Filed under: blister care, Foot Care, Footcare, Footwear, Health, toenails
Here are a few foot care tips I wrote to help runners at the Amazon Jungle Marathon. I’ll be there in a few weeks to help with foot care on the medical team. The tips are valuable for anyone doing a 24 hour race, a multi-day event, an adventure race, or a long backpack. Remember, your feet will carry you day to day only if you take care of them.
Start with good toenail care. Trim your nails short and then use a file over the front edge to remove any rough edges. File the tip of the nail so when you run your fingertip over the tip of the toe and over the nail, you don’t feel any rough edges. You can also file the top of the nail if it’s thick. Coming to the race with bad toenails will ensure toe blisters and black toenails.
Make sure your shoes fit well. Have enough room in the toe box for your toes to wiggle. Your feet may swell over the race and you don’t want shoes that are too tight. Some shoes, like Hokas, retain water and become heavy over the days, as they are wet so much of the time. Wet and waterlogged shoes are heavy.
Get good socks. Don’t show up with cotton socks. Socks made with Coolmax or wool are good choices. Injinji toe socks are great. Have several pair and wash then after each day’s stage or have one pair per day. Also don’t show up with old socks or ones with holes in them.
Do whatever you can to reduce any calluses. Getting a blister under a callus can be painful and it’s very hard to find the pocket of fluid for draining. After showering, use a callus file or pumice stone to shave the callused skin from your feet. Then apply some callus cream. This is something that should be done several times a week. Calluses are the result of friction and pressure between your shoes and feet. Make sure your shoes will drain water.
Shoes that hold water inside will increase the maceration effect of your feet being wet to long, leading to wrinkled and soften skin that can fold over, crease, and split open. Check this by filling your shoes with water and seeing whether it will drain out. You can heat a nail (at least 1/8 inch round) or an awl and make several holes at the inside and outside arch, and the heel of your shoes. Learn how your feet respond to being wet for long periods. Do some long walk or runs three to six hours long with wet feet. Try several products like Desitin or similar cream for baby bottoms that works to control moisture on the skin. Google “baby bottom cream” to see many options.
Do not skimp corners on your foot care kit you need to carry in your pack. Have several yards of a good quality tape, several needles to drain blisters, and learn how to drain and patch blisters. The medical team will try and help with your foot care needs, but we can become overwhelmed by the number of people wanting help. Part of your responsibility as a runner is to know how to do good foot care.
Carry a good pair of camp shoes to wear in the camp after each day’s stage. You don’t want to walk around barefoot and doing so will destroy the taping or blister patching done by you or the medical team. Lightweight Crocs, flip-flops, or sandals are easy to strap to your pack. Change into these after running to allow your skin time to heal from the moisture.
Filed under: Foot Care, Foot Care Products, Footwear, Health, Sports
Insoles and Beyond is a family-owned small business based in North Carolina. They want to help you be comfortable, avoid injury, and reduce any pain you are experiencing. Their insole line includes a wide variety of insoles from manufacturers including, Birkenstock, currexSole, New Balance, Powerstep, Sof Sole, and Sole. Whether you are looking for orthotics for plantar fasciitis pain, arch support inserts for comfort, or insoles for running shoes and other sports performance, you can find them at Insoles and Beyond. Within each company’s line are a variety of insoles and sizes. You can look for insoles by company name, foot type, activity, pain/condition, and shoe type. They also carry compression wear from CEP compression and Mediven, and offer ankle braces, knee braces and splints as well.
Because many athletes don’t understand insoles, I asked Stacey some questions about insoles. I think the questions will help you when you need insoles, or if you are unsure why you should replace the standard “sock liner” that came with your shoes. For years, I have told people that generally speaking, the stock sock liners shipped in shoes offer little support and are of little help. Many are simply thin pieces of foam or cardboard. Read on to learn about insoles. Then check out Insoles and Beyond’s website.
