Providing foot care for athletes at ultramarathons and multi-day events is a huge responsibility. Their feet are what keep them going, and if you are known for providing foot care, the athletes will be appreciative of whatever you can do. If you are simply helping one runner, you might be a bit more casual. But if you will be part of a foot-care team, you need to be prepared.
In 2015 race directors of several multi-day ultramarathons in Europe were overwhelmed by shear volume of runners seeking medical attention for blisters. They said it took upwards of 30 minutes per foot to treat most of the runners, which caused a significant drain on the ability of the medical team to look after more serious problems. Beginning in 2016, these races are introducing a triage system for medical care. Patients will be assessed prior to treatment with the most needy being treated first, regardless of how long others have been waiting. If the assessment indicates “minor” blisters, advice will be given and runners will be expected to treat their own feet. All runners must have their own blister treatment kit as part of their mandatory gear kit. They candidly state that foot care is easily divided into several phases, what they call the 6Ps: “Proper Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance” and provide a thorough list of preparation, prevention, assessment, and treatment suggestions. “Proper Prevention” means in the months before the event, “Prevents” means during the race, and “Piss-Poor Performance” is what happens if you fail to follow the first three Ps.
Rebecca Rushton, an Australian podiatrist and owner of blisterprevention.com.au, and I agree that foot care at multiday events is vital. I consider a 100-mile ultramarathon a multi-day event. The problem is that many runners have become dependent and expectant that events will have medical personnel providing even the most basic foot care. Participants have come to treat foot care services at events as a perk of the event. While it’s nice to have, it’s not practical and sustainable long term. Race directors need volunteers with the time and expertise in foot care techniques, and the budget for supplies and equipment. The larger and longer the event, the more volunteers are needed and the more costly it becomes.
I wrote in a blog post that, “… at some events participants will move along the trail from aid station to aid station, and at each one, require some degree of foot care. What was patched at an earlier aid station didn’t work or didn’t hold up and they want someone at the next aid station to redo their feet. That’s a lot of work and supplies.” Many athletes also fail to take care of their feet and fail to plan, and in many cases fail to take common sense action (reduce calluses, trim toenails, do self-care, etc) that could have prevented or reduced the problem. Rebecca and I support what we call assisted self-management. In the aid station, provide a table and a few chairs, and basic foot care supplies. Medical personnel will be available to give advice and tend to more serious treatment. It could even be that runners are shown how to patch the first blister and then they manage the rest. It’s a workable model and builds on today’s popular DIY (do-it-yourself) method of learning new skills.
This leads to a new mindset among many medical professionals that manage medical direction at races and multiday events that is worth considering. An article in the April 2014 Sports Medicine summarized it well. “Although participants in ultra-endurance events should be educated and prepared to prevent and treat their own blisters and chafing, blister care will likely be the most frequent use of medical resources during ultra-endurance foot races.” The mindset is that participants need to shoulder some of the responsibility for managing their feet. Medical staff at aid stations can quickly become overwhelmed even to the point of running out of supplies. We can help promote and support this new mindset in several ways:
- Give participants tips to prepare their feet in advance of the event. (Refer to “Foot Care in Multiday Events” in chapter 16.)
- Give participants tips on the best footwear selections for the event (types of shoes, gaiters, oversocks, camp shoes, and so on).
- Give participants a list of foot-care gear they must carry. A section on mandatory foot-care gear can be found at the end of this chapter. Even runners in a 100-mile race can carry a small Zip-lok bag pinned to their bib number or in their hydration pack.
- Advise participants whether or not foot care services will be provided and if so, to what degree. This includes no foot care and supplies, limited self-management, or full service.
- Provide a self-service table of supplies for runners to use in DIY patching of their feet. This can speed up their in and out times at aid stations.
- Stress the importance of knowing how to work on one’s feet (by reading this book or through other sources, or workshops).
- Stress the importance of runner’s having crews knowledgeable in foot-care work and prepared with a well-stocked foot-care kit.
How you implement the principles of self-management or whether you decide to provide full service foot care services depends on several factors: The number of participants, the difficulty, the remoteness, the number of medical volunteers, the availability of supplies (and being able to absorb the cost) and the number of aid stations and how far apart they are. It should be a well-thought out and joint decision between the race director and the event’s medical director.
