FIXING YOUR FEET E-zine – Patching feet, an interview with the Blister Queen, and more

July 31, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Foot Care, Footwear, Health, Sports, Travel 


Volume 8, Issue 7, July 2008 ~
John Vonhof, Footwork Publications ~
Copyright, July 2008, All rights reserved

~ This issue has an editorial on and an article, An Interview with the Blister Queen. It also has a foot care tip and two product resources, a new bad feet photo, reader feedback, and a link to follow Karl Meltzer’s run on the Appalachian Trail.

~ 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.

Note: In case you have noticed a different look to the newsletter,, where it is hosted, has changed their input screens and not matter how much I try, I cannot get some of the features to work. Sorry.

~ It was nice to get the email. Vito Bialla was one of the Badwater runners who successfully went from Badwater to the Mt. Whitney Portal, 135 miles of heat and hard road. He wrote: “I wanted to thank you for working on my feet in Lone Pine during Badwater. I was able to finish under 48 hours and the taping job you did worked exactly the way you said it would. Thanks for lending your expertise to this event; I am eternally grateful for that!”

Talking to Vito was great. He had used Micropore tape all over his feet and then wrapped them with Coban, a stretchy wrap that sticks to itself. As I recall, he has minor blister problems at the base of his toes. Vito had come to Badwater with a proactive mindset and was very teachable. He was successful and finished in 41:48:35 – a very good time.

Contrast that with an un-named runner who, even through experienced, had done no homework about foot care. I patched a few spots on this person’s feet and asked about prior knowledge of foot care. This person knew nothing. The crew had been a help and patched a few places, but this person was unprepared for the extremes of Badwater.

My philosophy of patching feet, which I had not considered before, is that while I look at a runner’s feet and figure out what to do, I talk to him or her. This allows me to see them as an individual, see where their head is, and to help educate them on foot care. I enjoy the work and am pleased that many runners and crews are learning how to do the work themselves.

I believe it is important to educate while I work. I cannot work every race, and neither can Denise, Gillian, and others who have become well versed in foot care methods. It is rewarding to see so many crews who have experience in patching feet. Of course, Badwater attracts the best in crews, and I commend them for their work.

I love talking to athletes as I work on their feet. it give me an opportunity to tell them why I am doing what I am doing, what resources I am using, how I am applying it, and what my thought process is. My hope is that when I do this, they will learn that a good patch job takes thought. I can also explain why what they did, for instance making one needle hole in the middle of a blister, will not work. And why their too-long toenails contribute to toe blisters and black toenails. Why they could do more work on reducing their calluses. Why a shoehorn is important as they try and push a patched heel into the heel of a shoe. Why it is important to know how to put on and take off their socks to preserve the tape patch and how to take care of their feet after the race. And, often, a whole lot more.

I have a captive audience. I patched one runner’s feet and talked to her as I assed her feet and applied a patch. She later emailed me thanking me for the information. Denise was there and she commented on how she learned watching me work on the lady’s feet. We even teach each other. Denise has taught me a lot of good stuff.

Success stories are great. Last year I patched Jan Herrmann’s heels in what I later called my “best ever blister patch.” I wrote about it in last year’s August newsletter. Fast forward a year later and Jan is back at Badwater to try and better his 07 time. He had done a great job of reducing his calluses and when I saw him at Panamint Springs, he had a medium size blister on one heel that still had callus. He had learned well and taken my advice to heart. He did much better this year, finishing in 44:47:51. He had learned. Success.

So, my philosophy of patching feet is simple. I want to educate while I patch.

If you want to comment on this piece, please send me an email.

~ The 4th edition of Fixing Your Feet can be ordered through my web site,, or If you have any of the older editions, you need this one. It has three new chapters, lots of new sections, and is completely updated. The retail price is $18.95 but most sites, including mine, have it at a reduced rate.

~ Please take a moment and forward this issue to a friend or two and encourage them to subscribe.

