Paper tape found to be effective blister prevention technique

Courtesy of Dr. Grant Lipman

Researchers have discovered that paper (surgical) tape, when applied to blister-prone areas prior to exercise, can successfully reduce the occurrence of foot blisters, according to a study published online in Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine (Apr. 11, 2016).

Ten years ago, Dr. Grant Lipman, a clinical associate professor of emergency medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, Calif., was working as a doctor for endurance athletes who were running 25 to 50 miles a day in various parts of the world. The most common complaint that Dr. Lipman heard from the athletes was about the pain and debilitation caused by foot blisters.

Multiple methods of blister prevention have been tried, according to Dr. Lipman, including powders, antiperspirants, lubricants, tapes and adhesive pads. “People have been doing studies on blister prevention for 30 or 40 years and never found anything easy that works,” said Dr. Lipman, who is the lead author of the study, in a press release. “I wanted to look at this critically.”

155-mile experiment

In 2014, Dr. Lipman and his colleagues recruited 128 runners participating in the 155-mile, six-stage RacingThePlanet ultramarathon event that crosses deserts around the globe.

Paper tape was applied to just one of each of the runners’ feet. The untaped areas of the same foot served as a control. The tape was applied by trained medical assistants to either the participants’ blister-prone areas or, if they had no blister history, to randomly selected locations on the foot.

The paper tape was applied in a smooth, single layer before the race and at subsequent stages of the race, Dr. Lipman said. For 98 of the 128 runners, no blisters formed where the tape had been applied, whereas 81 of the 128 got blisters in untaped areas.

“It’s kind of a ridiculously cheap, easy method of blister prevention,” Dr. Lipman said. “You can get it anywhere. A little roll costs about 69 cents, and that should last a year or two.”


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