Preventing Chafing, Blisters, and Bad Toenails for Runners (Plus a Runner’s Shopping List)- Race Day Series 1 of 4
Many people are preparing for race day this time of year, so we’ve pulled together topics to cover over the next 4 weeks in a series we are calling our Race Day series. This is article 1 of 4, so be sure to check out the others as they get published.
We covered this week’s topics in Podcast #26 and have summarized here as well.
Chafing and Blisters and Toenails – Oh My!
The repetitive nature of running just begs for problems. Joints, muscles, and bones get a beating. But there are other areas that take a beating, especially on longer runs and race day. Most runners will suffer from chafing, blisters, or falling off toenails at some point in their running lifetime. The good news is you can do some things to prevent them.
What causes it
Chafing is caused by friction. It’s common in areas where one body part rubs against another body part, or where fabric rubs against your skin. On shorter runs, you may not have any problems, but the longer you run, the more damage you can cause. Some common areas chafing occurs are:
- Inside the arms
- On the sides of the chest
- Between the thighs
- Nipples (ouch!)
- Areas with elastic, seams, and where clothing otherwise can rub
How to Prevent it
Skin to Skin
- Wear a slick material such as lycra (like compression shorts)
- Try an ointment like Vaseline or BodyGlide (I’m not a fan of BodyGlide, but some people swear by it)
Skin to Clothes
- Try a product like Nip Gaurds
- Try Bandages in areas that run raw
- Try an ointment – I really like a product called Bag Balm. It can usually be found in your pharmacy area in a green container. Yes, its original purpose was for milking cows, but I swear by it for purposes of protecting your skin against clothing. It also works great for blisters. Vaseline can also be a great product here.
What causes it
Like chafing, blisters are also caused by friction. Propelling yourself forward time after time puts a real strain on your feet, and friction can really build up. Unlike chafing, the friction on your feet is so much that sometimes the layers of skin start to separate and accumulate fluid, forming a blister. Just the sound of that makes me cringe.
Many runners get blisters and it is real tempting to pop them. Popping big blisters can actually decrease the pain, but it also increases your risk for infection – a lot. So, if you are feeling like yours needs to be popped, it needs to be absolutely sterile. For that, a trip to your doctor is your best course of action.
How to Prevent it
There are some things you can do to prevent blisters. Here are a few ideas:
- Get good fitting shoes – this is the best way to prevent blisters and so many other things. A good fitting shoe won’t allow for a lot of movement, which will dial down the friction put on your feet
- Socks – padded and wicking – getting good socks that take the moisture away as you sweat will help keep the blisters away. As well, good padding is essential. Doubling up on socks can help with blisters as well, just make sure it doesn’t throw off the fit of your shoe and cause other problems
- Ointment – I swear by Bag Balm here as well. Slather a layer on your feet before you put your socks on, and dab a little extra in areas where you are prone. You can also try Vaseline
- Additional Padding – products like Mole Skin in areas that you know you are prone to get blisters can help a lot and even eliminate the problem
Losing a Toenail
Ahh, the dreaded lost toenail. Many runners loose toenails and some even brag about it. Many more are embarrassed, and the pain can be unbearable at times. So, what is it and how can you prevent it from happening to you?
What causes it
When you run, no matter how good your shoes fit, your shoe will shift on every step. If your shoes fit well, the shifting doesn’t cause any problem. However, if the toe box of your shoes isn’t big enough, your toe nails can bump up against the front of your shoe, causing constant hammering on your toe nails. Over time, your nail can loosen and actually separates from your nailbed. Again, Ouch!
If this happens to you, avoid the temptation to pull it off. The nail will come off on its own over time, and a doctor can remove it for you if it’s causing you grief. The healing process can be long and painful. So, let’s talk about how to avoid this wonderful problem.
How to prevent it
There are a couple things you can do to keep this from happening from you:
- Good fitting shoes – a good fitting shoe should have about a thumb width between the end of your toes and the front of your shoe. With this extra space, the shifting of your shoe should not affect your nails. This is a must if you want to avoid the problem. It is totally worth going to a specialized running shoe store to get fitted.
- Keep your nails properly trimmed – this is simply keeping your nail away from the end of your shoe. Just be careful when trimming so you avoid things like ingrown nails, etc.
Race Day Checklist
A good race day checklist is a must. Not having one puts you at risk for forgetting something or even adds stress to the last hours before your race. We have created a race day list, shopping list, and race day schedule in our Resources section. Click the link below to go to the lists, check off what you’ll need, and print for race week!
Dan Cuson, USAT Level 1 Coach