~ Denise Jones is referred to as the “Badwater Blister Queen.” I have known her for many years and consider her a close friend. Denise and her husband, Ben, a retired physician affectionately called the “Mayor of Badwater,” live in Lone Pine at the base of Mt Whitney, and just down the road from Death Valley. I admire the attention to detail that I have seen as Denise patches runner’s feet. We often compare notes on tapes, patches, and techniques. After the recent Badwater Ultramarathon, I caught up to her long enough to ask a few questions.

Q: How did you get the name Blister Queen?
A: It began as a joke to be kiddingly named the Blister Queen. It seemed in the early years that no one knew much of anything about blister prevention. In a HOT race, such as Badwater to Whitney, it seemed that there was a need for more information about foot care, blister prevention and treatment. I began questioning runners about what they did to prevent blisters. I was entered in the race in 1994 and it was that same year that Rhonda Provost taught me to tape (she is a nurse anesthetist). She had an excellent technique which was very precise and carefully done. She used duct tape at the time, which was the most widely accepted tape for blister prevention. Not long after that I began experimenting with various tapes. Thus, “Blister Queen got tacked onto me, and stuck due to my unusual interest in preventing and treating blisters.

Each year I learned more and experimented with various tapes until it became known that I had a “technique” that might help prevent bad blisters. I had the advantage of living right on the Badwater course, so I could test new tapes in the heat of Death Valley. In 2000, I met John Vonhof and read his book, “Fixing Your Feet.” I was impressed and intrigued to learn that there was so much to know about “feet”.

Q: Tell us how you got started patching feet.
A: It really began the first year that Ben did the race when I happen to notice Harry Dupree’s horrible blisters. I wanted to prevent that from happening to Ben. Fortunately Ben did not blister horribly and I was able to help him with his feet. By 1994, Rhonda actually taught me to tape with duct tape by demonstrating on Drew Benyo who dropped with blisters on Towne’s Pass. I was determined to prevent blisters on my own feet. However I did not like duct tape because it did not breathe. It made sense to me that we needed a tape that is more breathable due to the extreme heat in Death Valley.

Q: Have your methods changed over the years and if so how?
A: I basically experimented and learned by trial and error. Then, runners began asking me to test it on them. I helped Scott Weber, after he finished Western States in 1994 to finish his Badwater quad crossing by patching his feet. He found his feet much improved as he doubled back to Badwater. Then I patched Whit Rambach in 1995 and he finished the race after giving up with blisters as he tried to test sandals as footwear. He stopped at Father Crowley point, drove into the finish, and I offered to treat his blisters knowing he still had time to finish. He finished and by then I realized that I was onto something that could help runners get more comfortable and possibly help them finish the distance.

Q: What footcare advice do you have for runners in general?
A: Feet are as important as any training for getting you to the end of an event. If an athlete does not take care of his/her feet, he/she cannot finish an event. Due to many discussions with John Vonhof, my mentor and the man whom I believe knows the most about athletic feet in the world I have come to believe that too much callus is a detriment. I advise most runners to reduce the amount of callus build-up they have. As well, runners need to consider taking care of toenails, filing them and keeping them short and square with no rough edges. The fit of shoes is also vitally important and socks as well as insoles contribute greatly to success overall.

Q: What one-thing runners could easily do to improve their feet?
A: Reduce their callus and keep their toenails trimmed.

Q: What is your pet peeve when you patch runner’s feet?
A: It shocks me how little attention they pay to their feet – that they are not pro-active in foot care. I am also surprised at how few runners even try to learn to prevent blisters and do not train themselves to have a back-up plan if they do blister. Not paying attention to trimming toenails is right up there too as well as doing patch jobs with tapes that do not breathe. This year I saw Elastikon wrapped completely around the ball of the foot three layers deep. It ended up causing the runner great pain as the feet swelled during the event. Essentially, the feet were incased in a cast. It was dreadfully painful to the runner. I had to carefully peel it off and replace it with Kinesio tape. That runner finished in fine shape due to stopping and changing shoes, socks and re-taping.

