There is an old Chinese proverb; “Failure results not from the length of the journey or the height of the mountain but the pebble in one’s shoe.”
We have all had it at some point – the pebble that is.
We are running or walking or hiking and feel a small irritant. We think to ourselves that maybe our sock bunched up. But, after a bit, we realize its something else. So we move our foot around a bit or kick it up against a rock or log, or maybe sideways on the ground. The hope is that that kick will move the irritating thing to the side where we won’t feel it.
Sometimes it works for a while. But it always comes back. We are always better off to stop, take off your shoes, and clear whatever the problem is. Even the smallest pebble can cause problems. It can start with a hot spot and develop into a blister. It can cause a hole to develop in the sock. It can tear into the insole’s covering.
So stop and remove it.
I remember a few years back when I was at the Gold Rush Adventure Race and encountered a similar situation. One of the racers came into the transition area and in the process of changing socks, I told her I’d clean out her shoes. The race route had taken runners through muddy areas and some had gone down into her shoes.
As I used my hands to clean inside her shoes, I found very rough hard edges under both heels. I thought it was a defect or tear in the insole. Surprisingly, it was hardened mud that was so hard, it took a lot of pressure to remove it from the insole. This must have hurt through the socks – but the racer had not bothered to clear out her shoes.
In reality, it might be a pebble – or mud. In either case, you are always better off to take a moment and get rid of the irritant.
Of course, I have to recommend gaiters for trail running. They can keep the pebble out in the first place!
Filed under: blister care, Footcare, Health, Sports, toenails
I get questions by email all the time. Toenail questions are quite common, so I thought I’d post this one. Here’s the question.
“I am emailing you because I have a 50K trail race this Saturday and for some reason I am just starting to get pressure from under my large toenail. It is in its early stages and my nail has not turned black yet, but it is starting to be uncomfortable. At what point do I decide to puncture thru my nail and lance the fluid under the nail? Also, if I should be lancing the fluid, what are your thoughts of using a really thin and clean drill bit (turned by hand) to get thru the toenail? I lost a toe nail once before and tried using a really hot paper clip and needle, but I had a hard time getting all the way thru my toe nail. Any help and advice you can give me would be much appreciated… thank you!”
The answer is pretty straightforward.
Can you recall any nailbed trauma? Once fluid is underneath the nail, the pressure becomes painful You’ll know. If you can see the fluid from under the tip of the nail, lance it there. A drill bit works better than a paperclip. Be forewarned that as it goes through the nail, it can go into the soft tissue underneath, so go slowly. Then press on the nail to expel as much of the fluid as possible. Cover with a Band-Aid for now (tape on race day) but don’t plug the hole with ointment, as it will still need to drain for a few days.
Relieving fluid from underneath a toenail is a simple skill that every runner should know how to perform – just in case. It could be on one of your toes, or the toe of a friend. If you have ever experienced the intense pain of a black toenail with blood or fluid underneath, you’ll appreciate knowing how to fix it.
One of my goals is to educate athletes about good foot care techniques. You may recall blog posts where I stress the importance of knowing how to do foot care and importantly, to know what’s best for your feet.
I recently received an email from Rob, asking for some advice. Here’s Rob’s email:
“I have been running a modest 30 miles a week for a few years. Last weekend we attended a tennis camp and during the first night of drills during ball pick up (not during a drill or competitive play) another player smacked a ball in to the arch of my foot from a shot distance away causing severe pain. I played through the pain and the next morning I asked the trainer to tape up my bruised arch, which she did. I played all day and at the end of the day there was a blister in the center of my foot between the taped and un-taped area.
“I went back to the trainer in the morning and she created a donut shaped pad about a 1/4-inch thick and taped it to my foot. I took out my shoe arch supports and played for another 1/2 day in a bit of pain. When I took off the shoe, sock, and bandage and pad I found that the blister had filled with liquid to the size of the donut hole – now a huge blister about the size of a silver dollar and 1/4-inch thick. The camp staff took pictures of the biggest tennis-related blister they had seen.
