FIXING YOUR FEET E-zine: Tune up Your Feet for Summer

May 31, 2006 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Foot Care, Footwear, Health, Sports, Travel 


Volume 6, Issue 5, May 2006
John Vonhof, Footwork Publications
Copyright, May 2006, All rights reserved


My editorial talks about how to Tune-Up Your Feet and Shoes for Summer.
There is a new book on crewing at Death Valley, one photo in the Bad Feet section, two items in Non-feet Good
Stuff, and a whole bunch of reader feedback. Sorry this issue is so


The Fixing Your Feet E-zine is published monthly to inform and educate
athletes and non-athletes about proper foot care skills and techniques,
provide tips on foot care, review foot care products, and highlight
problems people have with their feet.

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My Favorite Socks

May 28, 2006 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Footcare, Footwear, Sports, Travel 

I own a lot of socks. My sock drawer is packed full with over 20 different types of socks. And that’s just socks I wear for running and hiking.
     Most are ankle high but I have a few crew length. A few are the short mini crews that just come up to the top of the shoe but those are not my favorite socks. The ones I wear over and over are the ankle style. I almost never wear the others—they are only in my drawer because I got them as samples. Sure, I tried them but I favor the ankle high socks for comfort.
     In no certain order, these are my favorite socks:
1.    Injinji – These are the socks with individual socks for each toe.
2.    Smartwool – Great, reliable wool socks. 
3.    Teko – Great socks, partically made with recycled fibers by a company dedicacted to the environment. 
4.    Darn Tough – Wool socks made for the rigors of the outdoors. 
     Will I always stick to these socks? They will always remain my favorites, but I will certainly add more. Sock companies are working hard to develop better socks fabrics and better blends. This means good things for those of us who want our feet to be happy.

Conditioning Your Feet

May 23, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Footcare, Footwear, Health, Sports, Travel 

On Sunday I helped at the finish line of the Ohlone Wilderness 50K Trail Run. This great event goes from Fremont to Livermore in Central California over lots of hills. The course is on trails and fire roads. This is one tough course—great for seeing what kind of shape you are in—as well as what shape your feet are in.

     Of the 112 finishers, I only saw one or two who were favoring their feet when they crossed the finish line. I knew from the race information that they were running their first ultra. They were in new territory.

     Let’s talk a moment about conditioning your feet. Most runners are aware of the common problems when running. Chafing between their thighs, at the armpits, and where their nipples rub on their tops. But, what about their feet?

     Athletes can get their feet in shape by working up to longer distances over time. Don’t assume you can go out and walk or run a distance farther that you have trained to do. Your feet will rebel. By building up to longer and longer distances, your feet get in shape—just as your body does.

     Your feet must be conditioned to endure the rigors and stresses of whatever the race throws at you. Rough trails and fire roads? Cross country bushwhacking over small rocks and uneven footing? Constantly changing terrain with the streams, rivers, and whitewater with the associated mud? Sand, grit and small stones that work their way into your shoes and socks? There are several answers.


Train in race conditions, in the shoes and socks you will wear on race day. You can get by with minimal foot conditioning for a short event but a multi-day race requires a plan of action. Your feet must be conditioned for mile after mile after mile of running and walking. Put in enough hours to help your feet adapt to the stresses to which they will be subjected. Toughen your feet with barefoot walking. If you constantly train by doing six-hour hikes, you will be really good at doing a six-hour hike. Learn from successful ultrarunners who know the importance of at least one long training session per week. Add a long session to your week’s routine. As you get closer to your event, make the session longer and more closely resemble an actual race. This will help condition the feet for long hours of a race.

     Do short hikes with a pack on your back before taking off to tackle a multi-day race. Work up to distances that you will tackle in your event. Training with a ten-pound pack is different than with the 20-pound pack you will use on race day. The weight of your pack and the change it means to your gait will have a stressing affect on your feet. Just as important is learning to do back-to-back training days. Teaching your feet how to adapt to long sessions, on consecutive days, will further your odds of success.


Will your shoes still fit after three days or will you need a larger size? Do you have good socks and supportive insoles? Learn how to cut slits in the sides of your shoes with a knife to relieve pressure on a bad toe or bunion. Where possible, rest your feet by raising them above the level of your heart. Anytime you stop to eat or take a break, take off your shoes and socks to air your feet. The cold water in streams and rivers can work wonders to sooth tired and swollen feet.