Another pet peeve is that runners do not access the good information out there nowadays regarding foot care. John’s book, “Fixing Your Feet”, is the bible of foot DV Guide Front Cover
care. Every athlete who wants to come though an event with good feet should own it. I also have co-authored a book with step-by-step instructions on how to tape and what products to purchase in order to survive a Death Valley Ultra. “Death Valley Ultras: The Complete Crewing Guide”, by Theresa Daus-Weber and Denise Jones. John Vonhof and I discuss feet and issues with feet on a regular basis to try to troubleshoot new ideas and invent new techniques. He talks to runners all over the world as well as many other athletes in all kinds of sporting events in order to provide more useful information in taking care of feet.

Q: What are your favorite products?
A: Kinesio Tape is my favorite tape. I like Mastisol as a tape adherent. I still like to use Spenco Second Skin Burn Gel as a patch before taping over a blister. Lately, I have also used Zinc Oxide as a barrier to prevent the tape from sticking to the roof of the blister that I have taped over. Often I used a powder to keep the feet dry by sprinkling it into the sock before slipping the shoe on. Gold Bond and Zeasorb powders are both good. Editor’s note: These products are all available at

Q: Do you have favorite socks and why?
A: I like Drymax socks. I also know and have seen that Injinji socks have helped many runners by preventing toe blisters. These are my two favorite brands. Each year new products are developed. Editor’s note: both socks are also available from

Q: Do you have any favorite footcare stories?
A: One of my favorite stories is when I drove by a runner in the Badwater Ultra as he was hobbling along. I was checking feet that year. I believe the year was 1998. He had duct taped a stone to the bottom of his shoe because he could not put any weight on his toes due to horrible toe blistering. He was hobbling along and using a stick as a cane. I asked if he needed help. He and his crew were overjoyed to have my help. He was ready to drop out due to foot pain. I had to remove a myriad of cotton socks (a complete no no), duct tape, and Compeed which melted to his feet. That had to be removed with a scalpel. Then I re-taped him using better tape. I cut the end of the toe box out his shoes to relieve the pressure on his toes. He was stunned at how much less pain he had and how good his feet felt! He then went on to finish the race. To see a runner finish who might otherwise have dropped out is a thrill and it’s why I do this.

Many times runners look me up here in Lone Pine and seek out advice on their foot issues before the Badwater ultra. I give them instructions and demonstrate how to tape. Additionally, when people come out to train and realize how badly they blister, they call and come by and I treat their feet. I try to instruct them about their feet in general, toenails, footwear, socks, lubricants and powders so they can be proactive in taking good care of their feet. Sometimes it only takes changing one thing and the runner is more comfortable.

Q: Given the opportunity, whose feet would you like to work on?
A: It would be a challenge to tape any runner who has previously blistered badly to see if I can help him/her blister less. Two years ago I taped the 2nd place finisher because he won the worst blister contest the year before. He came through the race after my taping the balls of his feet with NO blisters.

This year I pre-taped the winner and several other runners who came through the race with pristine feet and good results. Due to the individuality of runners in general, and pre-taping not always being the absolute answer, one of the runners I pre-taped had problems with the tape coming loose and blistering anyway. I worked on her once during the race and re-stuck the tape down around the edges. I noticed her feet were very wet. I was disheartened. I believe that she may have gotten her feet wet too often by allowing the spaying of water to drip into her shoes. I worked on her again after she finished in a very good time and I have never seen such large blisters. She blistered where the tape wasn’t. So, once again, I am back at the drawing board. It isn’t perfect, now matter how I try, but I keep on learning.

