For years, the norm has been to avoid getting your feet wet. When feet get wet for extended periods, usually the feet have skin that is soft and macerated. In long events, and especially in multi-day events, that can lead to trouble. Taping or patching wet feet, or macerated feet, is very difficult. So it is best to keep your feet as dry as possible.
This has always been the rule.
In the past few years, adventure style races have become popular, which puts runners in conditions where wet feet are the daily norm. Most often, these races are six to seven days in length. The race often includes running through the jungle or mountains with stream crossings, wet foliage, wet trails, mud, and extremely humid conditions. In these conditions, your feet are always wet.
If you think this doesn’t apply to you because you are doing a “dry” race, please consider this. Even dry races with no water crossing can produce wet feet. Dumping water over your head at aid stations to cool off will get water in your shoes. Plus our feet naturally sweat and this buildup can result in wet feet.
Shirley Thompson, the Race Director of the Jungle Marathon told me, “We always advise runners to train with wet feet so that they can focus on a strategy before they get to the jungle. As far as footwear is concerned, we always emphasize trail shoes with good grip, and that comfort is the main factor.”
So how can we do that? For training runs, soak your shoes and socks before heading out. Step in puddles or use a hose if they dry out. Try to keep them wet as long as possible. If you feel a hot spot or blister start, stop and adjust your shoes and add tape, lube or your favorite blister prevention product. Take time to find the best shoe and sock combination for your feet when wet.
Personal Foot Care of Wet Feet
Because your feet will be wet, often at the start of each stage, it makes sense to do some of your training with wet feet. Use the same shoe and sock combination that you plan to use for the race – and get them wet. Walk and run in them. Not just a 30-minute run, but hours! Put some distance on your wet feet that is the same you expect to do during the race. Try to also to do back to back wet feet training days. It’s that simple.
As said earlier, stop and deal with any hot spots as soon as you feel them. Check for folds in your socks, friction from dirt or sand, pressure inside your shoes – and get rid of these irritants. Lube the area or apply a piece of tape or blister prevention patch to help. This may seem like common sense, but many people ignore this simple step.
At the end of each day’s stage, remove your wet shoes and socks, dry your feet and air them as much as possible. If your feet have tape on them, remove the tape to dry the skin underneath. Wear sandals or Crocs around camp to keep your feet away from the wet ground and dirt and sand. Walking around barefoot will often aggravate wet, cold, and soft macerated skin. Later in the day or the next morning, re-tape your feet and patch any blisters.
Because you cannot count on medical people patching your feet the way you want them patched or that they will be available, you must learn how to patch your own feet. I have helped at events where I have patched feet all afternoon and evening, and then had people line up in the morning for more work. Sometimes the medical staff is stretched thin or cannot get to everyone. Be prepared to do your own patching and have your own equipment. Better safe than sorry.
Many times at races, I have seen athletes who have not trained their feet for the event. They enter a race and don’t put the necessary miles on their feet, don’t have the right shoes, don’t know how to manage and patch their feet. I encourage you to take the time to train with wet feet and condition them for the extremes of your race.
I spotted a small ad in one of my magazines that looked interesting. The product was IceSpike. They are a system of patented composite-material, cold-rolled tool quality steel, heat hardened ice spikes, which provide superior grip and long lasting durability. Their tagline is, “The ultimate non-slip shoe system, for all outdoor activities.” Of course, since it relates to footwear, I had to check it out.
IceSpikes are rated to last 10 times longer than commonly used sheet metal screws. Average runners will get 500 miles out of a set of IceSpikes. The terrain and conditions will affect the life of the spikes. Unlike other traction products, these are low profile under the shoe. The thread design is fine and sharp. The design has a wider and deeper slot to promote self-cleaning of ice and debris. Extra wide washers offer better stability on the sole of the shoe and their locking serrations that firmly anchor them to the rubber of the sole to prevent loosening of the spikes. They will not break or crack with intense cold or use.
The suggested installation is three on each side of the heel and three on the inside ball of the foot side of the shoe or boot. A tool is available to make installation easy or use a ¼ inch hex bit in your drill.
A package includes 32-patented IceSpikes. The deluxe package includes the installation tool. With each shoe getting 12 spikes, you’ll have eight extra spikes for replacements. Heel spikes tend to wear faster.