Please comment how you feel about foot care services at the races you run or help with, or as a race director. We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Filed under: blister care, Books, Foot Care, Foot Care Products, Footwear Products
This summer will see the release of the 6th edition of Fixing Your Feet: Injury Prevention and Treatment for Athletes. The exact date is still up in the air, but I’d expect it sometime in late July or early August.
The 5th edition was released in February 2011 and it was due for an update. Nothing in foot care remains static. New products and techniques are constantly being identied.
The new edition will be fully updated with new material, websites, new foot care products and product information, and new techniques and learning’s in footcare. I have been working with the publisher since last summer in talking about ways of improving the content. Every paragraph on every page has been evaluated to determine whether the content could be made clearer, or whether it is dated and needs to be removed. Much of the content has been expanded to provide more benefit.
The sixth edition has an important new chapter, Blister Prevention – A New Paradigm. It contains new information about blister formation and introduces the concept of shear, which in turn, changes the way we look at blister prevention and treatment. This chapter itself is worth the cost of the book.
It’s available for preorder at Amazon with their pre-order price guarantee. You can order now and if the Amazon.com price decreases between your order time and the end of the day of the release date, you’ll receive the lowest price. Here’s the link: Pre-order Fixing Your Feet, 6th edition on Amazon.
The cover is still being worked on and will likely change.
Disclaimer: the above link contains my Amazon affiliate code and a purchase through it earns me a few pennies.
Filed under: blister care, Foot Care, Foot Care Products, Footcare, Footwear, Footwear Products, Health, Sports
A while back I was interviewed about foot care by Shawn Bearden of Science of Ultra website and podcast. Here’s the link to the Science of Ultra website.
Shawn asked great questions and got deeper into foot care than any other interview I have done. We talked about the essential components of good foot care, from shoe fitting to blister care. Then we wrap it up by defining the essential features of a good minimalist foot care kit for your next run or adventure. The whole episode is about an hour and 22 minutes.
I encourage you to listen to the interview on the Science of Ultra website and then check out his website and other interviews. Podcasts can be subscribed to in iTunes and Stitcher Radio. By subscribing, you’ll received shows on your device (smart phone or tablet) as they are released.
Never ignore an injury. Pushing through an injury or returning to your sport too soon after being injured can lead to additional injuries. You do not want to turn a temporary injury into a permanent disability. Too often athletes rely on self-diagnosis rather than consulting with a medical specialist. If during or after running or hiking you have persistent foot problems or recurring pain that you cannot resolve, seek medical treatment from a medical specialist who can provide his or her medical expertise for your problem.
Primary Medical Specialists for Feet
Orthopedists are orthopedic surgeons, experts of the joints, muscles, and bones. This includes upper and lower extremities and the spine. Look for an orthopedist that specializes in the foot and ankle. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society can provide referrals. There are also Orthopedic Clinical Specialists (OCS).
Podiatrists are doctors of podiatric medicine (DPM) that work on the feet up to and including the ankles. They specialize in human movement, and medical and surgical problems including foot diseases, deformities, and injuries, such as nail, skin, bone, tendon, and diabetic disorders. Podiatrists treat such disorders with surgery, custom-made orthotics (shoe inserts), physical therapy, injections, casting and braces, prescription medication, and medicated creams and ointments. The American Podiatric Medical Association and the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine can provide referrals.
If you have chronic foot problems, or you are uncertain what your feet are trying to tell you through their pain, consider consulting a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon. Listen to your whole body and especially your feet. Be attentive to when the pain begins and what makes it hurt more or less. Then be prepared to tell the specialist about the problem, its history, what you have done to correct it, and whether it worked or got worse.
There is a wide range of skill overlap between orthopedists and podiatrists. Each can treat most of the same foot problems. When searching for a medical specialist for your feet, talk to doctors about their training, experience, and whether they have a specialty field. Each of the two specialist fields has doctors who specialize in sports medicine, and these would be my first choice. Weigh this information when making a decision about who to turn to for help. Additionally, a variety of other specialists can provide assistance in strengthening, alignment, rehabilitation, and footwear design and fit.