My desire would be for every athlete to learn about how to treat their own feet before, during and after an event by being proactive and reading all they can. Then it would be great if they would actually implement and experiment with different styles and techniques in order to become more blister free. Then, I would be out of a volunteer job! I could just enjoy watching the runners go by with happy feet and I would smile inside.

Death Valley Ultras: The Complete Crewing Guide
By Denise Jones and Theresa Daus-Weber

~ Wet Feet
If you read the above interview with Denise Jones, the Blister Queen, you may recall she mentioned a runner with wet feet and how the tape came loose. I have seen the same thing at Western States. Runners come into an aid station and their crew or an aid station volunteer is waiting with a spray of cold water. While it feels good, this can be detrimental to one’s feet. The water runs down the legs and into the socks and shoes. While not totally able to prevent water from getting in your socks and shoes, gaiters or an absorbent cloth wrap around the lower leg can help. The water causes maceration of the skin and can increase the odds of blistering. The wet and damp skin also makes it much harder for blister patches or tape to stick. While some athletes may argue that they do fine with wet feet, the majority of us don’t. I will always try to keep my feet dry rather than wet.

Drymax Socks
~ In last month’s newsletter, I had a lengthy review of Drymax socks. After spending a few days at Badwater, I am even more convinced that these may well be the best socks I have ever seen. The beat normal wicking socks because the inner threads hate moisture, making it pass through to the outer sock. The result is drier feet, and less chance of blisters. I even gave one of my pair to a runner and he told me afterwards that he really liked them. If you have not read the review, check it out in the June Issue of my Fixing Your feet Ezine. Drymax socks are available through
~ Todd Mann is a podiatrist who started to provide access to quality foot care products as wells information on common foot conditions. By keeping prices low and always providing free shipping and handling no matter what size the order, DrTodds strives to not only make access easy but affordable.

Todd started Dr. Todd’s Inc in 2006 for his geriatric patients who were in long term care facilities and assisted/independent living facilities because they either had a difficult time making arrangements to get to the local drug store, finding a recommended product once they made it to the local store or affording the product once they found it. Most products are priced lower than the local store and everything is shipped at no charge. He has been able to expand the product lines to not only benefit the geriatric population but now offer a wide variety of products for children as well as runners and other athletes. DrTodds is unique because it is a small, very focused business. Todd is driven by his commitment to making a variety of quality foot care products available to anyone suffering from any type of foot ailment as well as educating them on foot health and common foot conditions. He went into podiatry because of the satisfaction derived from a patient walking into the office with foot pain and leaving without pain – a simple pad, orthotic, trimming a corn or callus or providing proper footwear can make such a difference for a person. This has carried over into – providing the appropriate foot product can provide a lot of benefit and often relieve a lot of foot pain.

~ My bad feet photo this month is from Badwater. There are two pictures. These are taken DSCF1645
in Lone Pine, where the runner had come for some rest and aid. I was asked to look at his feet. The first picture shows the left foot, with tape over a patch of unknown type. I did not touch that foot since the runner said it felt fine. When I hera that, no matter how it looks, I trust the runner.

The right foot however, had a large blister, as evident in the photo, running down the DSCF1644
middle of the forefoot. The bottom is blood tinged. I drained the blister in several spots where foot pressure would continue to expel any remaining fluid, and applied two strips of Kinesio-Tex tape. . I did the best I could and hope he would make it. While the runner walked gingerly out of the room, he did not finish. I think I could tell from his demeanor that he would pull from the race. His feet may have been pinched in his shoes. He was from France (I think) and neither he nor his crew spoke English.

~ Lisa de Speville, from Johannesburg, South Africa, wrote, “I’ve often seen people at races with painfully blistered feet and blackened toenails. I have little sympathy when I notice their callused toes; chipped, dirty and thickened toenails crawling over the front of their toes and cracked heels. They’re getting what they deserve because they’ve failed to care for their feet before the race starts. Prevention is always better than cure – and it starts before the race. A nice gift for sporty people is a pedicure voucher. If you can’t care for your feet I see it as indicative of other areas of their lives.”

