Care for wounds: Surgical tape can prevent foot blisters

The blister exists. But so does surgical tape to care for wounds. And according to a new Stanford study, surgical tape – also known as paper tape – can help prevent foot blisters. Emergency medicine physician Dr. Grant Lipman and his colleagues reported in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine that applying paper tape to blister-prone areas before exercise successfully decreased the prevalence of foot blisters, with the added benefit that, even if blisters do develop, the tape will not tear them. “People have been doing studies on blister prevention for 30 or 40 years and never found anything easy that works,” Lipman said. “I wanted to look at this critically.”

Surgical tape is used to care for wounds and can be purchased for next to nothing at medical supply stores, both brick-and-mortar and online – an example of the latter being Discount Medical Supplies. It has been tried as a means of preventing blisters along with powders, antiperspirants, lubricants, and adhesive pads, but up until now there was a dearth of scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of any of those methods. Dr. Lipman himself has been intrigued by the agony of the feet since at least a decade ago when he worked as a doctor for real-life Gingerbread Men – athletes who would run 25-50 miles daily in such locales as China, Antarctica, and Chile.

These runners would often complain about debilitating and painful foot blisters. “What I kept hearing was, ‘Doctor, I’d be doing so well, if only for my feet,’” the clinical associate professor of emergency medicine said. “Their feet were getting decimated.” So what did Dr. Lipman do? He could’ve just introduced them to a guy with no feet. Instead, he and his fellow researchers enrolled 128 runners participating in the RacingThePlanet ultramarathon in a study of surgical tape. Said tape was applied in a smooth, single layer to one each runners’ two feet before the race and at the five subsequent stages of the race. Trained medical assistants followed the runners for 155 miles over 7 days – presumably not on foot.

Eight-and-ninety o the runners exhibited no blisters where the tape was applied, while 81 developed blisters in untapped 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.” I might add that you can get it for as little as $0.36 at Discount Medical Supplies. And the best part is that surgical tape to care for wounds is not just for your Forrest Gumps out there; hikers, women on high heels, regular people like you and me, we’ve all experienced the torture of foot blisters – it’s like you’ve got a pebble in your shoe, only the pebble is attached to your skin.

“Blisters have been found to be the most common reason to adversely affect performance in ultramarathons, 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,” Lipman told Reuters. “So blisters are an important issue to just about everyone, and pre-taping your blister prone areas before an outing may make the difference on whether or not you can enjoy (or complete) your next adventure.” He concluded that “the best way to make it to the finish line is by taking care of your feet,” said Dr. Lipman, and that can finish line is as much literal as it is figurative.