Last Saturday was the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run over the California Sierras. As you probably know, California is in year four of a severe drought. Most of us expected the trails to be dusty and dry. From everything I heard, they were.
So in a dry Western States year, why did so many runners have macerated feet from being wet?
There are several reasons. First, runners often cool themselves off by pouring or squirting water over their heads and on their body. We all know water runs downhill – right? So the water naturally runs down the legs and into the shoes. Socks become wet and as I often say – the skin of one’s feet prune up. In other words, they look like a wrinkled prune. Better to bend at the waist and let the water run off the head and shoulders rather than down the body.
Secondly, runners sometimes cool off by getting into the water at any stream. Several runners talked of sitting in the streams. While this can cool the runner, it is the worst thing a runner can do to their feet.
When they remain wet long enough, the skin becomes soft, often creating creases. Many times these creases are deep and in severe cases, the skin can split open.
Most often the runners complain of badly blistered feet. In fact, there are no blisters, just macerated skin on the bottom of their feet. This condition can be very painful. Walking and running hurts one’s feet.
There is no fast cure. They say time heals all wounds and with maceration, it takes time for the skin to dry and return to its normal state. Putting powder on the skin can help, as can clean fresh socks, gentle massage, and letting the skin air-dry.
I saw a lot of macerated feet at Michigan Bluff, mile 55.7. More than I expected. And of course there were lots of runners wanting treatment for bad blisters at the finish, and it was maceration.
The picture here is of a runner who completed the race, I think sometime around 28-29 hours. I don’t know his story but at some point before the race or in the race, he had his right foot wrapped in what appeared to be a self-adherent wrap, with a thick pad of some kind at the heel. Then that was wrapped with layers of what seemed to be silk type medical tape. Tonya and I had to use trauma shears to cut the thick wrap off his foot. Once it came off we saw the extent of the damage to his foot.
If anyone knows the runner or recognizes him, I’d love to find out more. It’s possible that because of maceration the skin at the heel had sheared off and someone at a medical aid station, or crew, had cut the skin and put on the wrap.
What we did at the finish was to apply a coating of antibiotic ointment to the open and raw skin, cover it with a wound care dressing, and wrap with a self-adhering wrap. We gave him instruction on how to care for this in the days after the race.
Look closely at the picture. He’s happy. He has his finisher’s medallion and knows he’s getting his buckle.
Filed under: blister care, Foot Care, Foot Care Products, Footcare, Footwear, Footwear Products
Many runners have a love-hate relationship with gaiters.
Some love them and swear by them when running trails. Others never wear them, and dislike them. Which camp do you fall in?
I have regularly promoted the value of gaiters since I made my first homemade set from a pair of old white cotton crew socks. I believe it was one of the first years I ran Western States, maybe in 1985 or 86. I cut the foot out of the socks, leaving the ankle part to pull on my foot and fold over to cover the top of my shoes. I used twist-ties to anchor the socks to the shoes. And – they worked – as primitive as they were.
Then as the years progressed, people with more business sense than I started to make and sell gaiters. Now days, you can get gaiters in a myriad of colors and types.
I still believe in gaiters for trail runners, and in one recent conversation, told a friend that should make them mandatory gear for multi-day trail events.
You have every right to ask why.
Today’s shoes have become increasingly lightweight and many shoes are made with mesh uppers. It’s this mesh that allows all kinds of sand, dust, grit, and dirt into the shoe. These bad things will work their way into your socks and onto your skin. Rubbing and abrasions can occur. If you use any type of lubricant on your feet, the bad stuff will be attracted to the stickiness. The bad stuff can be a contributing factor that can lead to blisters.
A good set of gaiters will cover the tops of the shoes and the toe box to keep bad stuff out.
I’ve included two images of special gaiters that are typically found at the Marathon des Sables (MdS).
Here is the link to the myRaceKit for the MdS page that shows two gaiters they support. And a page from their blog that describes the fit and application.
