No matter how high-tech your running shoes, blisters are unavoidable once you start logging a lot of miles. And nothing screws with your marathon training schedule quite like a blister to break your stride.
So when we heard that researchers from Stanford University had found a super simple, ultramarathoner-approved way to prevent blisters, we were super excited.
The researchers got the idea to run a full-fledged study on blister treatment and prevention after spending years treating endurance athletes. They noticed that oftentimes, it was the athletes' feet, not a lack of training or another bodily injury, that was causing them to drop out of races—no matter how many expensive, high-tech treatments they'd tried.
For their study, which was published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, the Stanford team looked at 128 ultramarathon participants. For each runner, they randomly selected a foot and used simple, cheap, paper surgical tape—the kind you can pick up for a few bucks at the drug store—to protect blister-prone areas. The humble solution reduced the incidence of blisters on the taped foot by an impressive 40 percent.
There are a few factors that make this simple solution superior to more high-tech bandages. According to the study authors, paper surgical tape is thin and smooth. In other words, it decreases the shear stress and friction on the foot without being too bulky and throwing off the fit of the shoe. Plus, this kind of tape isn't super sticky, so if it does come off mid-run, it won't tear your skin or open an existing wound.
So whether you're heading out for a weekend hike or hitting the pavement to put in some miles, make sure you tape up before you lace up.