We all know that feet have a critical role in running, but in endurance running, feet problems can make a race miserable and potentially compromise the finish. I read Fixing Your Feet by John Vonhof as preparation for my recent 100 mile race, and I understand why this book is like the bible for foot care. It was actually a pretty interesting read, even though the topic was all about feet. I recommend any endurance runner to add this book to the shelf for reference!
To start, just to give credit where credit is due–feet are pretty incredible. The foot is comprised of 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and tendons. One of the most basic and most critical objectives of foot care is to reduce friction. Heat, friction, and moisture all contribute to blisters, so reducing any of these factors helps keep feet healthy to the finish.
Here are a few of my favorite takeaways:
PRE RACE PREPARATION:
- Trim toenails and file them smooth. I always knew to keep toenails trim, but a great tip is to file the tops and edges of the toenails.
- Remove calluses with a callus file. I always thought that calluses were a good thing, but they can actually create more opportunity for friction, thus leading to blisters. Keeping feet soft and supple is most often the best option.
- Make sure that there is no lint in socks or shoes, and keep all lining smooth against the foot. This seems like a no-brainer, but I’m guilty of feeling my sock bunched funny, yet continuing to run because I didn’t want to stop. The author is also a big proponent of gaiters, but I have never worn them. I have lots of runner friends who swear by them though!
- Apply a layer of lubricant. The book lists a lot of lubricant options, but my favorite is zinc oxide, which helps seal out wetness. Check out Desitin or Butt Paste for easy zinc oxide lubricants.
- Make sure socks are smooth around feet with nothing that could rub. Always avoid cotton socks. Socks made from synthetic fabric breathe and wick away moisture from skin to the outer surface to evaporate. The book recommends different sock brands and lists their attributes. For my race, I ended up using Smartwool and Injinji. I did have some blisters, but it was really quite minimal for the distance. I actually really like Injinji socks more than I expected, and will probably stick to Injinji for all of my longer trail runs.
- Do not tie laces too tightly.
DURING THE RACE:
If a hot spot develops during a race, there are a few different options to try to reduce friction to the spot
- Apply a pad–moleskin is a great option. Put a dab of lubricant or tissue over the blister so that the sticky part of the moleskin does not stick to the blister/hotspot
- Apply tape–the author recommends Kinesio Tex tape. Clean the area and then apply a toughening agent like the compound tincture of benzoin.
- Rub a dab of lubricant–this could be any lubricant such as vaseline, Bodyglide, or Desitin. My favorite is Butt Paste because we already have it on hand for Cadence.
- Worst case, use an energy gel wrapper to reduce friction between the shoe, sock, and foot.
- Soak in Epsom salts. If I’m traveling, I fill the bathtub and sit on the edge. If I’m at home, I have a little cooler that I dip one foot at a time in.
- Drain blisters if they are in a pressure area. Be careful if there is blood in the blister not to get it infected. Use proper care with sterilization.
- For swollen feet, elevate and ice.
WHAT’S IN MY ULTRA FOOT CARE KIT:
- Nail clippers
- Little scissors
- Nail file
- Kinesio Tex Tape
- Tincture of Benzoin
- Butt Paste
- Wipes, preferably alcohol wipes (to clean feet of lubricant if applying tape)
Do you have any foot tricks that have worked well for you?