“I went back to the trainer at the college and she drained about half of the liquid out of the blister and we decided I was done playing tennis for the rest of the camp. I’m not sure going to the trainer really helped and I probably should have had your book along as reference and taped myself up. Now I am back home and have a huge blister on the bottom of my foot.”
This is a case where the trainer patched Rob’s blister the best way she knew how. It was an “old-school” patch job. A piece of moleskin cut in a donut shape with a hole in the middle for the blister. There may have been Vaseline on the center, and then tape or gauze over the top.
The problem with this old-school method is that it adds bulk to the foot – that can easily alter the person’s gait. This gait change can lead to further problems. At the same time, the patch can cause irritation, expanding the original blister or leading to new blisters.
Rob’s experience shows there is a long ways to go to get everyone up to speed about good blister care. I’d bet that if Rob had been prepared, he could have done a better job then the trained did. It’s hard to go everywhere with a blister patch kit in hand, but here’s my recommendation. Make up several simple kits and put them in Zip-Lock bags and stash one in your car and another in your gear bag. Fill the kits with your choices of blister tapes and patches. Then of course, make sure you know the best way to patch any blisters that may develop.
This post is from July 2102, but is important for athletes to understand.
If you have followed my blog long enough, you’ll know I have a preference for kinesiology tapes for protective taping before a race and patching blisters during a race.
Over the years I have used many different types of tape – most of which I no longer use. The one tape that has stood the test of time is the kinesiology tape. There are several to choose from including Kinesio Tex, Rock Tape, StrengthTape, and others. Since Kinesio Tex is a trademarked name of a brand of kinesiology tape, we should not use the term Kinesio tape when talking about a different brand than Kinesio Tex. For example, Rock Tape is a kinesiology tape, not Kinesio Rock Tape.
Last year I provided foot care at the Jungle Marathon Amazon and took Leukotape, Rock Tape H20 and StrengthTape. In the end, I stopped using the Leukotape because of the tape residue it left on the skin.
Here’s how I judge tapes:
- I don’t want tape residue on the skin when the tape is removed or comes off
- I don’t want a tape that is coarse
- I don’t want a tape that is thick
- I want a tape with superior adhesive
- I want a tape that will hold in wet conditions
- I want a tape that will conform (at least somewhat) to the shape and curves of the foot and toes
- I want a tape that does not lose it sticking ability or workability in cold or hot conditions
- I want a tape that can be used on all parts of the foot
- I want a tape that is as smooth as possible
The benefits of kinesiology tapes are their stretchiness in length, softness, and smoothness, which allows them to be molded to the shape and curves of the foot and toes. In the image here you can see how the tape has molded to the toes and space between the toes. Imagine trying to patch a blister at the base of the large toe. Most tapes will fail at this because of their inflexibility or thickness, meaning they cannot mold around the toe into the fold at the base of the toe and onto the toe and ball of the foot. Kinesiology tape can do this with no creases or overlaps in the tape.
My favorite kinesiology tapes are Rock Tape H20 and StrengthTape. Both have excellent adhesive stickiness, even in wet conditions. The best application tip for kinesiology tape is to apply it the evening or night before your race. Use a tape adherent and after applying the tape to the skin, rub it for 15-20 seconds to warm the adhesive so it will stick better. Then put on the socks you’ll wear the next day. I have used these tapes in the Amazon Jungle and they stick better than others. Certainly the grit of the sand and dirt in the jungle will compromise the long term stickiness of the tape, but I still think it’s the best tape for wet conditions when a tape adherent is used and the tape is applied correctly and ahead of time.
A helpful website that offers a lot of information about kinesiology tapes and their uses is TheraTape.com. It’s where I get my tapes. In addition to selling most brands of kinesiology tape, the site has information about the kinesiology tapes, brand information, application instructions, and videos. TheraTape provides tapes in single rolls and bulk rolls and in a variety of colors, as well as educational materials if you want to learn more about using the tape. StrengthTape is also sold by ZombieRunner.