These are highly useful when doing races in the desert, but how about when running trails? I believe the weak point in some gaiters is how they fail to cover the top of the shoe’s upper, thus allowing bad stuff inside.
I have treated many runners’ feet that are filthy with dirt and grit that makes it hard to wash off in order to find, clean, drain, and patch blisters. Blister patches and tape usually does not stick to dirty skin. In addition to making it harder for medical personnel to clean one’s feet, it also means it takes longer, which can affect not only your race, but those behind you that also need their feet worked on.
Back when, I wore homemade gaiters because that’s all there was. Now there are many styles and fabrics to choose from.
If I was going to run a tail race of any length, but especially a 50M or 100M, or multi-day race, I would buy one of the gaiters that attached to the shoe with Velcro and cover the whole shoe.
Here are two of my blog posts about gaiters.
Blisters and Gaiters – this is by Lisa de Speville and adventure racer and ultrarunner from Soith Africa and her homemade gaiters.
In two weeks I will be working foot care at the Michigan Bluff aid station of the Western States 100. Then three weeks later I’ll be doing a foot care study at the Tahoe Rim Trail 100-Mile Run. I’d love to see a few runners wearing a more substantial gaiter.
Spring is here. The weather is turning and the days are longer thanks to the earlier day light saving’s time change. I, for one, love the longer daylight.
As the weather gets better, we look forward to spending more time outdoors. This is a good time to take a few minutes and check out your footwear. Haul them out and go over them, one pair at a time.
Check your shoes and/or boots for excessive sole wear, frayed shoelaces, torn uppers, lint and debris inside the shoes, flattened out insoles, and squished down midsoles. Any of these can cause problems as you change your gait in response to the worn shoes. More than your feet are affected. Changes move upward, affecting your ankles, knees, hips, and back. Don’t risk an injury because of worn out shoes.
Keep your feet happy with good footwear.
If you follow the shoe companies and read any of the popular running, backpacking, and outdoors magazines, or follow their websites, you know many have released new models. Check them out at your local store. There are some great new shoes being introduced. I’d bet one of them has your name on it.
There is an old Chinese proverb; “Failure results not from the length of the journey or the height of the mountain but the pebble in one’s shoe.”
We have all had it at some point – the pebble that is.
We are running or walking or hiking and feel a small irritant. We think to ourselves that maybe our sock bunched up. But, after a bit, we realize its something else. So we move our foot around a bit or kick it up against a rock or log, or maybe sideways on the ground. The hope is that that kick will move the irritating thing to the side where we won’t feel it.
Sometimes it works for a while. But it always comes back. We are always better off to stop, take off your shoes, and clear whatever the problem is. Even the smallest pebble can cause problems. It can start with a hot spot and develop into a blister. It can cause a hole to develop in the sock. It can tear into the insole’s covering.
So stop and remove it.
I remember a few years back when I was at the Gold Rush Adventure Race and encountered a similar situation. One of the racers came into the transition area and in the process of changing socks, I told her I’d clean out her shoes. The race route had taken runners through muddy areas and some had gone down into her shoes.
As I used my hands to clean inside her shoes, I found very rough hard edges under both heels. I thought it was a defect or tear in the insole. Surprisingly, it was hardened mud that was so hard, it took a lot of pressure to remove it from the insole. This must have hurt through the socks – but the racer had not bothered to clear out her shoes.
In reality, it might be a pebble – or mud. In either case, you are always better off to take a moment and get rid of the irritant.
Of course, I have to recommend gaiters for trail running. They can keep the pebble out in the first place!
Efraim Manzano caught my eye a few weeks when I learned that he had run the HURT 100 in Hawaii in Crocs. I messaged in on Facebook and we chatted back and forth a few times. He lives in Honolulu, Hawaii and has been running all his life, but running races for the past 10 years, and ultras for five years. Efraim said he’d be happy to share some tips about running in Crocs and how he came to use them rather than trail shoes. Here are the questions I asked Efraim and his responses. I added content about Crocs in a couple of sections.
Question: How often do you run in Crocs?