Pedorthists work with the design, manufacture, fit, and modification of shoes, boots, and other footwear. Pedorthists are board certified (C.Ped) to provide prescription footwear and related devices. They will evaluate, fit, and modify all types of footwear. A C. Ped. can help find a shoe built on a last (the form over which a shoe is constructed) that best matches a person’s feet, and then construct a custom orthotic that meets his or her particular biomechanical needs and interfaces with the shoe in a way that improves its fit and performance. The American Orthotics and Prosthetics Association and the Pedorthic Footwear Association can provide information and referrals.
Sports Medicine Doctors specialize in sports-related injuries. They are typically doctors of internal medicine with additional training in sports medicine. When treating athletes with lower-extremity injuries that do not improve with their initial treatment, they may refer the athlete to a podiatrist or orthopedist. Most are members of the American College of Sports Medicine (which does not provide referral services).
Physical therapists (PT) are licensed to help with restoring function after illness and injury. Most work closely with medical specialists. Physical therapists use a variety of rehabilitation methods to restore function and relieve pain: massage, cold and heat therapy, ultrasound and electrical stimulation, and stretching and strengthening exercises.There are also Masters of Physical Therapy (MPT) and Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT). The American Physical Therapy Association can provide referrals.
Athletic trainers are licensed to work specifically on sports-related injuries. Rehabilitation methods may be similar to physical therapy but can additionally focus on maintaining cardiovascular fitness while injuries heal. The National Athletic Trainers’ Association can provide referrals.
Massage therapists work with athletes in reducing pain and tightness in muscles, tendons, and ligaments—the body’s soft tissues. The American Massage Therapy Association can provide referrals. Look for either Licensed Massage Therapists (LMT) or Board Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (BCTMB).
Chiropractors are doctors of chiropractic (DC) medicine who specialize in the alignment of the body’s musculoskeletal system. Pelvis, back, and neck pain and muscle imbalances are often treated by a chiropractor. Some may specialize in sports injuries. There are also Certified Chiropractic Sports Physicians CCSP). Two organizations, the American Chiropractors Association and the International Chiropractic Association, can provide referrals.
When the time comes to seek medical attention, ask others in your sport for referrals, ask at your local running or outdoors store, look in the Yellow Pages, or search online. If you have a choice, choose a sports medicine specialist over a general doctor.
Filed under: blister care, Books, Foot Care, Foot Care Products, Health, Sports, Travel
I have known Terri Schneider for a long time. She did triathlons, moved up to focus on Ironman’s, then discovered adventure racing. When I heard about her new book, I knew I had to interview her. Her just released book, Dirty Inspirations, tells the stories of her “lessons from the trenches of extreme endurance sports” – the subtitle of the book.
From the back cover, we read, “By choosing to walk the path of more resistance, we come to a better understanding of ourselves and our potential for physical, mental, and emotional growth. And nowhere is this better represented than in the crucible of extreme endurance sports, where athletes are truly pushed beyond the bounds of what seems possible. Seen through the eyes of one of the most diversely experienced female athletes on the planet, the stories in Dirty Inspirations showcase discomfort as virtue, and demonstrate the truly indomitable nature of the human spirit.”
Chapters in Dirty Inspirations take readers into Ironman and adventure races and ultramarathons in Utah, Australia, California, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Tibet and Nepal, New Zealand, Egypt, China, Argentina, Alaska, and Ecuador. Terri raced in many countries, with huge awe-inspiring challenges, and unforgettable memories.
Along the way, she also learned a lot about her feet and how to do foot care. In this unique audio interview, I talk to Terri about the races, foot care secrets, and a lot more. It’s about 23 minutes in length.
Along the way, Terri learned a lot about herself as an athlete and a person. You and I may not have the opportunities to do the races she did, but we can live them through her stories.
For an in-depth interview with Terri about the book and how she wrote it, check out my Writers & Authors on Fire podcast where I interview her for an hour about the writing process.
