Taping feet to prevent blisters on runs may require nuance

SHAFAQNA –  Runners who used paper tape on one foot during extra-long marathons still ended up with painful blisters, according to a new study.

While the runners reported blisters on their taped feet, the vast majority said they’d used the product again. The high level of satisfaction suggests the tape may work despite the study’s findings, the lead author said.

“We had anecdotally seen that paper tape worked on ultramarathon runners in deserts around the world while providing medical care, so we set out to prove it using rigorous scientific method,” Dr. Grant Lipman told Reuters Health in an email.

Lipman is a surgeon with the Division of Emergency Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California.

Blisters are typically not major medical problems, but they can impair concentration, decrease athletic performance and possibly lead to additional injuries, the researchers write in Wilderness and Environmental Medicine.

“Everyone gets blisters,” Lipman said. “They’re called the enemy of the feet for a reason, and there is no quicker way to ruin a day hike, walk or run.”

He and his colleagues enrolled English-speaking participants in 150-mile ultramarathon races that took place in ChinaAustraliaEgypt, Chile and Nepal in 2010 and 2011.

A total of 90 participants completed the study – known as Pre-TAPED. Each participant had pieces of 3M Micropore paper tape applied to blister-prone areas of one randomly chosen foot. The other foot was not taped for comparison.

“(The tape) is easy to apply to the toes, heels, or anywhere else on the foot that is at risk of getting a hot spot or blister,” Lipman said.

By the end of the races, all participants developed blisters on their feet – most commonly on the toes. Most blisters developed during the first two days of the races.

There was no significant difference in the number of blisters that developed on taped feet compared to feet without tape, but 84 percent of the participants said they would use the tape in the future.

Lipman said that since the majority of those who used paper tape would use it again, he believes it does work, but the study wasn’t able to prove it.

“Our methods may have been too rigorous, and we were unable to solve the question we set out to answer,” he said.

To address why people liked the tape despite its initial ineffectiveness, the researchers conducted a second study.

“This second study over this past year was similar, but applied the tape to people just where they typically got blisters (rather than the entire foot), and it worked amazingly well,” he said.

Lipman added the data from the new study will be presented in the next few months at scientific meetings.

“By making the study methods more specific to the individual, we were able to show what the majority of those study participants in PreTAPED (and) I already knew – it works,” he said.

SOURCE: Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, online October 30, 2014.

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