Please understand that kinesiology tapes are designed to provide healing benefits to athletes when injured and with inflammatory conditions. The videos do not show patching feet or taping for blisters since that is not what the tape makers promote. Here is a link to learn about kinesiology tape.
TheraTape just released a comparison chart of kinesiology tapes. I have included the chart below, split into two images. Click on each image for a larger view. Here’s the link for the kinesiology tape comparison chart if you want to go directly to the website to see the chart.You can order StrengthTape or Rock Tape H20 or another other kinesiology tape from TheraTape.com or StrengthTape from the ZombieRunner link above.
Connect directly to StrengthTape and Rocktape
- StrengthTape.com has a number of informational videos on their website and is a good way to connect with the company.
- RockTape.com also has a website with lots of good information and videos.
Efraim Manzano caught my eye a few weeks when I learned that he had run the HURT 100 in Hawaii in Crocs. I messaged in on Facebook and we chatted back and forth a few times. He lives in Honolulu, Hawaii and has been running all his life, but running races for the past 10 years, and ultras for five years. Efraim said he’d be happy to share some tips about running in Crocs and how he came to use them rather than trail shoes. Here are the questions I asked Efraim and his responses. I added content about Crocs in a couple of sections.
Question: How often do you run in Crocs?
I run with my Crocs all the time.
Question: Do you also run in road or trail shoes?
No road or trail shoes, I only run in Crocs.
Question: What style Crocs do you use?
I use the Classic Beach style for road running (Marathon, Ironman) and the Bistro style for trail running. The Classic model has vent holes both on top of the toebox and around the side of the toe and forefoot. These are good for road races and help ventilate the feet. Crocs on average weigh 11 ounces per pair.
Question: How did you get started in wearing Crocs?
Back in 2007 before the Honolulu Marathon a friend of mine dared me to run in a Bahag (Filipino G String) or loincloth, commonly used throughout the Philippines before the arrival of the European colonizers, and which is still used by the indigenous tribe of the Philippines today. Shoes looked awkward with the Bahag so that’s when the Crocs came about and been I’ve been running in them ever since then.
Question: Do you use them in training and in races?
Yes! I always train in Crocs and use them in all my races.
Question: What’s the longest run you have done in them?
My longest run in Crocs is 100 miles.
Question: How long will they last (miles/time)?
They last a long time, approximately 1000+ miles, I still have the Crocs that I’ve use back in 2007 Honolulu Marathon and still use that pair for training.
Question: Do you wear socks with them?
Yes I always wear socks with them. I use any socks – even use socks I buy from Costco.
Question: Because they fit loosely, how do you keep them on your feet? Do you use the strap around the heel?
My feet always swell up after running anything over a marathon distance so I like my Crocs to be loose and yes, I always use the strap around the heels for insurance. The swelling that I’m talking about is the normal swelling of the feet when you are running or cycling. With regular running shoes it would bother me a lot because my feet get squeezed in there – so I like the looseness of the Crocs specially on those long run like marathons and especially on those ultra runs.
Question: Because they are fairly smooth on the bottom, how are they on trails?
I use the Crocs Bistro style on the trail. Crocs Bistros are designed specifically for those in the food service, hospitality and health care industries and has the Crocs lock slip-resistant tread. It works pretty well on the trails, even muddy trails. The Bistro also has an enclosed toe and forefoot design without the holes common to other Crocs designs like the Classic. The Bistro also has a more cushioned metatarsal area in the forefoot. The Bistro Pro has even more cushioning, an adjustable heel strap, and beefed up toe and heel bumpers for protection. The Bistro sells for about $45 and the Bistro Pro for $60.
Question: Have you had problems with rocks, dirt and trail grit getting inside?
At the HURT 100 a couple weeks ago when I feel something inside my Crocs I don’t let it bother me. I just stop running and take my Crocs off and shake it out. It gives me three seconds rest and recovery! The enclosed toe design helps keep junk out of the toebox.
Question: Have you had any foot problems from wearing them?