I’ve run for years and always used the regular insoles that come with shoes. Why should I consider a replacement pair of insoles? Most running shoes (expensive and inexpensive alike) use very simple and cheap foam insoles despite the tons of science that goes into making the rest of the shoe. Many runners will spend $100 to $200 on a pair of running shoes based on the materials and technology used to make them but then leave in the relatively generic insoles that come with the shoes. It makes sense that shoe manufacturers don’t invest much in the insoles – everyone’s foot is different. Shoe manufactures leave it to the consumer to purchase the appropriate insoles for their specific foot needs – high arches, low arches, overpronation, etc. Additionally, some people want more cushioning than others. Some want more support than others. Personally, the first thing I do when I buy a pair of shoes is rip out the “sock liner” and put in a pair of my favorite insoles.
There’s a whole bunch of replacement insoles to choose from, how can I make an intelligent choice? Our website has some good information on the various types of insoles and categories (collections) to help you find the insole that is appropriate for you. So, that’s a good starting place. However, within the categories (insoles for plantar fasciitis, insoles for running, insoles for hiking, etc.) there may still be questions. At that point, I’d suggest calling us or sending us an email to discuss things further.
Are certain insoles better than others for minimalist shoes and zero-drop shoes? Absolutely. Lower profile/volume insoles are best for minimalist shoes. Sole’s ThinSport and currexSole’s RunPros are both low volume options. The ThinSport has the same arch support as Sole’s Response and Ultra, but with less cushioning. The currexSole RunPros pack a lot of cushioning and less arch support (allowing for a more natural feel). Most insoles are neutral in terms of drop – they can be worn in zero-drop shoes.
How long do these insoles last? That depends. Many manufacturers recommend that you replace the insoles as often as you replace your shoes. Generally most running shoes should be replaced at 500 miles. I find that the BirkoSport by Birkenstock last pretty long – I’ve used them through four or five shoe replacements. Sole, New Balance, and Powerstep insoles tend to last a while (3 or 4 changes). Birkenstock and Sole both mold to your feet the longer you wear them. SofSole tends to only last one or two changes, but they are also less expensive. Generally speaking the more cushioned the insoles and the more activity they are subjected to, the more frequently you’ll need to replace them.
What’s the difference between inexpensive insoles and the more expensive ones? I believe you can get a really good pair of insoles in the $25 to $65 range. Custom insoles can run hundreds of dollars and many customers who’ve had custom insoles have shared with us that the $40 insoles they got from us were just as effective as the $400 custom pair they got from their doctor. The cheap insoles ($10 to $20 insoles at the drugstore) tend to not be much better than the insoles that come in the shoes to begin with. Among the insoles we offer, the materials used and the overall durability of the insoles set inexpensive and expensive insoles apart. I find that the more expensive the insoles, the longer they tend to last. Conversely, the less expensive insoles last a shorter period of time. Materials like carbon fiber, cork latex, tend to be more expensive and durable than gel insoles.
I cross-train and ride bikes too. Are there insoles made for biking shoes? There are definitely insoles specifically made for biking shoes. You can, however, use general purpose or running shoe insoles for biking shoes as well. The trick is to make sure that the insoles are low volume (since most biking shoes will not accommodate thick insoles) and that they have good cushioning in the ball of the foot (the part that is in contact with the bike pedal the most). Something like the currexSole RunPro can easily go from your cycling shoes to your running shoes if you are cross-training.
You may be asking why you would order insoles from Insoles and Beyond. Yes, you can find insoles in the foot care section of your local drugstore, sporting goods store, and running store. But will they be the right ones for your feet? Check out their lines of insoles and if you have questions, give them a call. On the right side of their page, is a 10% coupon and they offer free shipping in the U.S.
Disclosure: I have no financial involvement in Insoles and Beyond.
Back in the early 80’s I bought my first pair of running shoes. I went for New Balance, and they coast an amazing $45.00. There were the big names at that point: Adidas, Asics, Brooks, Nike, New Balance, Puma, and Reebok.
That was then. This is now. Shoe companies galore.
- Hoka One One
- New Balance
- Newton Running
- Pearl Izumi
- Topo Athletic
- Under Amour
- Vibram FiveFingers
Twenty nine shoe companies! I faint that amazing and overwhelming. There may be more I missed.
Then of course, each of these companies have different versions of shoes, typically road and trail. Then different types of control and support features. Then “regular” shoes versus minimalist shoes. And zero-drop shoes.
I went to one online website of a well-known company that sells many different shoes and some of the shoes manufactures had 16 or 18 different shoes models to choose from.
