Science of Ultra Interview

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.

Science of Ultra

Science of Ultra

 

Learning from Shoe Reviews

March 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Footwear, Footwear Products, Sports 

We can learn a lot from shoe reviews. Whether the reviews are in magazines or websites, or posted in online forums and blogs, they can be helpful to hear what others have to say about shoes you are considering. RunRepeat.com is a website that features running shoe comparisons. In late 2015 they ran the numbers from 134,867 customer reviews of 391 running shoes from 24 brands. Shoes were ranked from one to five stars based on satisfaction. Interestingly, their conclusion was that expensive shoes are not any better than more moderately priced shoes. This means inexpensive running shoes are often better rated then expensive ones. They pointed out that perceived shoe quality is very subjective and the study was not a scientifically based. One possible finding from the comparison is that runners who buy more expensive shoes likely have higher expectations, and are more critical in their reviews.

Many shoe and boot companies suggest specific models that are best for certain types of activities and sports, and for certain types of feet. They do this because many shoes are made for a specific type of foot—and many people have feet that will work better with one type of shoe than another. Look for the buyer’s guides in the magazines of your sport. Runners can find shoe reviews in Runner’s World, Trail Runner, and UltraRunning. Backpackers and hikers can check out Backpacker magazine’s reviews, and Outside magazine’s Buyer’s Guide for helpful information.4 Wear Tested Gear Reviews (weartested.org) is another good site with reviews. Many online shoe retailers also offer phone advice support or online guides. For information on shoe reviews and gear review sources, see page xref in the appendix. Other sport-specific magazines may offer similar reviews. Many websites are now posting reviews, and some offer reader comments or reviews.

The September 2015 Runner’s World Shoe Finder asked up front if readers knew the type of shoe that worked best for them. If so, they were guided to a four-section grid based on more shoe, less shoe, and more cushioning, less cushioning. Each box of the grid contained shoes they recommended for that more/less choice. Other readers were asked questions about BMI, running mileage, and injury experience, after which they too were directed to one of the four boxes to find their recommended shoes. Each shoe reviewed was also rated for heel cushioning, forefoot cushioning, and flexibility; and the shoe’s weight and heel and forefoot heights were given. Unfortunately, these guides of suggested shoes usually only include 12-18 shoe models.

It’s a good starting point, but I would use the guides as a reference point to shop at my local running store and get their personal insights.

Even after buying shoes that fit well, be alert to changes inside your shoes as you walk, run, and hike. Jason Pawelsky, with Tamarack, the maker of the popular ENGO Blister Prevention Patches reminds, “We all know that changing conditions (terrain, temperature, distance, etc) can make even the best fitting pair of shoes feel and perform differently so there is no perfect fit 100% of the time. The challenge is to get runners, hikers and team sports players to not only recognize that, but to react proactively.”

Two New High Technology Shoes

January 16, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Footwear, Health, Sports 

This past week I read about two new high technology running shoes. They are very different from what we have seen in the past. The shoes show how far researchers and athletic industry innovators are going in the search to find the perfect running shoe. When I first started running, in the late 80’s, there were about nine shoe companies. Today there are more than 30 and the list is growing.

I’d be willing to try both of these shows – given the opportunity. They peak my interest. We need to be open minded about new shoes coming into the shoe marketplace, because we all remember what people first thought about the Vibram Five-Finger shoes, the minimalist shoes, the maximum cushioned Hokas, and more.

The Enko Running Shoe

Enko Running Shoe

Enko Running Shoe

The first shoe I saw was simply called Enko Running. It comes in five colors. You select your size and a body weight range. It is the most futuristic shoe I have seen in years. You can see the shoe in the image. The forefoot is fixed while the back heel and mid-foot parts of the shoe are controlled by a platform with springs running from mid-shoe to under the heel. The “studs” in the outersole are replaceable. The springs act as shock absorbers, and are delivered to you based on your weight. Enko claims impact is deadened, your stride is smooth and their system conserves all the energy stored in each stride. The springs are interchangeable.

The mechanics of the Enko Running shoe

The mechanics of the Enko Running shoe

The Enko Running shoe won a CES Innovation Award in 2016. The shoe is in a fundraising campaign at IndiGoGo.com where you can fund a pair for $330, $60 off the advertised price on their website. They are 153% funded.

The Ampla Fly Running Shoe

The second shoe I saw was the Ampla Fly from AmplaSport.com. Ampla is founded by a “world-renowned sports scientist and athletic industry innovators.” Dr. Marcus Elliott has trained elite athletes through his P3 Sports Science Institute in California.

