Tips to Control Moisture and Cold

February 25, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Footcare, Footwear, Health, Sports, Travel 

As your skin becomes wet it softens and is more susceptible to blisters. If a blister forms, it is more likely to rupture. The skin then separates further. Maceration happens when skin becomes soft and wet for long periods of time. This is what has happened when you take off your socks and find your feet look like prunes. The skin is tender, and can fold over on itself, separating, and creating problems. As layers of skin separate, blisters spread and the skin can split open and bleed, and the skin becomes whitish in color It is very hard to patch feet when this happened. Feet become so tender that every step is painful.
     Consider the following pointers when planning any event where moisture and cold can be an issue.
•    Wear socks that are have moisture-wicking capabilities. Socks made of 100% cotton should be avoided. Choose synthetic fabrics like Coolmax or Olefin or a blend of materials. Smartwool socks, make from wool, are good in wet conditions. Whatever socks you wear, change them frequently and dry the old socks.
•    Foot powders that absorb moisture can help keep your feet dry. Put small containers of powder into your drop bags and in your pack. Reapply powder when you change your socks. Zeasorb or Odor-Eaters both make a good moisture-absorbing powder that does not cake up into clumps. Wipe off the old powder and grit before applying new.
•    Wearing shoes that do not have adequate draining capabilities will subject your feet to extended periods of moisture. Use a heated nail to make a few small holes where your upper attaches to the lower part of your shoe or boot. Make one on each side of the heel and one on each side of the forefoot.
•    Consider wearing waterproof socks. SealSkinz Waterproof MVT socks from Dupont are made without irritating seams and have a vapor-permeable membrane sandwiched between an outer layer of nylon and an inner layer of Coolmax. Their weak point is their Lycra cuff that can let in water. Another option is the Seirus Neo-Sock or Stormsock made from four-way stretch neoprene with breathable macro-porous technology to prevent moisture buildup while sealing in body heat.
•    When resting or sleeping, take off your wet shoes and socks to allow your feet to breathe.

Buying Socks

February 19, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Footcare, Footwear, Health, Sports, Travel 

Buying socks is pretty simple – they need to fit your feet. If you are buying socks for work, then most of us can buy them without a lot of thought. But if you are buying socks for a marathon, ultra, or adventure race, you need to be attentive to how they fit.
     The heels, toes, and length should fit snugly without sagging or being stretched too tight. Socks that are too big will bunch up and cause friction and skin irritation. Socks that are too small can cause the toes and joints to rub harder against the socks. Turn the socks inside out and look at the toe seams. Avoid those with bulky seams because they can rub, causing hot spots and blisters. After buying socks be sure to try them on with your shoes or boots to be sure they fit together and are not too tight. Remember also to discard socks when they become threadbare and too thin to provide their advertised benefits. The heels of your socks are a good indication of the amount of padding and loft.
     The right sock is one that fits your foot and fills the inside of the shoe. Being too tight or too thick can constrict circulation and lead to problems, especially in cold weather. Rubbing can lead to hot spots, which lead to blisters. Changing to thinner socks can cause extra movement of the foot inside the shoe, leading to friction, hot spots, and you guessed it, blisters. 
     Many people will pick a brand of socks and stick with them. That’s fine, but remember, socks manufacturers have made tremendous advances in sock construction. There are many fantastic socks being made and you owe it yourself to check them out.

Time on Your Feet

February 12, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Footcare, Footwear, Health, Sports, Travel 

Over the years I have seen many people complete marathons and ultramarathons – walking or running. Most do well, suffering the usual malady of blisters, toenails issues, and an occasional ankle sprain. There are some, however, who finish their events with feet they can hardly walk on. Complaints range from, “My foot feels like one big blister.” to “I can’t walk!”
     These athletes usually have one thing in common. They have stressed their feet beyond what their feet are comfortable doing. There are several typical scenarios. The most common is they have simply done too much too soon. The second most common is that they have encountered conditions beyond what they were prepared for. Since all of us, even non-athletes, can learn from these experiences, allow me to explain.
     Sudden increases in mileage put undo pressure on the bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles of the feet. If you typically walk 3 miles a day and then suddenly walk 10 miles, you can expect your feet to feel sore, hot, and painful. Increasing your running miles from a 10K (6.2 miles) to a half-marathon (13.1 miles) will result in similar complaints. The rule-of-thumb for runners has always been to increase weekly miles by no more that 10% a week. This is good advice for all of us.
      Whenever we go for a walk or run, we might run into the unexpected. We step off a curb or roll our foot on a rock and turn an ankle. We hike on a trail and are not used to uphills and downhills, the tree roots and rocks, and the uneven terrain, and our legs, ankles, and feet become sore. It’s hot and we sweat more than normal, and this moisture leads to hot spots and blisters. We wear a new pair of socks, thinner than normal, and our feet move around inside the shoes, creating blisters. We wear a new pair of socks, thicker than normal, and the pressure inside the toebox leads to painful toenails.
     Whatever our activity, we need “do the time.” We must put the time on our feet to get them ready and in shape to handle the stresses we will ask them to endure. If you have a vacation coming up, or a marathon, count backward on your calendar and block off time to get yourself ready—including your feet. Putting in the time on your feet will lead to happy feet.

The Shoe Guides are Coming!

February 4, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Footcare, Footwear, Health, Sports, Travel 

It’s that time of the year when many of the outdoor magazines give us their annual “Shoe Guides.” It used to be that Runner’s World, Running Times, and Backpacker were the main two. Then Trail Runner came along, with Adventure Sports until it disappeared a few years ago. Now every magazine with an outdoor theme is giving us their opinion of the best shoes for our feet. March seems to be the magic month.
     I just received my March issue of National Geographic Adventure. And the March issue of Backpacker, their annual Gear Guide, was on my doorstep last week. The others will be here shortly. Even Outside and Men’s Journal give us their opinion.
     National Geographic Adventure has a two page spread in their Gear section, titled The Cut: A running shoe for every foot. Ten shoes are featured. Most are from companies you would recognize: New Balance, Saucony, Reebok, Brooks, Asics, Nike, The North Face, and Pearl Izumi. A fairly new one is Newton and one I have never heard of is Kayland. Their article gives a 20-30 word review of each shoe and then rates each in three areas: traction, protection, and agility – on a 1-5 scale. All in all, the article is pretty good.
     While all these “Shoe Guides” are helpful, it is important to remember a few basics. First, use them as a guide only and remember they are not complete. There are many more shoes than any of these Guides articles can cover. NG Adventure may tell me that a particular shoe is best for “pronators” but if I pronate, I really need to try on the shoe before making a choice. Second, I read these Guides wondering why they seem to always have different companies represented but rarely two shoes from one company. Are the shoes they pick really the best or are they the best based on their effort to be fair and give representation to all companies? In otherwords, what if shoe company X really has the best shoes in two categories but the editors change it to be fairer to multiple companies? So, while I enjoy the Guides, I will always read them knowing that are not all encompassing.
     If you are interested in new footwear, check out some of these magazines at your favorite newsstand.

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