Matt Geis, a thru hiker, wrote, “Thanks, John! I don’t know if I told you, but when I did my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike six years ago, something in your book saved my hike! I’d bought some Spenco Second Skin and I had a few blisters from my first two days of hiking. On day three, I felt a burning tear in my foot, and couldn’t walk. It was the kind of pain that threatened to end my hike. I looked and saw a large, deep (not sure if it was multi-layer or just one thick layer of skin) blister on the ball of my foot. I broke out the Second Skin, and within 10 minutes was walking again, virtually pain-free! For some reason, I didn’t get any blisters once I passed the 400 mile mark.

Reader feedback to this E-zine and its articles is welcome and encouraged. Please email any foot care ideas or tips that you have tried and would like to share with others, or ideas for an article for the ezine.

~ On August 5, 2008, ultra-runner Karl Meltzer will set off on the biggest race of his life – to run the entire length of the 2,174-mile Appalachian Trail in less than 47 days.

Here is the text from his website. I urge you to subscribe and follow along as updates are posted. His website is

“Definitely daunting. Absolutely grueling. Probably insane. But when he does it, he’ll rule the AT as the guy who conquered it, all of it, the fastest on two feet. This is going to be Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Self, Man vs. Clock — and it’s going to be good.So, check back. As Karl’s start date draws near, this site will transform into mission control. With an interactive map featuring real-time GPS tracking of his progress, a blog, forums, videos, pictures and podcasts, will be the place to keep track of the Speed Goat as he ticks off the miles on his way from Maine to Georgia. In the meantime, sign up for email updates on Karl’s training and racing leading up to his AT attack, and see feature additions to this site.”

~ Those of you with the 4th edition can get a free copy of my booklet, Happy Feet: Foot Care Advice for Walkers and Travelers. Click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble to go to the book’s page—and write a review of the 4th edition. Then send me an email telling me which site the review is on and your snail mail address. I will mail you a free copy of this 36-page booklet. Use it yourself, or give it to someone else. The booklet is described below and has a $5.00 value. Sorry, but because of postage, this offer is good only in the U.S and Canada.

~ If you like to stay informed about foot care issues and information – on a more regular basis than this monthly newsletter, check out my blog, Happy Feet: Expert Foot Care Advice for People Who Love Their Feet. This is different from this ezine. The Happy Feet blog will have a new short topic every week. Click here for the Happy Feet blog.

~ I am always on the look out for stories to share about their adventures with some type of connection to feet. If you have something to share, please send me an email.

~ You are subscribed to the Fixing Your Feet E-zine because you subscribed to it. If you wish to be removed from this mailing list, you can find instructions at the end of this email. We respect the privacy of all subscribers and will not disclose your email address or any information about you to any third party.

~ If you like this E-zine, please pass it along to others whom you think will benefit from its contents and encourage them to subscribe. They can subscribe the box at the top of this blog or with an email to Yahoo.

~ If you need to unsubscribe to this E-zine and subscribed through Yahoo, please send an email to Yahoo.

~ You are welcome to contact me by email about this E-zine or the book Fixing Your Feet.

Socks that Work for You

July 29, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Footcare, Footwear, Health, Sports, Travel 

Two weeks ago, I was in Death Valley to help as part of the medical team for the Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135-mile run from Badwater, the lowest point in the continental U.S. to the Mt. Whitney Portal, at about 8600 feet. This race is always held in July to challenge the runners with extreme heat. The route is entirely on roads, however the runners often favor the rocky sides rather then the hot asphalt. As you might guess, this usually takes a toll on the runner’s feet.

In addition to the foot work done by the runners’ crews, three of us patched a lot of tired and hurting feet. Denise Jones, called the “Blister Queen of Badwater,” Gillian Robinson of, and I were all busy up and down the course.  By the way, I am running an interview with Denise in the next issue of my Fixing Your Feet Ezine.


