If there’s one downside to purchasing a new pair of gym kicks every month, it’s the chance of notching up some pretty extreme blisters (that and the devastating hits to your bank account).
But new research from Stanford University has finally proven what we all know to be true – if you really want to avoid blisters, simply pop a piece of paper sports tape over the suspect areas.
Yes, it’s the cheap and easy solution everyone’s already been using, but to prove it in a research paper appears to be no mean feat.
(Those of you questioning “Why bother?” have a fairly valid point, but stick with me here.)
To reach their conclusion, the researchers from Stanford recruited 128 runners who were participating in an ultra-marathon to end all ultra-marathons – the 249 kilometre, six-stage RacingThePlanet event.
On each runner, the researchers applied paper sports tape to blister-prone areas on just one foot, leaving the naked foot to be the control in the experiment.
The results showed that for 98 of the 128 runners, there was no incidence of blisters forming where the tape had been applied. On the naked tape-free foot, 89 of the runners suffered from painful blisters.
Although the experiment sounds trivial, it’s actually the first of its kind to accurately (and easily) find a solution to soothe our chafed heels, says Dr Grant Lipman, the lead author of the study who regularly treats the feet of ultra-runners.
“People have been doing studies on blister prevention for 30 or 40 years and never found anything easy that works,” says Lipman.
“What I kept hearing was, ‘Doctor, I’d be doing so well, if only for my feet’ – I wanted to look at this critically.”
But what exactly is happening when you feel that painful bubble forming on your heel?
A blister forms when your foot forcefully rubs against an immovable surface, which is most likely the inside of your shoe. Your body realises that without intervention, you could potentially wear down the layers of your skin done to the bone, so it begins to pool fluid between the layers of your skin.
The clear fluid inside a blister (which is usually a type of harmless, water-based plasma) works as a kind of moving barrier to prevent further damage. It’s been noted that most occurrences of blisters can be blamed on ill-fitting footwear choices (a decision the body wasn’t really designed to deal with).
It’s not the first time that studies have offered quirky alternatives to battling blisters. In 1998 the US Army extensively tested spraying antiperspirant on the heels of soldiers to prevent excessive rubbing.
Other alternatives encountered by this reporter include wearing two pairs of socks, pre-wearing your new runners in a warm bath (in the hope that they stretch to the shape of your foot) and even covering the outside of your sock in Vaseline.
But for Lipman, the best way to prevent blisters is to buy properly-fitting shoes, and apply sports tape on the first couple of training sessions.
“It’s kind of a ridiculously cheap, easy method of blister prevention,” says Lipman.
“You can get it anywhere. A little roll costs about 69 cents, and that should last a year or two.”