By the grace of God I never had any foot problems from wearing them, I had more problems before when I use to wear those high-end shoes. About blisters, it all depends if the socks got wet, this past HURT 100 I didn’t got any blisters. I changed my socks every loop so I didn’t get any blisters, but in the previous races that I’ve done before I’ve had blisters from the Crocs – especially on the rainy day.
Note: Thank you John for giving me this privilege to share my experience using the best and the most comfy running/cycling shoes in the world!
There you have it. You can run in Crocs! Thanks Efriam for sharing your story with our readers. I’ve heard of people wearing Crocs before, but this had never made a connection to do an interview. I’ll continue to use the three pair I have at home. Maybe the next pair I get will be the Bistro Pro. If you want to leaner more about the entire Crocs line, check them out at Crocs.com.
Filed under: Foot Care Products, Footwear, Footwear Products, Health, Sports
Superfeet’s Wool Insoles
I have liked Superfeet’s insoles for many years. Last year I was sent a pair of Superfeet’s Wool Insoles to try. Before talking about these insoles, a bit of information about the design of their insoles is in order.
If you need good support in an insole, look at a Superfeet insole. They are designed to work with the volume and fit profile of your feet. The volume is the amount of room needed inside your shoe to accommodate your feet, the sock and the insole. The fit is the amount of support and the shape of the insole under the foot and heel. With these insoles, you don’t get a one-size-fits-all type of insole. This is important if you have feet that require heel or arch support, like an insole with a well-defined heel cup, or simply want a insole that will hold up for a long time.
Their volume and fit profile is based on three types of feet – low, medium, and high fit; and low, medium, and high volume. Low is the most common foot type, medium fits in most types of footwear, and high gives the most support. Fortunately, the Superfeet website shows how each insole is designed for volume and fit, which makes it easy to find the best insole for your feet.
Their merino wool insole would be a good choice if you want a bit of added warmth in your shoes. The insole has the typical plastic support from the heel and mid-foot. Over that is the full-length foam that supports the top layer of merino wool. I measure these layers at about 1/8th inch each. That gives some added insulation from the cold coming up from the ground. The wool thickness is generous. They are very comfortable. You can get the merino wool insole in grey, which is thicker and made for high fit and volume, or white, which is made for medium fit and volume. All of the Superfeet insoles can be viewed on the Superfeet website. After that, you can purchase them from Superfeet, Zombierunner.com, your local running store, outdoors store, or other online stores.
They key with any insole is to try them in your shoes. Some are thicker and will reduce the amount of space in your shoes for your socks and feet. If that’s the case, you can either move to a thinner and lighter weight sock, or find an insole with less thickness.
So make sure you try an insole in your shoe before going out for your long run or hike. Wear them around the house for a while and see how they feel.
Filed under: Foot Care Products, Footwear Products, Health, Sports, Travel
Many athletes suffer from cold feet.
Athletes have several options to deal with cold feet. The first, most commonly tried, is different socks. Some simply try thicker socks or two pair. Others go straight to thermal type socks made with wool or some other blend of yarns.
Footwear is often a contributing factor to cold feet. Today’s running shoes typically have a part-mesh upper, which lets cold air inside the shoes. And since the mesh is over the forefoot and toes, they get cold first. Secondly, footwear that is too tight, because the wearer has thicker than normal or two pairs of socks, causes constriction and impedes circulation.
Something else often tried is disposable chemical warming packets. These seem inexpensive at first, but because they are single time use, the costs add up quickly. Packs of 10, using two at a time, go fast. And they often don’t generate enough heat to provide overall warmth.
Another option for cold feet is one of the new lines of heated insoles. One major heated insole companies is Thermacell. While not cheap, if you suffer from cold feet long enough, you’ll likely be willing to spend the money for warm feet. Their insoles are water resistant, and durable. Once they reach the desired temperature, they turn off and then turn back on when needed. The insole’s top is molded and cushioning while underneath the inner components, is an insulated layer to keep heat from escaping. The insoles can be trimmed to fit shoes or boots.