Ampla Fly Running Shoe

Ampla Fly Running Shoe

The Ampla Fly shoe is unique with its split outersole, as you can see in the image. It claims to “… empower the efficient use of force. Encourage better mechanics, which provides a platform to help you run faster, run farther…” Their carbon fiber powerforce plate “… glides the foot to a better ground contact position, gather force at mid-stance, and maximizes force application at big toe push-off.” Two videos on the website shows the technology in action. My guess is that the split outersole, with the gap in the forefoot mid-foot, acts as a flex point with the carbon fiber powerforce plate. The shoes come in two colors, in both men’s and women’s sizes. The advertised price is $180.

Design specifics of the Ampla Fly

Design specifics of the Ampla Fly

What do you think about these two new shoe? Does the design intrigue you enough to plunk down your cold hard cash?

Making Overlapping Toe Separators – Part 2

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.

Toe separator #2 on an insole

Toe separator #2 on an insole

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

Toe separator between toes with Injinji socks

Toe separator between toes with Injinji socks

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.

Toe separator between 2nd and 3rd toes with Injinji socks

Toe separator between 2nd and 3rd toes with Injinji socks

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.

Sources

Injinji socks and ENGO patches can be purchased at Zombierunner.com. The patches can also be purchased at the ENGO website. Disclosure: I have an affiliate relationship with Zombierunner.

Making Overlapping Toe Separators – Part 1

January 3, 2016 by · 2 Comments
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.

Toe Separator #1 - top view

Toe Separator #1 – top view

Toe Separator # 1 - bottom view

Toe Separator # 1 – bottom view

Injinji socks and Engo patches can be purchased at Zombierunner.com. The patches can also be purchased at the Engo website.

The ICESPIKE Traction System

December 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Footwear, Footwear Products, Sports 

ICESPIKES have been around for a while and have proven themselves to be a reliable tool for those wanting to run, walk, and hike in winter conditions.

It doesn’t take much in bad conditions to take a nasty fall. Landing on hard ice, a rocky trail, or rocks hidden under snow can ruin your day. Protecting your tailbone, hands and wrists, knees, hips, and ankles, and your back is key to staying active. This is where ICESPIKES come in.

Icespike Traction System

Icespike Traction System

ICESPIKES are a traction system of 32 spikes that are applied directly into the sole of your shoes or boots. Their cold-rolled, tool quality steel will maintain hardness and grip 10 times longer than other systems. The spikes are self-cleaning, while their patented design provided great penetration and stability. They should last up to 500 miles.

ICESPIKES allow you to run, walk, and hike through the winter with the anti-slip spikes

ICESPIKES can also be used in water, mud and muck conditions, on slick rocks and gravel, uneven and root-bound terrain; and in mossy and slick leaf conditions.

For a limited time, use the coupon code “stockingstuffer” for 20% off your purchase.

ICESPIKES are packaged in a kit of 32 spikes and an installation tool and in packages of 32 spikes.

ENGO Blister Prevention Patches

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

ENGO in Footwear

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.

ENGO Applied

ENGO Applied

ENGO Applied

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 Patch in Shoe

ENGO Patch in Shoe

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.

ENGO in a Shoe's Heel

ENGO in a Shoe’s Heel

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.

When Your Shoes Fail You 

October 3, 2015 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Footwear, Sports 

It’s not common but it can happen. At the worst opportune moment, your shoes fail you. Maybe it’s on a training run, or worse yet, it’s during a race or somewhere where you are miles from getting help or another pair of shoes.

I’ve seen it more than a few times.

Shoes that fell apart where the upper joins the midsole. Shoes where the upper material was so flimsy it came apart running in an adventure race. Shoes that partially melted when left too close to a fire in the desert in Chile (that was user error though!). Shoes with seams that did not hold, leaving gapping holes in the uppers. Shoes where the outersoles came apart. Shoes whose shoelaces won’t stay tied. Shoes that simple fell apart.

Then the other day a story on Facebook caught my attention. One of Nike’s elite runners was running the Berlin Marathon this past Sunday and had a major shoe failure.

Keya’s Eliud Kipchoge won the marathon, but the insoles of both shoes came up and out the back heel counter of the shoe. He had run in the shoes previously in Kenya without incident. Here’s a link to the story on The Wall Street Journal’s website.

Insole failure

Insole failure

In the marathon, the shoes failed around the first kilometer! It’s hard to be certain, but he missed the world record by just 63 seconds. Setting a new world record was his goal for the race. Nike said he was testing a new prototype.