Filed under: blister care, Foot Care, Foot Care Products, Footwear, Footwear Products, Health
This second version of a toe separator is a more complicated to make and apply. It uses a large or small ENGO oval, depending on the size of the toes. The idea is to pinch the patch into an upside down T where the base of the T goes between the two problem toes. The patch is stuck to your insole in a position where it keeps the two toes apart. The slippery surface of the ENGO patch will prevent rubbing and the upward base of the upside down T will keep one toe from going under the other toe.
How to Make Your Own Toe Separator # 2
Using a utility knife, score two cuts, about one inch apart on the backside of the patch. Make them only deep enough to cut through the paper backing – do not cut through the patch itself. Try to have the one-inch wide space in the middle of the patch. Make the width of the cuts wide enough so the folded separator will be tall enough to match the height of the toes it will go between. This is important – a separator used between middle toes will have to be taller than ones used for pinky toes. Men’s toes may also require taller separators. Using the tip of the knife, remove the one-inch strip. Fold the patch in half so the sticky sides match to each other. The two end of the cut backing should meet in the middle. You can now open the two ends and cut the patch into the needed shape based on where the patch will go on the insole and the length of your toes.
Separator # 2 Height and Length
Separators for pinky toes need to be shorter in height and length than ones for the middle toes. You may have to make more than one separator based on the size you need to find the right fit.
How to Use the Separator # 2
To use the separator in your shoe, remove the insole for the foot with the overlapping toes. The smoother the insole the better the patch will stick. Clean the surface of the insole of all lint, dust or other things that could interfere with the patch adhering. Make sure the insoles are dry. Put the insole on the floor and stand on it so your foot falls into any indentations. Usually, an insole will have indentations under the heel, ball of the foot, and some of the toes. Using a pen, make a mark between the two affected toes. Put on a pair of Injinji socks and make sure the marking is still in the right place.
Once the placement has been confirmed, with sock on, place the separator between the two toes to make sure it fits. The best way to do this is with your foot on the insole. The height should come up to the top of the toes with sock on. If the height is too high, trim it with a scissors. If it’s too low, make another separator where the pinched section is higher.
The length needs to be long enough to cover the body of the toe – without hitting the crease between the toes. If the separator touches the crease, it could rub and cause problems, especially if the foot moves forward in the shoe. If it’s too long, trim it with a scissors.
Once the fit has been checked, you can place the separator on the insole. Line it up so the upward part is in the correct place. Then remove the protective backing to expose the adhesive and place the patch on the insole with the upward part over the line on the insole. Rub the separator to make sure it is firmly secured to the insole. Use a scissors to trim any part that extends over the sides of the insole. Use a blow dryer for a few
If the patch does not stick, you probably have an insole with a surface that is not smooth enough or too soft with too much fabric that does not allow the adhesive to hold. In this case, you may want to try another insole with a better surface. They can be peeled off the insole if they are placed wrong, but will probably not stick as well if you try to reattach them. The patches will not stick to a wet insole. For easier removal, use a blow dryer or heat gun to heat the patch.
If the Separator # 2 is Too Weak
It’s possible that the pinched section of the ENGO patch will be too weak or thin to keep the toe from going under the next toe. If you can tell the toe is going under, here’s an idea to make it stronger. Take another ENGO Patch and cut a strip the width of the top of the separator, remove the adhesive backing, and pinch it over the existing separator so it reinforces the upward part of the separator and extends onto the base. This will strengthen the part between the toes and make it stiffer and better able to keep one toe from going under the other.
Filed under: blister care, Foot Care, Foot Care Products, Footwear, Health
This is part one of a two-part blog post.
Over the past few years, I have seen many athletes with a common toe problem – overlapping toes. Some people may call then underlapping toes or call them some other name. When a pinky toe goes under the 4th toe, both toes can be negatively affected. Skin is pinched. Hot spots and then blisters form. Often callus develops as the skin is constantly under pressure from the overlapping toe.
While most common to the 4th toe and pinky toe, overlapping toes can affect any two toes. This is not necessarily a problem limited to running shoes or hiking footwear. It can happen in everyday footwear too. The cause of over-lapping is unknown. Many experts suspect that they are caused by an imbalance in the small muscles of the foot.