Thermacell has two types of insoles:
Heater Insole Foot Warmers with embedded batteries that can be recharged 500+ times. Operated by a wireless remote control, they operate with lithium-ion polymer batteries embedded in the insoles. The three options are no heat, medium (100 degrees F), and high (111 degrees F). Each charge will last up to five hours with a medium heat setting. The batteries can be recharged at least 500 times and recharges in four hours or less. Their website currently offers a free car charger with every pair purchased while supplies last. These Heated Insoles retail are selling for $129.99 and come in full and half sizes. Click here for Thermacell Insole Foot Warmers.
ProFLEX Heated Insoles with removable batteries for extended use. They have the same features as the above insoles, same heating options, same wireless remote control, and the same rechargeable batteries. The first main difference is that the batteries are removable and replacement batteries are available. The second difference is that these are charged with a USB port or the customary wall charger. These insoles retail for $184.99. Click here for Thermacell ProFLEX Heated Insoles.
Thermacell’s insoles have been tested by SATRA, the worldwide leader in footwear research development and testing. SATRA found the insoles resistant to moisture, verified the five hour run time, and that the insoles maintain foot comfort with their heating.
If you feet are always cold, I’d look at these Thermacell insoles to help keep them warm. These could work in running shoes, cycling shoes, and hiking boots, as well as your normal everyday shoes. Make sure to check the insole thickness inside your shoes to see if you need to wear a less bulky sock.
Filed under: blister care, Foot Care, Footwear, Footwear Products
Heel blisters are quite common – although they shouldn’t be.
Today’s post shows one participant’s feet at the 2014 Amazon Jungle Marathon.
If you look closely at this picture, you’ll see two heel blisters, both on the outside of the runner’s feet. The right foot blister is large but is not blood-filled. The blister on the left heel, however, is very large and filled with a large amount of blood.
It’s easy to think these are normal blisters – but their size makes they abnormal.
In my experience, heel blisters are caused by the constant shear when either 1) the heel is moving up and down inside the shoes’ heel, or 2) by the constant movement at the place where the shoe’s insole touches the inside of the shoe. Over the years, the majority of heel blisters have been the latter. One of the characteristics of this “insole/shoe junction” blister is that they often are flat across the bottom. The blister starts at the point where the insole’s edge at the side of the heel touches the inside of the shoe. That’s what makes the flat line at the bottom. Then the blister forms upward as the fluid forms and it grows. Given enough time and movement, you’ll get blood inside.
These are relatively simple to patch. The skin must be cleaned with alcohol wipes, and then the blister can be lanced and drained. Depending on the size of the blister, you’ll need to apply some type of blister patch. The bottom line is that you need to have something over the blister to protect the skin and prevent the top layer of skin from tearing off. For these, I would use strips of kinesiology tape (my preference is either StrengthTape or RockTape H2O) with antibiotic ointment over the blister to keep the tape from sticking to the skin. The larger the blister, the harder these are to patch but it can be done.
You are better off to prevent these blisters in the first place.
Start with the fit. Make sure your shoes hold your heels in place with just a little movement.
Check your shoes and insoles for rough and/or thick edges at the inside and outside of each heel. Side blisters are much more common than the back of the heel. If the insole has a large thick edge, replace them. If the shoe’s fabric is worn into a hole, you are due for new shoes. Under the fabric is generally a plastic edge of the shoe’s heel counter – the plastic that curves around the heel from side to side.
Engo Blister Prevention Patches are perfect for to help prevent these types of blisters. These patches are super slick. Either the small or large oval can be applied to the inside of the shoe and cover the offending edge of the insole/shoe junction. Clean the inside of the shoe and insole first. I work the patch with my fingers to form a curve to fit with area I need to cover. Then remove the backing and apply the center of the patch first and then push the top and bottom of the patch into place. Rub it a bit to assure adherence.
Tonight I finished watching three episodes of the 2014 Spartan Races – two regional races and then the final World Championship. Regional races are about eight miles with 20+ obstacles while the World Championship is about 15 miles with 25+ obstacles.