You’ll find that IceSpikes are a semi-permanent traction system that can be mounted on any running or walking shoe, hiking or work boot.
In case you are wondering why not just use sheet metal screws, think about this. Sheet metal screws are made of a softer material and will wear out many times faster and decrease their traction ability. The slots in sheet metal screws fill with ice and debris faster and are not self-cleaning, which affects traction. Sheet metal screws have a rough thread design.
This is the kind of product that makes me want to find snow and ice for a run. Unfortunately, California’s central valley gets neither. If you live in a region where they make sense, I encourage you to give them a try.
For years blister care has been fairly standard. Many athletes use Second Skin over the top of a blister and then apply tape to hold that in place. Some still use Vaseline. Others will drain the blister and cover with a Band-Aid or athletic tape. And some will use zinc oxide under tape.
All can work – but some work better than others. I’ve seen many runners who have tried one of the above with poor success.
Sometimes the lack of blister patching success happens because of a poor tape job. Maybe too little adhesive around the patch and it didn’t stick. Maybe the blister was not lanced correctly and refilled with fluid. Or maybe the Second Skin migrated under the tape and folded on itself or might have been old and too dried out to work as designed. Or the Second Skin made the skin too moist and maceration occurred, causing more problems. Or too little Vaseline or zinc oxide was used and friction reoccurred, leading to an increase in fluid.
So here’s the deal. I am interested in hearing from a few athletes, runners or adventure racers, walkers or hikers – who get serious blisters almost every time they go out. I don’t mean a minor ¼ inch blister, but a blister ½ inch or larger, anywhere on the foot. And especially those where the roof tears off, leaving raw skin underneath. The worst, the better and the bigger the better. This is not a prevention item but would be used as a treatment for formed blisters.
I have a product to test and need four to six testers.
Send me an email and tell me about yourself, what you are doing when you get blisters, and how you have treated them in the past – what you have tried and what worked or didn’t work. If will do my best to respond to all who send me an email. Please sned an email rather than a comment on the blog.
I’ll pick the best of the worst cases and supply you with sample product and suggested ways I want you to use it in the trial. I’ll give you forms to use to record your results and may ask for a photo or two. I will ask for your confidence in the trail until I can judge the results.
I make no guarantees as to whether this will work or not. But I think it’s worth a test. This is not a homegrown product but one made by a medical company.
I suspect some of my readers will love this and others won’t.
The actual title is: Free Your Feet – Why Running Shoes Do More Harm Than Good
It starts out like this.
Since you were a baby, you’ve worn shoes. You might remember your first Nikes or Adidas, too: a nice thick sole with padding up to the base of the ankle. In a few remote parts of the world, though, nobody ever wears shoes, and evidence shows they’re in much better shape because of it.
I received an email from one of the creators of this work and was intrigued. It’s done by people at XRayTechnician Schools.net. Melanie wrote me and said,
I work with a team of designers and researchers who have put together a graphic that talks about how running shoes do more harm than good.
The image below is taken from the start of their work.
Here’s the link to see the full screen. You have to go to the Free Your Feet webpage on their website because the image is long and cannot be easily embedded inside a blog post.
They make some good points: 9 out of 10 runners sustain injuries while training for marathons; Achilles tendon blowouts have increased 10% since the 1970s; and then states facts about common injuries caused by traditional running shoes.
Are they right?
Again, here’s the link: Free Your Feet webpage. Go to the link and read it through. Then come back here and comment on what you think.
I think they have made a great graphic that draws attention to a problem that some people want to ignore. Importantly, they also draw the conclusion that many runners are interested in transitioning to minimalist shoes and even barefoot running – and need to do so gradually.
Having worked in a number of hospital settings, including emergency rooms and trauma centers, I have a great deal of respect foe X-Ray technicians. They know their stuff. My bet is they decided to take on this controversial subject and see what they could show. They work in a setting where they see X-rays of feet, knees, and hips, and take X-rays of many people where they see things we don’t get to see. I think they have done a fine job.
Thank you Melanie and your fellow X-Ray technicians. The full graphic is credited to the XRayTechnicianSchools.net.
Lets talk about expectations for foot care at races. I like this subject because being prepared is important. It can make my work easier and likewise that of everyone helping with medical and foot care at races. This coming weekend is Western States and there will be a lot of runners needing help with their feet.
