How to avoid and treat blisters in long distance runs ?

Abigail Van Buren
“If you want a place in the sun, you've got to put up with a few blisters.”
―Abigail Van Buren

Unless you are very used to desert running, or very lucky, blisters will be an issue you will face in every desert race and in most long distance races. In order to manage effectively this inconvenience, and to enjoy your running at best, we prepared a 3 points list of things you need to know. A good preparation, effective management of your equipment and proper hygiene and treatment, can prevent blisters to be the cause of pain and discomfort during the race.

  1. Keep your feet clean and dry:
    1. When choosing the equipment you will carry during the race, always bring with you a pair or more of extra clean socks. Even if you sort out away to wash or use more days your gear, and you have a sterile bandage on the blister, to have a perfectly clean pair of socks is the best way to limit the possibility of infection of the lesion.
    2.  Choose a pair of shoes that allow a good transpiration: if the feet is dry the skin is more robust, if the skin is always moist, it is easier to develop abrasions and blisters.
      During Oman Desert Marathon you will face sandy dunes and soft sand for most of the race: this means that you will need to wear sand gaiters most of the time. Sand gaiters will protect you from the sand, but will increase the temperature of the feet and reduce the transpiration. Try to take them off when the ground is compact and you don’t need them. During these sections of race your feet will “breath” more and this will preserve your skin.
  1. Cut or pierce? There are two main protocols for treating the blisters:
    1. The first one is to cut it and remove the skin, sterilize it, put a light bandage for the night and a more robust one for racing.
    2. The second one, is piercing the blister with needle and thread, and then leaving the thread in site so that the blister can drain. Both treatments have advantages and disadvantages.
      We suggest you to come to our podologist and let our medical team decide how to treat you, unless you have experience and you know how to apply those procedures and what is best for you. The most important things to resolve a blister issue and limit the pain, is to drain them well and keep the lesion uninfected. This can be easy under ordinary conditions, but in the desert, running all day, it is not so easy. In most cases, when the blister is small, to pierce it and let it drain with the thread is the best solution: the unmoved skin will protect the skin from infections.
  1. Pain killers. Never take painkillers or medication without the advice of our doctors. Always come to the medical tent to ask a member of our medical team what to do. If our doctors prescribe you a medication, it is crucial to tell exactly all the medicines you took before. The high temperature, the massive effort of running on the sand and the dehydration are agents of stress on the body that will be evaluated case by case. Some runners have the (bad) habit of taking pain killers and anti inflammatory drugs when running. This practice, also for medicines that don’t need the prescription, can be very dangerous in the desert as these substances will increase the dehydration. Our medical team will be ready to help you and assist you during the race and at the camp: consult the doctor and forget the DIY (Do-It-Yourself)