Is there anything worse than getting a blister on the 25th mile?
OK, maybe not everyone is an ultramarathoner. But doctors who got sick and tired of treating runners' blisters say they have a cheap and easy solution for them — and for those of us stupid enough to wear new shoes to work without socks: paper tape.
It's the stuff sold in drugstores to hold on gauze, and it's as thin and flimsy as the name implies.
It turns out this thin, easy-to-tear tape works better to prevent blisters than powders, antiperspirants, lubricants, Band-Aids or adhesive pads, said Dr. Grant Lipman, an emergency medicine physician at Stanford Health Care in California.
Lipman helps endurance athletes who run 25 to 50 miles a day in all sorts of climates, from the high desert of Chile to Antarctica.
They are, unsurprisingly, plagued by blisters.
"What I kept hearing was, 'Doctor, I'd be doing so well, if only for my feet,'" Lipman said in a statement.
"Their feet were getting decimated."
But he had heard rumors that paper tape helped. So he and colleagues tested the idea using 128 runners participating in the 155-mile, seven-day RacingThePlanet ultramarathon event that crosses terrain from Jordan's rock-strewn wastes to the Gobi Desert.
They had trained medical technicians put paper tape on just one of each runner's feet.
No blisters formed on the feet of 98 of the runners where the tape had been applied, they reported in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine. But 81 runners did get blisters in untaped areas.
"It's kind of a ridiculously cheap, easy method of blister prevention," Lipman said. "You can get it anywhere. A little roll costs about 69 cents, and that should last a year or two."
The stuff is thin enough so that it doesn't interfere with the shoe's fit and it's comfortable, he added.