Companies that were known for their hiking boots and shoes now make running road and trail shoes. An underwear company makes shoes. It’s a hot market and everyone want a piece of the pie.
What’s a runner to do when they need new shoes? In my mind, there are three answers:
- First, visit your friendly neighborhood running store. And no, I don’t mean Big 5. I mean a running store with people who actually run, know shoes, and can make recommendation based on your form and gait, foot strike, shoe history, and even injury history.
- Secondly, use the services of a reputable online running shoe company. They typically offer call-in support to help you select the right shoes or a chat pop-up box to ask a sale person questions to determine the right shoes. Some even have online shoe buying guides.
- Thirdly, take a chance and just buy or order a pair of shoes on your own.
I recommend the options in the order presented. The running shoe marketplace is too crowded to make an intelligent choice any other way.
Filed under: blister care, Books, Foot Care, Foot Care Products, Footwear, Health, Sports
A few weeks ago I was interviewed by Scott Warr and Don Freeman from Trail Runner Nation. I was honored they asked me and we had fun doing the interview. The subject? What else but feet!
You can listen to the interview on their website, download the MP3 file, or better yet, subscribe to their podcast series through iTunes. Here’s the link to their webpage: FEET – Injury Prevention and Treatment with John Vonhof.
Here’s what they wrote on their website:
One of your most important tools as a runner is your feet. You need to take care of them or your training/race may be foiled. John Vonhof literally wrote the book on how to take care of your feet: Fixing Your Feet. This book is now in the FIFTH edition! John joins The Nation to discuss the basic principles of foot care:
- How you can have healthy & happy feet
- Blister prevention and treatment
- What to keep in a foot care kit
- Taping your feet
The interview is 62 minutes in length, but my interview starts about five minutes in. Enjoy the interview and then subscribe to Trail Runner Nation’s podcast.
Thanks Scott and Don for giving me the opportunity to share a bit of my passion for feet on your podcast.
How specialized can shoes become? Last year I watched many runners at the Jungle Marathon Amazon struggle with waterlogged shoes. The race went through rivers and swamps, dirt roads, sand on beaches and in the jungle, and through all kinds of rocks, roots, and other jungle junk. I remember one racer whose waterlogged Hoka’s seemed to each weigh three pounds after a day going through water, sand, and jungle. I saw shoes after shoes that were filled with sand and dirt, and were also waterlogged. This makes one’s race harder as you have to lift that weight with every step.
I have run races where my shoes were wet from stream or river crossings, or rain, or from puddles. Now Reebok has introduced their All-Terrain Series shoe as a solution to the problem with water. The shoes were designed to help runners in the Spartan Race Series of obstacle courses.
The Rebook All-Terrain Series Shoe
The Reebok All-Terrain Series shoe is a new shoe made for the popular obstacle races popping up worldwide – but I think they’ll be valuable in any race or event where water is a problem and traction is important. It’s named after the ever-popular Spartan Race Series and was designed and engineered in cooperation with the Reebok Spartan Race community. An important feature is the mesh H2O Drain ports that drain water quickly through the upper and midsole. The Super model has four drain holes on each side. The Sprint model has small drain holes all over the mesh upper.
The shoe has an outsole with square indented lugs and mid-foot teeth offering superior traction to shed mud. There are even lugs on the front toe of the shoe. The shoe is lightweight and breathable, with a rubberized tongue that will not absorb water and has holes to help expel water. Under the foot is a RockGuard plate to provide protection from rocks and other hard or sharp objects. The upper is made of DuraGrip for durability and ION Mask-fabric to repel mud and water. The shoe’s colors are vivid and bright.
There are two models, an All-Terrain Super and an All-Terrain Sprint. The Super is made for longer distance races and is engineered with more cushioning and stability. The Sprint is made for shorter distance races with a light-weight midsole and a low drop.
This is a serious shoe for obstacle course racers or events were water is a problem. It’s a shoe that can handle any abuse a Spartan Race can give it so you are unstoppable on any course – provided your legs and body don’t quit. I read reviews of Spartan racers who had tested the shoe and all swore by the H2O Drain ports. Having spent a week last October in the Amazon, I saw what wet shoes do to a runner’s feet. I think these would be great in the Amazon or any event with lots of water.
