Blister Prevention Tips for Runners

An assumption people tend to have about marathon runners, is that we have black toenails, blistered feet, and sometimes no toenails at all. But if you are either an experienced runner, or a new runner who has done their research, there’s no reason for you to have toes in that bad of shape!

I’m sure when it comes to ultra’s it’s a different story, but for any marathoners or half marathoners-these tips will help you have blister free toes!

1 Taping your toes

This is a bit of an old school method, and it’s my least favorite. When I started marathon training my coach at the time suggested I do this, so I gave it a try. It does prevent you from getting blisters, but it is such a hassle to take the tape off. It is also more time consuming to put it on. So, you can go ahead and do it, because it works, but be prepared for a hassle.

2 Toe Socks

After trying out taping, I looked into other methods and discovered toe socks. I bought some Injiji toe socks and used them for long runs, and for my first marathon in SF, as well as my second, the . They worked great! (And they would actually make great gifts for runners!) When training for my third marathon, I had different shoes, and I felt like the toe sock liner made the shoe just a tad too snug.

Along with toe liners, they also have regular toe socks, but I found those to be uncomfortable for my toes. Like too thick, too much fabric separating my toes. The liner is very thin, but as other marathoners may know, when you are running the 20 mile range, even the slightest discomfort can start to seem huge. Since my feet felt like they had less room in these new shoes, I decided to move on from the toe sock. (At least for now, I still have them of course and actually I did wear them on a long run a few weeks ago).

3 Slather on the Vaseline

Smothering your toes in Vaseline is my current favorite method. I did this for my last two marathons, as well as the majority of my long runs. In fact, I just ran a 20 miler, and I came home without a single blister.

The downside with this method is it’s messy. Having to wash Vaseline from your hands can be kind of difficult, so I put on a latex glove and then grab a glob of Vaseline and run it all around my toes. Then I throw out the glove and don’t have to deal with slimy Vaseline on my hands!

4 Correct Footwear and Size

In regular footwear, I wear a size 9 or 9.5. Back when I was a causal runner, I bought my running/gym shoes in 9.5 as well. I used to get teased about having big feet (but I worked in a bowling alley for two years, so I know for a fact that women wearing a size 9.5 is incredibly common, even for women shorter than me). Anyway, because I was self-conscious, I refused to buy any shoe larger than 9.5.

But when I became a more serious runner, I learned the importance of correct sizing. I also watched a video of Michelle Khare running a marathon and in the video,  she goes to a running store and discovers she’s been wearing a size too small for her. Once she started wearing the correct size, she didn’t get blisters.

Even if you wear a certain size for regular wear and it fits great, when running your feet swell slightly, plus with the constant running, your feet need a bit more space than in shoes you are wearing while just walking around an office.  

I know buy a 10.5 or 11 in running shoes. Marathon training is not time to worry about the size of your feet. Plus, when you are running distances like that, it gives you enough confidence to not even worry about silly superficial things like that.

For help finding the right running shoe, I have a post for best shoes for flat feet, my favorite stability running shoes, and best neutral running shoes!

5 Cut Nails

It’s important to keep your toenails short! Before every long run and before every race, I clip my nails in order to make blisters even more unlikely.

6 Proper Training Build Up

There is a reason behind marathon training plans. They don’t tell you to go out and run 20 miles right away. They don’t even tell you to run 10 miles right away. One reason is because doing too much too soon can cause injury. Another reason, is it can cause minor injuries such as shin splints (which can be more than ‘minor’ depending on how bad they are) and painful blisters.

When you gradually increase your training, your body, including your toes, get used to it. I remember getting a blister on an 8 mile run I did back before I was marathon training. Now, I go on 10 mile runs and don’t even think about my toes because I just don’t get blisters on those runs.

I always use some kind of protection when running over 12 miles. Maybe my feet would be fine, but I’m too nervous to try and find out. Especially when you get to the 16+ range, you want to always be sure you have a plan for your toes.

Hope this posts helps! Do you use a blister prevention method which I don’t have listed?