Over the years I have seen everything at 100-mile races. Runners with holes in their socks or socks so worn you can see through the material, severe Athlete’s Foot, long and untrimmed toenails, huge calluses, no gaiters, the use of Vaseline as a lubricant, the use of Band-Aids on blisters, existing injuries that have not healed, shoes that should have been tossed out, huge blisters caused by not treating hot spots, and lots more.
I see runners with crews that manage everything for them – including foot care. These are typically runners who have experience in longer races. They also seem to have some degree of foot care expertise. They will come through an aid station and meet their crew and all is well. If they need foot care, they have the supplies and they or their crew knows how to use the materials. They are prepared.
Other runners are less prepared. They might have crews, but they don’t have the foot care supplies, much less the expertise in how to do what they needed. They count on someone being there to fix their feet.
Many of these runners expect a lot from the podiatrity staff – sometimes, they want a miracle. There are four issues to get past. First, many times there are no “official” podiatrity people at the aid station. No podiatrist anyway. Second, what they get is someone who is maybe a nurse, paramedic, EMT, or even a full-fledged MD, who is volunteering as the aid station’s medical person. Third, often this person(s) has limited skills in fixing feet. And finally, fourth, often they have limited supplies.
So what do you get? You get a person who really wants to help but may be hindered by their limited skills and resources. Don’t fault them if the patch doesn’t work or it feels wrong. You might try and give them directions on what to do – with limited success.
What’s wrong here? Your expectations are wrong. You cannot expect every race to have podiatrity people at every aid station, with supplies to fix hundreds of feet. Some races have medical staff while other races have none. A majority of races do not have podiatrist on hand. Is it their job to provide it? Only if they advertise such aid.
This means you should be prepared at any race you enter, to have the foot care supplies and knowledge to patch your own feet – or have crew that knows how. Does that sounds harsh? Maybe so, but you entered the race. You spent money on travel, a crew, food, new shoes, lodging, new shorts and a top, water bottles, and more. But did you spend a few bucks on preparing a good foot care kit?
Why take a chance that I or anyone else is there to fix your feet? I find lots of runners who have my book (Fixing Your Feet) but I am amazed at the large numbers who haven’t heard of it.
Many of us don’t mind fixing your feet. In fact I love to do it. But we can’t be everywhere – at all aid stations, at all hours, and at all races. Can you do me a favor? Tell some else about Fixing Your Feet and this blog. Make their life a bit easier and help them finish their race with happy feet.
I’ll be in the medical area at the Michigan Bluff aid station. In back of the scales and food tables. If you need me, I’ll be there.
Yesterday I volunteered at the Northern California Survivor Mud Run. I spent seven hours manning the cargo net with Omar, another volunteer. We managed over 5000 runners as they went up and over a 14-foot high cargo net. Runners wore running shoes and a lot had Vibram Five Fingers. Only one guy was barefoot.
Once they passed us, they went through a water station before making their way through an irrigation ditch filled with muddy clay. I watched some of them coming through the ditch and took a few pictures.
Look at these pictures and see if you can find the shoes! Our area has great soft dirt. Five miles down the road where the race was held, was muddy clay.
The end of the 3.47-mile course was totally mud. The runners were immersed in mud up to their necks as they crawled through mud pits.
So, back to the shoes.
The runners could hose off at the end of the race. And if they wanted, they could toss their shoes in containers where they would be cleaned and donated to a shelter.
So imagine the shoes pictured here were yours.
How many washings would it take to get rid of the mud? Would the washing and mud adversely affect the integrity of the shoe and its stitching? These types of events are becoming more and more popular. People love the challenge of an obstacle course run with friends. They have fun.
My advice if you are going to run one of these – wear old shoes and toss them in the bucket afterwards.
The Barkley Marathon is considered one of the toughest 100-mile races in the world. It has 59,100 feet of climb (and 59,100 feet of descent), more than any other 100-mile race. Since the race began in 1986, only 13 runners out of about 900 have finished within the 60-hour cutoff.
The Barkley consists of 5 20-mile loops with no aid except for water at two points. The cutoffs for the 100 mile race are 12 hours per loop. The 60 mile “fun run” has a cutoff of 40 hours, or 13:20 per loop. To prove you completed each loop, you must find 9 to 11 books (varies) at various points along the course and return a page from each book.