I feel for Mr. Kipchoge.

Sometimes stuff just happens. Sometimes though it happens because of user error, as in one of my examples above.

Your job is to make sure that whenever you lace up your shoes, they are in good working condition. How often do you take a few minutes and check your shoes? Take out the insoles and clean out the shoes and wipe off the insoles. Check the insoles to make sure that aren’t flatter than a pancake or even worn through. Make sure the back edge of the insole around the heel hasn’t folded over or formed a hard, thick edge. Check your laces for worn spots that could break, Check the shoes top to bottom for seams coming apart or weak areas. Check the midsole to make sure it still has life left in it. Make sure the inside fabric of the heel counter doesn’t have holes in it.  Make sure the outersole hasn’t loosened at the edges and that it isn’t work through.

That’s your job. It really pretty simple. But you’d be surprised how many times I’ve seen runners in a race that they’ve paid a lot of money to enter, and trained hard for, only to wear shoes that should have been replaced.

Don’t let your shoes fail you, -and make sure you don’t fail your shoes.

8 Top Tips for Foot Care

8 Top Tips for Foot Care    

If you are a subscriber to Backpacker magazine, check out the October issue, page 34 for a full page of eight top tips to care for your feet. I have included an image of the page in this post. If you click on the image, you’ll get a larger view.

I was contacted by Backpacker several months ago and did a phone interview. Here are the eight tips:

  1. Trim nails
  2. Get in shape
  3. Fix calluses
  4. Prep your shoes
  5. Pack camp sandals
  6. Two ways to treat blood under a nail
  7. Wash your socks
  8. Lance right
8 Top Tips for Foot Care

8 Top Tips for Foot Care

The tips are good whether you are a backpacker, runner, walker, adventure racer, or just plain person who loves the outdoors.

I like Backpacker magazine. It’s one of my favorites. I encourage you to pick up a copy and check it out.

Foot Care Preparation for Primal Quest – or Your Next Event

The seven tips below are written for the Primal Quest Expedition Adventure Race starting next week. They are also applicable to any race you may have coming up.

Primal Quest is less than two weeks away and here are seven things you can do to improve your chances of finishing with healthy feet.

1.    Wear the best fitting shoes you can. Have a bit of space in front of your longest toe and enough height in the shoe’s toe box to avoid squishing the toes from the top.

2.    Bad toenail care can result in toe blisters and black toenails, where fluid or blood is under the nail. Trim your toenails short and then use a nail file to smooth the tip of the nail. File the nails from the top over the edge down toward the tip of the toe. The goal of the trimming and filing is to remove any rough or sharp edges. File the nails so when you run your fingertip up and over the tip of the toe no rough edges are felt. It’s even better to file the nail so that no tip of the nail is felt. If you have thick nails, file the top of the nail down to reduce its thickness.

3.    Any time you can, remove your shoes and socks to dry and air your feet. Your feet will be wet from water disciplines, stream crossings, cooling yourself off by pouring water over yourself, and simply sweaty feet. When stopping to eat or rest, remove your shoes and socks. Lay your socks in the sun to dry and switch to a clean dry pair if possible. Issues caused by wet feet will multiply over time and can end your race or at the least, result in extremely painful feet.

4.    Do everything in your power to prevent and reduce maceration. This means not letting water poured over your head get into your shoes by bending over before dousing yourself. If means following the tips outlined in # 2 above.  Use a moisture-controlling agent to help prevent the skin on the bottoms of your feet from macerating. Several include Desitin Maximum Strength Original Paste (available at drug stores, Walmart, etc), zinc oxide, Chafe X, SportsSlick, Trail Toes, and RunGoo. Apply liberally and before all water segments to help prevent damage to your skin. Once serious maceration happens, only drying your feet and letting them air, with the help of powder and warmth, will reverse the condition. If left unchecked, the skin can fold over on itself, split open, and tear layers of skin off the bottom of your feet.

5.    Use gaiters to prevent pebbles and rocks, trail dust, and other debris from getting inside your shoes and socks. These become irritants and can lead to hot spots and blisters.

6.    Take care of small issues before they become larger problems. Lance and drain small blisters whenever you feel them to keep them from becoming larger. Put a dab of ointment over the blister and then apply a strip of tape over the top to protect the skin.

7.    Finally, make sure you have the supplies to treat your feet out on the course. Waiting to get to a TA to repair a blister can make a small problem much larger.

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