Blisters and Gaiters

January 26, 2010 by
Filed under: blister care, Foot Care, Foot Care Products 

Lisa de Speville, an adventure racer and ultrarunner from Johannesburg, South Africa, and a friend, sends me updates every so often.  I value her input because she is good at thinking through problems. I received this in an email in December and decided to share it with you because it is a great example of how to critically think through the cause of your blisters. Lisa wrote:

Pinky toe blister

Pinky toe blister

Here’s a delicious picture of a common blister. Nice and big and hadn’t popped yet 😉 – on my teammate’s little toe. We teased him about growing a new toe 😉 This developed during the desert trekking stage at the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge.

I’m sad to say I got blisters on my little toes and their friend next door – haven’t had these for ages! – during the desert trekking, and they developed early on. My feet have been brilliant for a long time so I wasn’t impressed with these blisters. Essentially the result of ‘triangle toes’ yet, as you know, I’m especially cautious about this and I make sure that I keep my toes smooth with no triangle possibility pre-race. As a result, I have various theories – there has to be an explanation…

First… socks. I was wearing my Asics Gel Trabuco, the same pair I wore during the TransRockies Run in August, where I had no blisters at all. The shoes were relatively new then with not too much more distance in them post TransRockies. The socks I was wearing were my favorites – a local brand, Falke. They make excellent socks and the style is their ‘Adventure sock’, which was discontinued a few years ago. I managed to buy a bunch of pairs directly from them and I’ve been slowly working through them. This pair was a bit older – you know when the fabric gets more coarse? This is my primary explanation – I think these socks had one too many outings and that the coarseness is the reason behind the blisters.

Now I’m sure you’re wondering about sand in my shoes too? I refined my gaiters for this year’s race and they actually did really well. BUT, I did get a bit of sand in my shoes. That stuff in the desert really is powder fine. I generally shook it all out, plus socks, at every checkpoint, which we reached every 4-5 hours. Nothing serious. But, I don’t think sand was to blame; I’ve had worse.

Lisa's home-made gaiters

Lisa's home-made gaiters

My second theory could be around the attachment of the gaiters themselves. We stitched our gaiters on to the front of the shoe. The fabric (lycra) is pulled snug. Could this change the dynamic of the upper? Mmmm… it is a possibility. I’ve had an even better idea for the gaiters – will be making version 3 over the next few months 😉 This is the version of the gaiters we used in the race. This is our team blog site – lots of photos from the race 😉

As an aside… gaiters as much as the shoe itself helps in keeping sand out. Two of my teammates were wearing their Hi-Tec Trail Eruption shoes; I was in Asics and the other was in Salomons (maybe XA Pro… not sure). The Hi-Tec guys, who had sewn their gaiters on exactly the same, got little to no sand in their shoes. Both me and the Salomon one got sand in. Interesting.

Anyway, I wasn’t impressed with the blisters. I’m of the ‘keep ’em drained’ school and so I drained the blisters at each checkpoint and over the course of the stage managed to mostly ‘reverse the process’, keeping the roof on and the fluid out. I did powder my toes with each treatment.

While sewing gaiters for Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge, I finally got around to posting instructions on my blog for my regular mini gaiters, which I wear every time I am orienteering or running on trails. Keeps trail debris out and prolongs the life of your socks. Pricky socks is my pet hate because no matter how often you wash them you can still feel prickies.

Lisa’s blog can be found at AdventureLisa.blogspot. Check it out. She’s good.

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