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Run Marathons? Hate Blisters? Use Paper Tape

Ultramarathoners who apply common, inexpensive paper tape to their feet before a race get fewer blisters on those areas than on non-taped areas, according to a new study.

I’m sure that you’ve experienced a blister in your lifetime and you were surprised at how much it hindered your daily activities. You notice pain every time you use that body part in the slightest of way; and for runners, blisters can ruin your training or your race. In fact, it is the most common injury to hinder performance for ultramarathon runners, cause temporary duty restrictions in about 20 percent of active duty military personnel with them, and “I’ve even had a runner wind up in the intensive care unit with severe sepsis and almost lose his leg from a blister,” said lead author Dr. Grant S. Lipman of Stanford University School of Medicine in California.

The researchers studied 128 runners participating in a six-stage 155-mile ultramarathon in 2014. Each runner had one foot taped by a trained medical assistant who taped areas that were prone to blisters in the past or taped random areas if the runner did not usually get blisters. While 30 runners developed blisters on the taped area of the foot, 81 developed blisters on untaped areas, according to the study online April 11 in the Clinical Journal of Sports Recovery.

Marathon Runners
Marathon Runners

Blisters form from resistance or friction on the skin, when repeated rubbing causes shear stress on the superficial cells in the skin, he said. “Paper tape is a very smooth thin tape, it causes easier sliding at the skin interface so likely decreases the shear stress under the tape,” he said. “Also, it does not have a very strong adhesive quality so if a blister does form under the tape, pulling the tape off will not rip off the ‘roof’ of a blister.”

He mentions that this should not be used as a first line of defense. Make sure you wear proper fitting running shoes, file down calluses and train appropriately.