I read a few of the reports of this year’s race held on March 31 and I looked through hundreds of race photos taken by Geoff Baker. Geoff was kind enough to send me a few photos of feet – and legs from Barkleys. Here is Geoff’s contact information. Geoffrey Baker Photography. and a page from his website showing the competitors - ‘Out There’ at the Barkley: Portraits From the Edge of Endurance.
Thanks Geoff. And now, here are a few photos.
I just had to share this photo. A few weeks ago I worked at the 21-mile aid station at the Oakland Marathon, which was also the eight-mile aid station for the half-marathon.
Back in the 80’s I ran the old Oakland Marathon and after a few years the event died. Then three years ago, Coorigan Sports took resurrected the run.
So on a Sunday morning, we set up the medical tent. It was me and six nurses from the Alameda County Medical Center. We stood outside the tent and watched the runners and walkers coming by.
I brought my foot care kit in case a runner needed help. I actually got quite a bit of business. The usual hot spot and blister care.
Then a young lady stopped. She wanted a blister patched.
She was wearing two pairs of socks. She took off her socks and I made the necessary blister repairs.
Then I helped put on her socks. Look closely at this picture and you’ll see the the threadbare sock under the ball of the foot. The rest of the bottom of the sock is so thin you can almost see through the fabric.
I told her she needed to toss the socks and gave her a few tips on socks.
It bothers me to see runners and walkers spend money on a race, wear good shoes and the right running clothes, and forget something so simple as a good pair of socks.
Please, take a minute and check your socks. If you have any like this, toss them.
You’ll be doing yourself a favor.
Today I worked the medical aid station at mile 20 of the Oakland Marathon. Saturday I restocked my foot care box, adding supplies that I had depleted during the past events. I also cleaned up my Baggies of patches, and other small items.
One of the things I noticed I was short was tape. I added a roll of Leukotape and some Kinesio Tex. The Leukotape was out of a box off my shelf. I knew it had been on the shelf for while, but was unsure how long.
A short time into the race, I had several runners come in for some taping over hot spots. I cleaned the skin with an alcohol wipe, assessed the problem, and peeled off a bit of Leukotape. The first strip stuck okay. But after that, I could tell the tape did not have its usual stickiness.
I unrolled more and more, but the tape was bad. It would not stick.
Thinking about it, I think the tape was several years old. Maybe even three years. I am pretty good about checking my tapes – but this one slipped by me. So my advice is to check all your tapes before a race.
Life has been busy this past month and I apologize for not posting more often.
As I read the my magazines, I find shoe reviews. As I open emails, I read people’s experiences with their shoes. As I check newsletters, websites and blogs, I read reports and reviews of shoes. And then, of course, there are the ads – everywhere.
The thing is, they all point out the features and benefits of their shoes. Is there one shoe for you? Yes, there is one – and many more that will also work. Some work better than others.
My feeling after all these years of providing foot care is that you could easily slip into a number of shoes and they would work. You read the ads, the emails on forums from other runners happy with their shoes, and you hear other runners in one-on-one conversations recommending certain shoes. Maybe you’re happy with your current shoes and simply want to try out another pair. Or maybe you find the shoes you like have been discontinued.
Everyone wants the perfect shoe – and some people find them. Others try on shoe after shoe, looking for the elusive “best” fit.
You could run a 5K or 10K or even a marathon in many shoes and not have a problem. But move up to an ultramarathon or a multi-day event and you could have problems. A small thing when training or running can be multiplied many times over with more miles and cause problems. When changing to a different shoe, pay attention to any changes in how your feet and ankles feel. Does anything feel funny or seem bothersome? Do you feel a twinge the next day – telling you that something is wrong? At some point, if this continues, you need to consider the shoes. Change back to your old shoes and see if the problem goes away.
Where this affects athletes the most is moving from regular shoes to minimalist shoes or even no shoes (barefoot). Changing to these takes time and a gradual slow process. Wearing minimalist shoes puts added stressors on the feet until they get used to the change. Give it time. Slowly. Recognize you should be changing the way you land on your feet and your overall stride.
There are lots of shoes that will work for you. Give them a try. I bet you’ll find several you really like.