recently bought on my behalf. The thicker, woven material type has much stronger adhesive which provides solid mechanical protection from the rubbing of shoes. It can be used practically anywhere on the foot and i will be using plenty when I do the FLM this year.
Compeed is a fantastic treatment for existing blisters but you can even slap zinc oxide straight over the top of blisters that have formed and it is Much Much cheaper(just make sure you leave the tape on for a few days if you do this as you'll lose the protective blister skin when you remove it).
Posted: 22/02/2005 at 20:39

Anything that anyone can recommend for a blister that has totally lost its top and is now just bare wet skin? Ran 14 mile in the rain and by 11 miles could feel something starting in my shoe!
It's now fresh skin and I am running a half marathon for charity a week on Sunday (Feb 26). Have training sessions planned before then, and need some advice to stop it happening again on the day. Any help would be fab!

Posted: 13/02/2006 at 14:48

You can put the comspeed plasters over 'popped' blisters as well! Well it claims you can on the packet anyway.
Posted: 13/02/2006 at 15:31

In addition I've found the scholl blister plasters better for healing and the comspeed more suited to protection/prevention.
Posted: 13/02/2006 at 15:32

Thanks. I'm letting it dry out and I have bought some surgical spirit so I'll be rolling around in agony tonight no doubt. But I will try the plasters when I run next weekend.

Seems to be drying up a bit now, but it's embarrasing wandering round the office with only one sock on.
Posted: 13/02/2006 at 15:36

Went out for a run with my new orthotics and have got 2 real bad blisters on the same foot either side of the arch.
Delivering the post thismorning was not fun.
Posted: 13/02/2006 at 17:49

Hi Marrisa Blaber, over-pronation is when you feet roll in slightly (or a lot!) when you are running, I don't know if it is caused by flat feet or what but I have flat feet and I over-pronate to the extent where I had to have custom made orthotics due to my gait. Previous to this I would experience blisters on the inside of my arches whenever I ran more than 3 miles, it was a nightmare and long distances resulterd in painful blisters even with double layer socks. My orthotics along with my Saucony trainers have meant blister free running for the past 4 years. Hope this helps!
Posted: 13/02/2006 at 19:41

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