The bane of an ultramarathoner’s existence: no more!


Shoulda taped!!!! Picture courtesy Andry French, Wikimedia

One of the aspects of CJSM that I  love is our ‘published on line first’  function, whereby the articles which have gone through peer review and subsequent post-review author corrections are disseminated ‘on line’ before they can make it into the paper version of the journal.  It’s our version of ‘breaking news.’

The news that broke yesterday will be music to long-distance runners’ ears: say good-bye to blisters.

Yesterday, we published “Paper Tape Prevents Foot Blisters: A Randomized Prevention Trial Assessing Paper Tape  in Endurance Distances II (Pre-TAPED II)”.  The lead author is an emergency room physician from Stanford University, Grant Lipman.  Dr. Lipman has published other research on endurance running in our journal, most recently a well-received piece on “The Incidence and Prevalence of Acute Kidney Injury During Multistage Ultramarathons,” which was also published ‘on-line first.’

I must confess, the news of the Pre-TAPED trial was picked up so quickly by media outlets that I first heard about it on National Public Radio (NPR).  As an editor of CJSM, I normally have the ‘inside scoop,’ but this study generated so much immediate interest that NPR and others scooped me, including media outlets in the UK such as The Times of London.  These folks are already singing the praises of the ‘unlikely hero’ of this story:  inexpensive, surgical paper tape which can be found over the counter at any pharmacy and roughly costs a dollar a roll.  Cheap…..and effective.

Lipman and his study team recruited 128 runners participating in the 2014 250-km (155-mile) 6-stage RacingThePlanet ultramarathons in Jordan, Gobi, Madagascar, and Atacama Deserts.  The team devised a clever approach to testing their hypothesis that the paper tape would prevent blisters:  “Paper tape was applied to a randomly selected foot before the race, either to participants’ blister-prone areas or randomly selected location if there was no blister history, with untaped areas of the same foot used as the control.”

They found, remarkably I think, that the paper tape reduced blister formation by 40% (95% CI [28 – 52%]), with a number needed to treat (NNT) = 1.31!  I rarely have come across a NNT that low for a primary prevention intervention.

Now. blisters are perhaps no more than a nuisance to most of us just going about our activities of daily living.  But I can attest as someone who used to run seriously and did some mountaineering, that significant foot blisters can be a matter of finishing or not finishing what you’ve set out to accomplish.  As Dr. Lipman himself says, as quoted in The Times,  “It’s kind of a ridiculously cheap, easy method of blister prevention. You can get it anywhere. The best way to make it to the finish line is by taking care of your feet.”

Amen to that.

About sportingjim
I work at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio USA, where I am a specialist in pediatric sports medicine. My academic appointment as an Associate Professor of Pediatrics is through Ohio State University. I am a public health advocate for kids' health and safety. I am also the Deputy Editor for the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine.

2 Responses to The bane of an ultramarathoner’s existence: no more!

  1. Hello,
    I am a sports medicine professional and an educator to coaches in the area of sports safety. I am working on a project in this area that I would like to share with you. My email is

    Thank you.

    • sportingjim says:

      dr horowitz, are you wanting to submit some research to the journal or some content for the blog?

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