There are some easy solutions, which may or may not help, because toes are different. You can switch to Injinji toe socks, giving each toe it’s own little sock and some degree of protection. You can cut out a portion of the insole under the toe that goes under the other toe, giving the toe some extra space. Another option is to tape around the toe or toes to give some protection too.
This is an idea to help runners, adventure racers, and hikers with the problem of overlapping toes. You will need Injinji toe socks, ENGO Blister Prevention Patches (large ovals), and removable insoles. There are two types of separators you can make. This post will cover the first of the two.
Toe Separator Number 1
I use an ENGO Blister Prevention Patch as the toe separators. They make a small and large oval, but I like the large because of its size.
The first toe separator is easy to make and use – and it uses one large ENGO patch. Take a scissors and cut a long oval into a strip, about ¾ inch wide and 1¾ inches long. If you are cutting this for a middle toe or for large toes, it may have to be 1 to 1 ¼ inches wide and a bit longer. Round all corners. Cut one of the remaining sections into a small strip, ¼ inch wide and 1¼ inch long. Take the large oval and remove half the backing from one end. Wearing Injinji socks, put the large oval between the two affected toes. Put the end of the large oval with the exposed adhesive over the toe next to the toe that goes under it. The blue side will go from the top of one toe, run between the toes, and under the toe that normally goes under the other one. What you have is an S shaped patch from the top of one toe, between them, and then under the next toe. Take the small strip and remove the backing, and put one end of the adhesive on the white backing that is underneath the toe at the bottom of the S. The other end of the strip can be stuck onto the top of that toes sock. The small strip is needed to hold the bottom of the S under the toe when you put your foot in your shoe. The S shaped patch will keep the toes apart. Obviously, these are single use. If the patch seems too weak, use two strips to make the S patch stronger.
Filed under: blister care, Foot Care, Foot Care Products, Footwear, Footwear Products
Today’s post will cover a great way to prevent blisters using ENGO Blister Prevention Patches. It’s a repeat of a post from mid-2013.
Tamarack Habilitation Technologies is well known for providing healthcare professionals and clients with innovative, value-added orthotic-prosthetic componentry and materials. Their ShearBan product is similar to the ENGO Blister Prevention Patches reviewed in this article. ShearBan is used in the orthopaedic and prosthetic industry on prostheses at amputation stump sites to reduce the incidence of skin breakdown.
ENGO in Footwear
Introduced in 2004, ENGO Blister Prevention Patches have radically redefined the way hot spots, blisters and calluses are treated. As a preventative measure, ENGO patches provide peace-of-mind that blisters won’t become a painful, debilitating problem. If a blister has already formed, applying patches to footwear, corresponding to the blistered area eliminates painful irritation and further skin damage, allowing continued activity. Friction forces are reduced by more than 50% when you apply an ENGO Patch to your footwear.
The patches are made from an ultra-thin Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) film and are 0.015 inches total thickness – a very slippery surface. They are very durable, lasting four to six weeks in most applications. The aggressively sticky patch peels away from the backing and is applied to dry shoes or boots. The PTFE ENGO Patch reduces the ‘stickiness’ between the shoe and sock so they can glide over one another. The foot, inside the sock, glides over the patch shear distortion and friction are reduced, and blisters can be averted, in spite of pressure.
Avid runners, hikers and sports players rely on their feet to reach performance goals; from day hikes to ultra marathons. But quality footwear and socks alone don’t eliminate the skin trauma your feet can experience from repetitive rubbing — building friction forces to levels that cause hot spots, blisters and calluses. While I use these patches in runners’ footwear at races, they can also be used in ordinary every day shoes to reduce calluses.
Similar to Tamarack’s ShearBan material, ENGO patches are applied directly to footwear and equipment, not to the skin. Outcomes of this unique application include ease of use, long-lasting and guaranteed friction relief.