I was wearing socks from Drymax and had two extra pair. I like these socks because they do a superb job of elimination moisture against your feet. While other socks have Sock_trail_running_quarter_crew_black_gray wicking capabilities, Drymax socks are made with an inner thread that hates water, making it pass through to the outer surface of the sock. With wicking socks, water adheres to the fiber’s surface. Once wicking fibers get wet, they stay wet. The fibers hold the moisture next to the skin ensuring the skin stays wet. Conversely, with Drymax socks, water drops actually bend around the Drymax fiber, rather than sticking to its surface. This happens because Drymax fibers do not carry surface charges, so the negative & positive charges of water are not attracted to Drymax fibers. Because sweat clings to wicking fibers, the foot remains wet when wearing socks made of wicking fibers. Also the process of wicking must rely on evaporation for the fibers to dry out. Evaporation is a relatively slow process, especially in humid environments such as inside a shoe, where evaporation takes place at a much slower rate than sweating.


When sweat droplets move through the Drymax water-hating fibers they stay together and move instantly through the fibers. Drymax stays dry and therefore needs no drying time to keep the skin dry. I have noticed this when I wear the socks. Others have too.


So, back to the Badwater story. Jon, the runner from a year ago whose horrible feet I patched (click here to read his story in the August 2007 Fixing Your Feet Ezine), came into Panamint Springs needing some minor foot patching. Once I finished, I looked at his socks and offered him a pair of my Drymax socks.  Denise Jones gave away two pair of Drymax socks. The runners were appreciative and finished the race successfully. Jon told me he loved the socks.


Trust me, these socks work for you. I wrote a lengthy review of the socks in the June Fixing Your Feet newsletter. If you are in the market for new socks, or if you want to see how they will reduce your likelihood of blisters, check them out. The website is and they can also be found at Just click on Store and then Socks.


After all, we need to keep our feet happy.

Foot Odor and Wetness

July 19, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Footcare, Footwear, Health, Sports, Travel 

odor and wetness are caused by excessive perspiration mixed with bacteria. Our
feet have approximately 250,000 sweat glands and produce as much as a pint of moisture
a day. Good daily hygiene-washing and drying feet carefully-helps eliminate
these discomforts. Apply an anti-odor powder or spray to your feet and in your
shoes. There are three powders I consider the best: Zeasorb, Gold Bond, and
Odor-Eater’s. Bunch up your socks and sprinkle some powder in the toes of the
sock, then shake the socks to distribute the powder.


to open up your shoes too and allow them to air out. A bit of baking soda will
help control odor in the shoes. Remove the insoles, clean them and the inside of
the shoes. If possible, alternate which shoes you wear – giving them time to
dry and air.

Keep Your Shoes Germ-free

July 8, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Footcare, Footwear, Health, Sports, Travel 

Most of us are pretty careful with hygiene. We wash our hands many times a day – after we use the bathroom, before and after eating, after working outside and doing chores, and more. But do you ever consider washing your hands after putting on or taking off your shoes? Your shoes carry dirt, which carry hundreds of thousands of germs and bacteria? Maybe you didn’t step in “it”, but the numbers are staggering.

A study by the University of Arizona and The Rockport Company found, on average, 421,000 units of bacteria reside on the outside of a shoe, and 2,887 bacteria units can be found on the inside. Some of the bacteria found include those that cause intestinal and bloodstream infections, bacterial meningitis and pneumonia.


Here are two tips to keep your footwear germ-free:

– Take shoes off before entering your home or any personal space. The study found that up to 99 percent of bacteria can transfer from shoes to uncontaminated areas.

– Wash your shoes and clean them on a regular basis. The study found that simply washing shoes with detergent reduced bacteria on a shoe by up to 99 percent.


Then of course, wash your hands after handling your shoes.

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