Work Out the Kinks

Work out the kinks; find the best shoes and socks for what you will be doing. Learn how to trim your toenails and reduce calluses. Discover the proper insoles that provide support to relieve any pre-existing foot problems.

     Strengthen your toes and ankles. Maneuvering over bad trails and roads, and going cross-country, with a loaded pack, is easier when your feet are used to such stresses. A turned ankle will ruin your chances of success.

     Strong feet and ankles will make off road travel easier. After days of travel, even though your feet are tired and sore, they will still put out for yet another day. Because of conditioning, recover will be faster.

Learning Blister Prevention by Trial and Error

May 17, 2006 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Footcare, Footwear, Sports, Travel 

Yesterday was my birthday. I only mention this because it relates to today’s blog.
     An ultrarunner friend, Mark Swanson, sent an email to a listserv in response to a comment about blister prevention. He wrote: “In honor of John’s birthday let’s remember the lesson he keeps emphasizing – what works for you may not work for the next person and what works for you now may not work for you next time. But what works for you will help some people and may work for you for a long time!”
     There is much value in these two sentences. A common saying is, “We are each an experiment of one.” That directly applies to foot care, and especially blister prevention. Ever since I wrote the first Img_1367edition of Fixing Your Feet, I have tried to get people to learn about how to prevent blisters with a variety of techniques and products. There is more than one way to prevent blisters. Here is a sampling: shoe fit, insole fabrics, different socks, different combinations of socks, different lubricants, different powders, lacing, taping with a whole assortment of tapes, hydration, toenail care, gaiters, reducing calluses, a variety of blister patches, ENGO Blister Prevention patches, conditioning, skin care, skin tougheners, lamb’s wool, and more.
     In Fixing Your Feet I have a chapter on ways to prevent blisters. There are things you do to your feet, things that you put on your feet, things you put around your feet, things you do in combination, and things you do in general. I encourage you to take the book and read about these methods to prevent blisters.
     Mark said it well. Go back to the top of this blog and read it again. It’s important and it will help keep your feet happy.
     Mark has a blog on running and other aspects of life: RunAlong with Pastor Mark. I encourage you to check it out.

Congratulations “Fat Man Walking” Steve Vaught

May 11, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Footcare, Footwear, Health, Sports, Travel 

Back in November 2005 I emailed Steve Vaught with some questions about his foot care. I wanted his input on a new chapter for the 4th edition of Fixing Your Feet. In case you missed it, Steve just Stevecatoosafinished walking from 3000 miles from San Diego to New York in 13 months. He called himself, The Fat Man Walking. He started weighing in at 410 pounds and lost about 100 pounds by the end.
     In February, he wrote in his journal: “So now, with my experiences on this walk, I have learned to judge my health not by a scale of weight but by a scale of mental harmony. Once you accept that you are in control of your life and weight, then lose the obsessive tendencies and work on curing the emotional base of the weight problem you will find that the body will take care of itself.”
     I am amazed at what Steve accomplished. He really had his mind on straight and knew what motivated him. When you weigh 410 pounds, foot care is vital. Carrying that much weight on your feet is tough. Then add on pack weight and the numbers are even worse. Here are Steve’s answers to how he managed his feet. Remember these were asked when he had gone about 2/3 of the way, around 2000 miles.
1. What shoes and socks are you using? Smartwool
2. How often do you change shoes and socks? Once a day
3. Do you carry any foot care supplies? If so, what? Hydropel Sports Ointment and first aid stuff.
4. What problems are your having with your feet? I had some problems to start with but not any longer.
5. Have any foot issues compound themselves over time? No if you maintain strict foot care routines you will not have compounding issues.
6. Do you have any overuse issues (tendons, etc)? I pulled three tendons in my knee early on but nothing since.
7. Do you have any toe issues? I have lost three toenails but they are growing back.
8. What could have helped you better manage your feet? Only experience.
9. Do you have a morning/night ritual for caring for your feet? Just washing and a massage.
     Steve told me he did not do any preventive taping. His advice to my readers was, “Listen to the advise of others, accept what sounds reasonable but ultimately you body will tell you what you need. I tried several recommendations from different lubricants, a mixture of A&D Ointment, Vaseline and Vitamin E, to Voodoo but ultimately went back to what I learned in the Marines.”
     He added three tips:
1. Do not change your socks every time you stop. Remove you socks, let them dry and re-use. Your foot creates "goosh" which is a perfect foot lubricant and protectant. My definition of goosh is dead skin, skin oil, sweat and fabric fibers – what some call “tow jam”.  Combined, they create a nice lubricating barrier. This is enhanced by commercial lubricant or a cheap antiperspirant.
2. While hiking do not wash your feet with harsh cleaner. Use only a mild soap to protect your goosh. The smell is just a fringe benefit!
3. For extra toe room, wear shoes that are one size too big. But make sure that the toe box portion of the shoe is tight all the way from top to bottom.
     His final comment was, "Well, that is what I do, and I have only had one real blister since Amarillo."
Congratulations “The Fat Man Walking” Steve Vaught – nice job. Check out The Fat Man Walking here.