ENGO Patches are made in several sizes and types:
- A large oval – 2 ¾ x 1 ¾
- A small oval – 2 x 1 ½
- A rectangle – 3 ¾ x 2 ¾
- Back of the heel patch – 3 ¾ x 1 ¾
- A cushion heel wrap – 3 ¾ x 1 ½
When I work a race I always have a bag with different sizes of ENGO patches. I have applied the ovals and rectangles and the back of the heel patches. The patches are applied to the shoes and insoles – not to your skin. This means wherever you are going to apply a patch has to be dry. My advice is to apply patches before your race when your shoes are dry. I have used them inside the shoes in the sides, in the heels, and on the insoles.
Typical problem areas in footwear are under the heel and forefoot, and at the side of the heel. An oval patch can be applied to overlap the side of the heel counter and the insole as seen is the photo. I often use a rectangle or large oval under the ball of the foot or an oval under the heel – applied directly to the insole. The patches are useful over stitching or seams in footwear that are rubbing the wearer. If necessary, a patch can be cut to shape for where it will be applied.
The patches will reduce shear and friction; provide relief from hot spot and blister pain, and can be used in any type of insole or orthotic and footwear, from sandals to running shoes, and any type of hiking or ski boot.
I like ENGO patches because they work. The patch is thin and does not alter the fit of the shoe. When properly applied to dry footwear, they stick.
Rebecca Rushton, a podiatrist in Australia, strongly recommends ENGO Patches. She discovered the patches after getting blisters herself and now represents ENGO in Australia. She has written several free reports on blister prevention available on her website, Blister Prevention.
If you are unclear about shear and blister formation, here’s a link to my article An Introduction to Shear and Blister Formation.
The Technical Stuff
JM Carlson, in a 2009 report wrote, “The measurement of friction is the ‘coefficient of friction’. The coefficient of friction (COF) is a number that represents this slipperiness or stickiness between two surfaces and is generally below 1.0. Within the shoe, the COF between the foot, socks and insole can range from 0.5 – 0.9. In contrast the COF between a sock and a polished floor is around 0.2.” Tests have shown PTFE patches to reduce the coefficient of friction (COF) in the shoe by up to 80%. The COF is in approximately 0.16, which is significantly lower than all other in-shoe materials. Importantly, the low COF is maintained even in most and wet conditions inside the shoe.
Check out GoEngo.com for more information about ENGO Blister Prevention Patches. They also offer a money-back guarantee.
Many of you use kinesiology tape in either patching feet or for pain relief after injury. This week TheraTape.com is having a kinesiology tape Black Friday & Cyber Monday sale – all week. The sale goes through Sunday November 30.
Kinesiology tape is my tape of choice for all types of foot taping. whether preventative or as treatment. TheraTape is offering deals on rolls of RockTape and GO kinesiology tape, and several manufactures precut strips. For example, buy two rolls of RockTape and get three more free. Here’s the link to the TheraTape sale.
Be sure to check out their blog for articles about using kinesiology tape, how to apply it without touching the tape’s adhesive, using it to prevent injuries, and the what, when, why and how of using kinesiology tape.
Joanne and her staff at TheraTape are helpful if you have questions – order online or give them a call.
Filed under: blister care, Books, Foot Care, Foot Care Products
Rebecca Rushton is a podiatrist from down-under in Australia. She has championed the important of blister prevention and I have shared about her in past blog posts. Her website, BlisterPrevention.com.au is a wealth of information on the subject.
In an effort to resolver her own blister problems, Rebecca has investigated podiatry and sport publications, diabetic foot disease and prosthetic limb skin management, the field of tribology (the study of friction and wear), and military research. These have led her to write a number of publications about blister management, and continually address it in her blog.
Her latest work is a book and ebook, The Blister Prone Athlete’s Guide to Preventing Foot Blisters: Insider Tips to Take You From Blister Victim to Champion. These are available through Amazon – and for a limited time, the ebook version is available for FREE through Amazon’s Kindle. Here’s the link for the free ebook. Get it soon because after five days, it reverts back to normal prices. You can also get a print copy of the book to have in your foot care kit and share with your crews.
The 75-page book discusses blister formation and then tackles the causes and prevention of blisters on the most common areas of the foot: heels, the arch, the ball of the foot, and toes. The content is easy to understand and follow.
Rebecca is a friend and I highly recommend her book. I’d also suggest visiting her BlisterPrevention.com.au website and subscribing to her email updates.