The Reebok All-Terrain Super retails for $119.98 while the Sprint is $109.98. Reebok says they should be in stores the end of April. They are also available through the Reebok website. I’m told they run a bit small so it is recommended to go up a half size. Reebok also offers the option to design your own shoe with a variety of colors for the upper, midsole, laces, tongue, and more. Here’s the link to check out the Reebok All-Terrain Series shoes.
Of course, remember to try any shoe for a while before committing to wear it in a race or long distance run/hike. Make sure the fit works on your feet. Make sure any shoes you buy for a specific event will hold up through whatever it throws at your feet.
The Spartan Race Series
The Spartan Race Series is an international obstacle racing series with three levels of courses: a 3-mile Sprint, an 8-mile Super and a 10-12 mile Beast. You will run, jump and crawl your way over a dozen or more obstacles. Courses are uniquely designed to test your mental and emotional fitness and push you past your limits. Race as an individual, as a part of a team or both!
Choose your Spartan Race here. There are races in many states, as well as Canada, England, France, and 11 other countries. Spartan has offered a discount to my readers interested in trying a Spartan Race. You can get 15% off any Spartan Race in the continental U.S.
If the idea of an obstacle race interests you, Spartan offers a free eBook, You’ll Know at the Finish Line: The Spartan Guide to the Sport of Obstacle Racing.
A FREE SPARTAN RACE ENTRY: If you are interested in a free entry into a 2014 Spartan Race in the continental U.S., write a comment to this blog post and tell me your thoughts on the All-Terrain shoe and why you deserve a free entry. The deadline is midnight Saturday, April 26, 2014. I will pick randomly pick one response on Sunday, April 27 and send that person the code for a free race.
Filed under: blister care, Foot Care, Foot Care Products, Footwear, Footwear Products
Occasionally I see runner’s shoes that have wear holes in the material in the heel counter. This picture from Dan shows his shoes with holes to the outside of center on both heels. I emailed the following suggestion.
I’d try an ENGO Back of Heel Patch. They are made to shape to the curve of the back of the heel counter. Put them in when the shoe is dry. Rub them a bit in a curving motion to help them form to the shape of the shoe. Then peel off the paper backing and apply from the center outwards to the sides. Rub well so they adhere to the shoe’s material. You could also try the large ovals if the hole is small. The blue ENGO patches are very slick and can take a lot of wear. Once the blue wears down to expose white, replace the patch. Sometimes the holes are on the sides of the heel.
Last summer at Western States, I had a runner whose shoe was rubbing her heel raw. You can see from the image that she has a prominent heel bump. This, of course, contributed to her problem. This is the kind of problem one needs to plan for before it becomes a major issue – especially at the event the magnitude of Western States.
We decided to cut a notch out of the outside of her shoe’s heel. This allowed the back of the shoe to spread apart for her large heel bump. Then I applied an ENGO Back of the Heel Patch to the inside of the shoe’s heel counter. This provided some protection to her heel bump.
The large ENGO ovals can also be used when there is a small area to be covered.
I have been a fan of ENGO Blister Prevention Patches since I first discovered them years ago. The ovals are perfect for the common areas at the side of the heel where blisters form at the junction of insole and heel counter. The large rectangles are great to put on insoles underneath the ball of the foot, another common problem area.
Check out the ENGO website for more information. ENGO products are available through Zombierunner. If you are in Australia or New Zealand, ENGO products are available through Rebecca Rushton’s Blister Prevention website.
Disclosure: Tamarack Habilitation Technologies supplies me with ENGO Patches as I need them for races.
Filed under: blister care, Books, Foot Care, Foot Care Products, Footwear, Footwear Products, Health, Sports
I love reading the unsolicited email and testimonials from athletes who have discovered Fixing Your Feet. They help motivate me to keep going. Here are two. The first is a simple sentence. The second is a personal story I received last week. Thanks everyone who has passed along their story.
I’m pretty sure Fixing Your Feet has saved most of us at one point. ~ an email from Deb Bosilevac.
Then Billy Pearce (husband, father of 3 boys, nurse and ultrarunner) shared his story:
My many years of ultrarunning with a three shoe size difference in feet caused by a traumatic injury as a child has always been a challenge with shoes and blisters. So I choose ultrarunning as my passion! I have had two DNF’s in the Australian classic Coast to Kosci 240km beach to Australia’s highest peak. So this year my attempt to get a finish was one of real attention to where things had gone wrong before.