Getting Fit Feet – an Audio Interview

May 7, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Footcare, Footwear, Sports, Travel 

The WildeBeat is an audio journal produced and hosted by Steve Sergeant and the latest audio program features his interviewing me about foot care.
     Steve writes, “This skills program is part one of an interview with John Vonhof, the author of Fixing Your Feet. Your feet are your main means of transportation on most wilderness adventures. Some people suffer after a relatively short distance, while others have walked thousands of miles without problems. So how do you keep your feet in top working order?
     “John talks about what motivated him to write his book. He talks about how to choose and fit your shoes properly, how to tell if a shoe is going to cause you problems. And he talks about some of the foot problems you can prevent from the start.

     Click on this link to listen to the audio interview.
     Next week’s edition will feature the second part of the interview about fixing particular problems you might have with your feet.
     Steve adds, "The WildeBeat is an audio journal — like a radio news magazine — presenting news and features to help you explore the Earth’s remaining wild places. Each week, we publish a 6 – 10 minute documentary piece catered to the needs of people who enjoy wilderness recreation.
     Wildebeat shows you that you don’t need to do extreme sports to enjoy nature and being outdoors; anyone can enjoy backcountry activities, such as camping, hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, rafting, kayaking, canoeing, climbing, skiing, or snowshoeing. Listen to The WildeBeat to get enthused about exploring new places, learn safe and responsible skills, and get ready to get into the wilderness!
     The program name The WildeBeat, is a conjunction of two words, and a play on a third. Wilderness, as in the places we like to go. And Beat, as in a news reporter walking his beat. Together they sound like the sometimes humorous African animal, a Wildebeest, (also sometimes spelled
wildebeast) which helps impart the light and playful intent of the show.

Put Your Socks First

May 3, 2006 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Footcare, Footwear, Health, Sports, Travel 

Many people, athletes included, don’t give their socks much thought. They decide to go for a walk or on a run, and pull on whatever they find in their drawer. There are two possibilities in this scenario.
     In the first, the hand reaches for socks and find a well-worn pair of ordinary socks. Pulling these out of the drawer, we see they are made from only one material – cotton. They are inexpensive, and Images_5are a bad choice. Cotton is a vary popular material in socks and these socks are often found in department stores, discount stores, warehouse stores, and even some chain athletic stores. They are bad because they hold moisture against the skin. Over time, this softens the skin and can cause skin breakdown over long periods. It can lead to a higher incidence of hot spots and blisters. The fabric does not retain it loft and quickly loses it cushioning and support characteristics. 
     In the second, the socks are well made, designed for whatever activity they are going to do, and are made to wick moisture away from the skin. This is a good choice. Turning the socks inside out, 11813_25you’ll likely see a toe seam that is flat and will not cause an irritation to the toes. The weave of the sock will be strong and will hold up for many miles. The sock may be made from several materials, all designed with a specific purpose in mind: to wick moisture or move it from one part of the sock to another part, to ventilate, to cushion, and to support. These socks cost more but are worth it many times over.
     My question for you is: which socks do you put on your feet? Remember it’s your job to keep them happy.

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