Chafing and blisters: tips on how to avoid them and treat them by marathon physios


Pooling our marathon experience

Ouchy ouchy ouch, blisters and chafing can ruin a decent training session like nothing else. I have therefore put together the advice of the whole of team OC physiotherapists and osteopaths all of whom have decades (over 100 years in fact) of experience between us. Many of us have experience as physios at events like Marathon des Sables and The Spine Race not to mention treating thousands of marathon runners. I am therefore sure that you will find something in here that works for you.

Please make sure that if your chafing or blisters has caused the skin to break then the area is vulnerable to infection so make sure you watch out for any signs like fever, oozing from the area, fatigue or feeling unwell and make sure you see a doctor immediately if this is the case. 

Get in touch if you would like more specific advice about pain or injury and make sure you follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to get the latest advice and videos. If you put the words ‘marathon’ or ‘running’ in the search tool above you will also find useful advice and videos.

Here’s a couple of examples: 

Marathon physiotherapist blog series: Training myth busters

Your Marathon: Everything you need to know by Specialist Physiotherapist

Chafing in marathon training


To prevent and treat chafing you are best first making sure your clothing is not creating excessive friction. Is the material that gliding against your skin and/or other layers with minimum friction? Are you better off wearing longer shorts so your thighs don’t rub together? Do you find tighter fitting clothes are better than looser fitting clothes? Can you layer your clothing to reduce friction? Just do whatever you can to reduce friction using your clothes or underwear.  


Magic potions

Once you have done that you can use the following substances, all of which you should be able to buy in high street pharmacies. The best thing to do is to find what works for you and to stick with it. Obviously, if you have never used it before, have any medical conditions or skin sensitivities then always check with the pharmacist first and do a little patch test before slathering it on: Vaseline, Bodyglide, Bepanthine (nappy cream,) Metaniun (nappy cream) and Sudocrem (also a nappy cream.) 


Vulnerable bits

So what body parts should you be paying attention to? The quick answer is on anything that sticks out or rubs together. For example your nipples, inner thighs, genitals, bottom, armpits or where your arms rub against your sports bra.



If all else fails you can try changing your running technique under the guidance of a Physiotherapist or running coach to reduce the amount of rubbing. For example, if your inner thighs are rubbing excessively you might be able to improve your lateral hip control to enable you to run with your legs slightly further apart and without your thighs dropping inwards. Never change your running style without seeing a physio because it could cause way more problems than it is worth. 


Blisters in marathon training

Boring but important

Firstly make sure you change your trainers every three to six months and ensure that they are a good fit – not too tight, not too loose. Then make sure you have decent socks that minimize friction. Some people can’t run unless they are wearing thin double layered socks but most people are better suited to one good quality layer.


Hot spots

Check your feet when you get back from a run and look at where they have been running. You can use ‘K tape’ or ‘sports tape’ to protect these areas next time you run. Make sure you don’t stretch it as you apply it and don’t leave any ridges or any areas that could cause friction or you will end up with more blisters.  



If you have developed a blister you can use something like ‘Fleecy Web’ and secure it with the ‘K-tape’ or ‘sports tape’ I mentioned above. Make sure you apply it really carefully so that you don’t create other areas of friction and if you are not sure then get your physio to show you how. If your blisters are really bad you need to get them checked out and dressed properly by a physio or go to your GP. 


Get in touch

Get in touch if you would like more specific advice about your pain or injury and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to get the latest advice and videos. If you put the words ‘marathon’ or ‘running’ in the search tool above you will also find useful advice and videos. 


We look forward to continuing to support you on your marathon journey. 

Lucy and the Octopus Clinic Team


Lucy Macdonald

Chartered Physiotherapist


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