Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hump Day How-To "Blisters and Chafing"

The bane of every runner or cyclist's existence.  Blisters and chafing.  How many of us start working out to get healthy, only to be deterred by 'certain areas' chafing to the point of walking bowlegged for a few days?   Or blisters on your feet or toes, so bad that it looks like you've got extra toes growing in places (ewwwwwww!)?  Never fear, my blog post is here!  To help you, that is.

Blisters and chafing are caused by too much friction.

Let's start with your feet.

The first thing you should be doing is going to a running store to have someone do a gait analysis on you.  While this is important for many reasons, most of the time, not only will they put you in the shoes that are going to assist you in running the way your body was made, they'll also put you in shoes a half size large to accommodate for normal foot swelling during running.  Proper fit is part of blister prevention.  And remember, 'cotton is the enemy!'  You want socks that are made for running.  You can usually buy these when you get your shoes.  Good socks usually run about ten bucks a pair.  These are your feet we're talking about.  Ask what socks the sales person wears when they run, they'll usually point you the right direction.

The most common places for chafing include waist (from shorts/waist packs), thighs and/or bikini line, bra/heart rate monitor strap lines, and nipples.  I repeat, 'cotton is the enemy.' Look for clothes with high content synthetic fabrics.

Wear sweat wicking fabrics and fitted clothing to prevent chafing.  One of the biggest things you can do to prevent blisters and chafing is to use some form of lubricant.  Some brands include 'body glide,' 'chamois butter,' vaseline,' etc.  Talk to runners and cyclists in your community or on online forums such as BeginnerTriathlete for their advice and experience.  Most will willingly tell you what works for them.  As with any situation, lubricant is personal (okay, it's hard not to giggle at that...).

After the damage is done, there are still things you can do.  During a 50k, I was about 3 miles in when a blister developed on my heel.  A fellow runner had some electrical tape, and felt inclined to share upon asking.  Two short strips over the top of the blister got me through the next 28 miles without further damage.

Other things you can use:
Mole skin
Band aids
Electrical, medical, kinesiology (or even duct) tape
More lubrication

Blister treatment is highly controversial, as popping a blister leaves the skin open for infection, but leaving the fluid inside can cause greater pain.  In the interest of not giving medical advice, I'm only going to state what I do.  I poke a small hole in the side/bottom of the blister to allow the pressure to release, then I leave it alone.  I keep it clean and dry, and if it starts to look infected, I seek medical advice.  As for chafing,  well, good luck on your next shower because it is going to hurt.  You can put neosporin or one of the sunburn sprays on it to help, but expect everything to sting like Hellfire for a day or two until it dries up.  As with blisters, I keep chafing clean and dry, and if there is any sign of infection (extensive swelling, hot to touch, very painful) I seek medical attention.

Some do's and don't's
Don't cut off calluses: they're formed by your foot needing to protect itself, and they help with blister prevention
Do keep your toenails short, but not too short
Don't be afraid to try something new if what you've tried hasn't worked
Do use lubrication liberally
Don't continue a training run if a blister develops on your foot and you can't handle it immediately; not stopping the damage immediately could cause you to lose days, if not weeks of training time
Do plan ahead: if you have a spot that always gets a blister, consider trying a band aid or tape during the run to see if that prevents the blister entirely; during rides, coat the seams of your shorts in advance to prevent chafing
Don't be afraid to wrap or lube your equipment to prevent chafing or blisters: I once wrapped a band aid around a heart rate monitor strap that consistently gave me problems
Do ask advice: ask anyone and everyone who might be able to help you, especially those in the sport

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