This year I had my podiatrist and friend on my crew, (Brad White, from Footcare Woden, Canberra ACT Australia). I attend his clinic monthly as routine and we have planned all year for this race. Brad is also a gifted runner.
Best footcare ever. In over 42 hours 26 minutes of running I needed two stops to attend to feet – totaling less than 15 minutes for both stops! I gave him a copy of Fixing Your Feet and I think we have created a new passion for him.
I found your work after a 48 hour race when my feet become so bad I was reduced to painful shuffle for last 24 hours then weeks of healing. I am now able to race 24 hours on a track without a scratch and as we say, “If you do not have a plan for your feet, you do not have a race plan.” Thanks heaps for the help and advice you give so freely.
Do you have the 5th edition of Fixing Your Feet? Last summer while working on feet at the Michigan Bluff aid station of Western States, a runner’s crew member came up to ask me if I’d sign his copy of Fixing Your Feet. While I signed it, I told him he had a very outdated book the 2nd edition! Every edition has gotten better and larger with a lot of new and updated information. Maybe I am biased, but the 5th edition is the best ever.
If you have older editions, you owe it to yourself to invest in the 5th edition. You can purchase it through my website, Zombierunner, and most online bookstores. At Amazon, it’s available in either print or Kindle formats.
Filed under: blister care, Foot Care, Foot Care Products, Footwear, Footwear Products, Sports, toenails
Several months ago I had the good fortune to work on the medical team at the Jungle Marathon Amazon. My specific role was foot care of the 78 runners and to work with the others on the medical team to teach them good foot care techniques. I learned some things that I am calling, Your Event Homework…” By that I mean, your homework is to consider these five things that, if you learn them, can help you be more successful in the event.
Over seven days, I got to know most of the runners. The race offered a one-day, four-day, or seven-day event, and runners were required to carry all their gear and food in a backpack. Hammocks were mandatory and everyone had to carry a mandatory kit of emergency supplies. Because of all the gear and food, some runners limited their medical supplies to the most basic (read: as small as possible). Others had large plastic bins or bags of their mandatory gear. Most had planned well.
As runners came through the pre-race check-in to have the mandatory gear inspected, I talked to a lot of them about their shoes, socks, and – their feet. While doing this, I applied ENGO Blister Prevention Patches into many shoes. While I had a good supply of the patches, this would be the only time to get them into runner’s shoes. Once the race started, their shoes would be wet and the patches would not stick. I noticed that there was a good mix of shoes even though the runners were from around the world.
Then the race started.
Three miles into the race, there was a stream crossing. After that, their feet were almost always wet or full of sand or grit. Here are the five main things I saw.
- At the end of day one, one runner asked for help with his insoles. The sand and grit had worn holes in both heels. I could tell, however, that they were well worn even before he started. We dried out the insoles and I cut away any rough edges. Fortunately, the sun had dried the insoles enough to apply ENGO patches over the holes.
- Some runners had chosen shoes that were minimalist in design, and some did not hold up well in the rough trails in the jungle, where rocks, roots, and plants tore at the shoes’ uppers. Two runners’ shoes were shredded at their sides. The handiwork of one of the runners saved the shoes as he sewed the uppers back together with dental floss.
- Several runners had made bad choices in socks. All cotton socks have no place in any athletic event, much less anything over a 5km race. One runner in particular had low-rise cotton socks suitable for walking in the park, but not a seven-day race in the jungle. Another runner had only two pairs of socks, and the first pair had holes in both heels at the end of the first day.
- Some runners experienced problems with toenails that affected their race. Long nails, untrimmed nails, and nails with rough edges cause problems, which can lead to toe blisters, and black toenails.
- While some of the runners managed their feet by themselves, many came to the medical team day after day. While we were there to help, time and supplies were limited – especially time. Runners that can patch their own feet are ahead of the game. Some had the right supplies, while many others with small mandatory gear kits, did not have the necessary equipment. The medical team worked hard to patch feet as we could. Whenever we could, we made sure the runners saw what we were doing so they learned how to do it themselves. By the end of the race, I saw more that a few runners that were working on their feet and helping others.