I know. Some of you are saying. They aren’t the same as a 50-mile or 100-mile race. Ultrarunners are tough and our events are hard. Spartan Races are much shorter.
You are right of course. But. And it’s a huge “but”, Spartan Races have obstacles that I’d bet most ultrarunners could not complete. Carrying a 60-pound sandbag up and down a long grassy hill, the barbed wire roll, rope climbs, the log carry, carrying a five gallon bucket filled with rocks up and down a hill, tire pull, water obstacles, and more. In the World Championships, the sandbag carry was not one but two 60-pound bags carried up and back down a quarter mile black diamond equivalent grassy hill!
At the end of the Spartan Race World Championships, one of the top runners said, “In a triathlon, you sometimes say, ‘Ah shoot, I’ve got a pebble in my shoe – it threw my race off. This is so much beyond pebbles!’” What he’s saying is that what you think is bad in a one race is nothing in another race. Pebbles are the least of your worries in a Spartan Race.
You have to be in the best physical shape of your life for these events. So do your feet. Between the grassy hills, slick with water and mud, the muddy trails and roads, the uphills and downhills over rocky trails and roads, jumping onto and over walls, down cargo nets, and other challenges, your ankles and feet take a beating. You get junk in your shoes, and while no one in the shows complained of blisters, I am certain many of the racers had them. Just watching the shows I could see there would be sprained ankles along with other injuries.
If you can’t complete an obstacle, you have to do 30 burpees. And that’s after you failed at the obstacle. Your heart is racing and breathing is labored, and you are exhausted.
The Spartan Race website has the full series of races for 2015. Check out the website and see if this type of race interests you.
In April 2014, I wrote a review of the Reebok All-Terrain shoe designed for obstacle races like Spartan Races. Check it out here: Reebok All Terrain Shoe.
In addition, Joe Desena, the founder of Spartan Races, has a book Spartan Up! about overcoming obstacles in life, and is starting a podcast also called Spartan Up! You can subscribe at iTunes or Stitcher.
If the challenge of doing a Spartan Race interests you, here’s a code that will save you 10% on any race: SPARTANBLOGGER
Filed under: blister care, Foot Care, Foot Care Products, Sports
I have often mentioned the website BlisterPrevention.com.au as a great source of information on blister care. Rebecca Rushton, manages the website and is on top of developments in the prevention and care of blisters. She’s a podiatrist in Australia – and a friend.
Through research and looking at the mechanism of how blisters form, Rebecca has changed some old theories of what causes blisters. Heat, moisture, and friction were always considered the three contributors of blisters. Further consideration has found that shear is a major factor. Shear and friction combine to cause blister formation.
I want to quote a blog post by Rebecca about Healing Foot Blisters Faster to help you understand more about friction and shear.
“You know friction is responsible for friction blisters. But I bet you think friction is rubbing. It isn’t. Friction is about grip. High friction means two surfaces grip together. Low friction means they don’t … they’re slippery.
“Here’s how friction is responsible for foot blisters … There is high friction in your shoe. There just is. This means your skin grips your sock; and your sock grips your shoe. All three surfaces grip together so your foot doesn’t slide around in your shoe.
But with every step you take, your bones are moving around under the skin. And while the skin is stuck and the bones are moving back and forth. Everything in between is pulled and stretched. This pulling and stretching is what causes blisters.
We call it shear. And it needs high friction to get anywhere near blister-causing.”
With this opening, Rebecca starts to explain the effect of shear and friction on blister formation. She talks about cutting friction levels, especially when a blister develops, and gives examples of six friction reducers. Some of these are better than others.
We have always tried to reduce friction in both preventing blisters and when treating blisters. As Rebecca says, and I support, “Otherwise all that stretching (shear) continues at the blister base while it’s trying to heal. Making it hurt more. And taking longer heal.”
So take a moment and click on the Blister Prevention link and read Rebecca’s full blog post. While you are there, I encourage you to subscribe to her email list.