Lessons to Learn:
- Make sure your insoles are in good shape. Many runners fail to remove their insoles and inspect they – to see if they need replacing. Most standard insoles are flimsy and should be replaced after several hundred miles. For a $25-$30 investment of new insoles, you’ll gain support and comfort. Investing in a marathon, ultramarathon, multi-day race, can be costly. Yes, there’s the money side, but there’s also the gear required, time spent in training, and travel. This is not the time to skimp on footwear. Chose good, high-quality shoes – preferably a design you have worn before and know works on your feet. And whatever you do, don’t wear old shoes that have seen better days.
- Invest in good, high-quality socks – new socks – not some dug out of your socks drawer that are threadbare. Find the right socks for your feet. Try Injinji socks if you have toe blister problems. Try a thin liner with a bit heavier outer sock. Try several types of socks to find the right amount of cushion and support.
- Learn how to care for your toenails. That means how to trim them and file them smooth so they don’t catch on socks or hit on the top or front of the shoe’s toe box.
- Runners can help themselves by learning how to manage their feet and treat any blisters that might develop. While some events have medical personnel and staff experienced in foot care, many don’t. Or they don’t have the best choices in supplies. Better to be prepared and know what your feet need – and how to manage your own feet. Then if there are people providing foot care, you can use them, and tell them if you need or want certain things done.
In the same way you train for an event, and invest in clothes and packs, and food, you must invest in your feet.
This blog post is a summary of Stefanie Bacon’s experience with Vibram FiveFinger Lontra’s in the Jungle Marathon Amazon. The first image shows Stefanie in one of the water crossings. She did the four-day 122km race and was the second place female. When I noticed she was running in FiveFingers, I asked if she could write a short review of the shoes. Here’s her report followed by information on the Lontras.
I have been running in my Vibram FiveFingers for over 2 years now. I am very careful choosing which ones to run in, depending of the terrain. When I decided to run the Jungle Marathon Amazon, I decided to research which ones would be best as I knew I was going to encounter water crossings, soft sandy beaches, mud swamps, forests, creepy crawlies on my ankles etc. So I knew they had to be somewhat more resistant then the ones I use to run on normal roads and sand tracks. I went for the Lontra, which have the thickest sole, and extra protection over the toes, and are higher on the ankles (to avoid sand coming into them so easily).
The second photo shows Stefaine’s Lontras.
For a race like Jungle Marathon I really found my FiveFingers Lontra’s to be an advantage, especially at water crossings and soft sand. It was way easier because you can swim in them without feeling any kind of weight on your feet, and when running in soft sand, no sand came into them and my feet felt really light. Like with any other shoes you need to really be careful with cut off trees, to not step on one of them, but I must say the Lontra’s made me feel confident, as they are way more resistant then any other Five Fingers. One thing I did realize, is when I did the water crossings, as the fabric they are made of is meant to be water resistant the water didn’t escape the shoe so quickly like other Vibrams I have which are made of neoprene, but this didn’t make my feet suffer in any way.
The only problem I had (which I only realized on the third day what was causing that problem) were my big toe nail and my pinky toe nail, I felt some pressure on them and couldn’t understand why, after a lot of thinking I realized that it was my socks, when using five fingers you need to make sure that your toes fit perfectly into the sock (I highly recommend to use Injinji, I was wearing the Nike ones and those where not good for my toes). The image here shows her toes taped with StrengthTape Kinesio tape.
I don’t recommend anyone who is starting to use Vibram FiveFingers to do a race like this in them; it is essential to have a lot of experience, and test different styles on different terrains.
Vibram FiveFinger Lontras
Vibram Men’s Lontras are shown in the next photos. You can see in the first image how high they ride up the ankle and the strapping system. The next photo shows the more aggressive than normal tread.
Here’s Vibram’s website description: The all-new Lontra makes cold weather running in minimalist footwear a breeze. A multi-layer laminate upper with fully taped seams provides insulation and water resistance. The micro-pile fleece liner is soft against the skin while helping wick perspiration away from the foot. Other features include a neoprene heel cuff to keep out snow and debris, and a reinforced hook-and-loop closure for a snug and secure fit. Run safely at night with reflective surfaces for enhanced visibility. The 4mm EVA midsole provides insulation from frozen surfaces, and the TC-1 Dura outsole provides traction, durability and superior plating protection.
Stefanie made a good choice in the Lontra’s for her Jungle Marathon Amazon race. The shoes hardly showed any wear after her race. I could see these shoes working for similar events and trail runs. Considering the other shoes I saw runner’s wearing at the Jungle marathon, the Lontras performed well, did not fall apart, and did not become waterlogged. For an event where water, sand and mud, and streams or swamps are on the route, these shoes are worth a look.
For the record, the Jungle Marathon Amazon also had a marathon one-day race and the main event, a seven day 254km race.
The Amazon Jungle Marathon had 78 runners. Most of them did not have problems with their shoes – but some did.
Most shoes were trail runners with good tread. I saw a lot of Salomon shoes and a mix of everything else. At least one runner wore Hokas and another wore Vibram Five Fingers. Every day I tried to watch the runners and check with shoes.
There was so much water and sand that their shoes were always wet and covered in sand – with the exception of when we spent the night in the deep jungle camp. Even then, it was dirt that caked the shoes.
The afternoon before the race started, seven of us hiked three miles into the first day’s checkpoint. It gave me a taste of what the runners would start with the next morning. The jungle is unforgiving. Roots, rocks, and vines are everywhere. Leaves and ferns are on the trail and hanging over it. Low hanging branches and tree stumps line the trail. Inattention to the trail will lead to catching your foot on roots and vines, stubbing your toes, or turning an ankle. Inattention to the stuff alongside and up high on the trial will lead one into running into something hanging head height.
When they got to the checkpoint, they had their first water crossing, a deep stream that once they crossed, took them into a swamp. Two other days started on a beach where they had 200 to 300 yard plus river crossings – pulling themselves and their packs along a rope. You get the picture.
At the end of the first day several runners had major problems with their shoes. As you can see from the first picture, the shoes were coming apart where the uppers meet the midsole. The mesh in the shoe’s upper was torn. Without repair, the next day the shoes would have fallen apart.
Mesh uppers have become popular in many road and trail shoes. In fact it’s hard to find shoes without mesh. Mesh makes the shoes lighter and cooler. Water typically drains better too. In the Amazon, these mesh shoes were worn by most all the runners. And they were filled with sand and trail junk. With the water, they became much heavier than normal.
In the Amazon, the vines, branches, rocks, and whatever else the jungle threw at the runner’s feet destroyed the shoes’ mesh. On a mountain trail race, the same thing can happen. All it takes is one swipe across a sharp rock or root.
Remember that mesh allows grid, dust, dirt and sand to get inside. The mesh is also susceptible to tearing, especially at the junction of the upper and midsole.
Fortunately, one of the runners was an expert with needle and thread. He expertly and patiently sewed the mesh back into place – more than once. The second picture shows a runner’s shoe that has been repaired. If you look closely, you can see the thread at the bottom edge of the mesh.
The last two pictures show how Roberto Domingues Areiro used dental floss to sew Jean-Paul van der Bas’ shoes back together.
Another runner wore Hokas and loved them. For the first six days they served her well. For the final day, she switched to a lighter pair of regular shoes. The reason was evident. She realized that her Hokas were waterlogged and each weighed two pounds. Hokas are larger than average shoes. Every pound on a foot is equal to five pounds on the back. For the runner, that meant carrying an additional 20 pounds in her pack.
Remember that while your shoes may be fine when they are dry, once they go through water, their weight can increase dramatically. All that weight is added stress on your legs and back.
Remember that where ever your race, consider the terrain and conditions when you pick your shoes. Making sure you have good shoes, as close to new as possible, but broken in to your feet. Don’t chance your race to a pair of old and worn shoes.
The runner who wore Vibram Five Fingers did well. She was used to the unique shoes and had trained with the miles necessary to do 142km in the minimalist shoes. She had minor problems with her big toes and pinky toes that we taped, but she managed to complete the race.
Remember that if you wear minimalist shoes in a race, make sure you put the miles on your feet with the shoes so your feet and legs are used to them.
The Amazon Jungle Marathon is a great event that promised runners an adventure. They got that and more. Their shoes showed the wear and took everything the jungle threw at them.