I run with my Crocs all the time.
Question: Do you also run in road or trail shoes?
No road or trail shoes, I only run in Crocs.
Question: What style Crocs do you use?
I use the Classic Beach style for road running (Marathon, Ironman) and the Bistro style for trail running. The Classic model has vent holes both on top of the toebox and around the side of the toe and forefoot. These are good for road races and help ventilate the feet. Crocs on average weigh 11 ounces per pair.
Question: How did you get started in wearing Crocs?
Back in 2007 before the Honolulu Marathon a friend of mine dared me to run in a Bahag (Filipino G String) or loincloth, commonly used throughout the Philippines before the arrival of the European colonizers, and which is still used by the indigenous tribe of the Philippines today. Shoes looked awkward with the Bahag so that’s when the Crocs came about and been I’ve been running in them ever since then.
Question: Do you use them in training and in races?
Yes! I always train in Crocs and use them in all my races.
Question: What’s the longest run you have done in them?
My longest run in Crocs is 100 miles.
Question: How long will they last (miles/time)?
They last a long time, approximately 1000+ miles, I still have the Crocs that I’ve use back in 2007 Honolulu Marathon and still use that pair for training.
Question: Do you wear socks with them?
Yes I always wear socks with them. I use any socks – even use socks I buy from Costco.
Question: Because they fit loosely, how do you keep them on your feet? Do you use the strap around the heel?
My feet always swell up after running anything over a marathon distance so I like my Crocs to be loose and yes, I always use the strap around the heels for insurance. The swelling that I’m talking about is the normal swelling of the feet when you are running or cycling. With regular running shoes it would bother me a lot because my feet get squeezed in there – so I like the looseness of the Crocs specially on those long run like marathons and especially on those ultra runs.
Question: Because they are fairly smooth on the bottom, how are they on trails?
I use the Crocs Bistro style on the trail. Crocs Bistros are designed specifically for those in the food service, hospitality and health care industries and has the Crocs lock slip-resistant tread. It works pretty well on the trails, even muddy trails. The Bistro also has an enclosed toe and forefoot design without the holes common to other Crocs designs like the Classic. The Bistro also has a more cushioned metatarsal area in the forefoot. The Bistro Pro has even more cushioning, an adjustable heel strap, and beefed up toe and heel bumpers for protection. The Bistro sells for about $45 and the Bistro Pro for $60.
Question: Have you had problems with rocks, dirt and trail grit getting inside?
At the HURT 100 a couple weeks ago when I feel something inside my Crocs I don’t let it bother me. I just stop running and take my Crocs off and shake it out. It gives me three seconds rest and recovery! The enclosed toe design helps keep junk out of the toebox.
Question: Have you had any foot problems from wearing them?
By the grace of God I never had any foot problems from wearing them, I had more problems before when I use to wear those high-end shoes. About blisters, it all depends if the socks got wet, this past HURT 100 I didn’t got any blisters. I changed my socks every loop so I didn’t get any blisters, but in the previous races that I’ve done before I’ve had blisters from the Crocs – especially on the rainy day.
Note: Thank you John for giving me this privilege to share my experience using the best and the most comfy running/cycling shoes in the world!
There you have it. You can run in Crocs! Thanks Efriam for sharing your story with our readers. I’ve heard of people wearing Crocs before, but this had never made a connection to do an interview. I’ll continue to use the three pair I have at home. Maybe the next pair I get will be the Bistro Pro. If you want to leaner more about the entire Crocs line, check them out at Crocs.com.
Filed under: Foot Care Products, Footwear, Footwear Products, Health, Sports
Superfeet’s Wool Insoles
I have liked Superfeet’s insoles for many years. Last year I was sent a pair of Superfeet’s Wool Insoles to try. Before talking about these insoles, a bit of information about the design of their insoles is in order.
If you need good support in an insole, look at a Superfeet insole. They are designed to work with the volume and fit profile of your feet. The volume is the amount of room needed inside your shoe to accommodate your feet, the sock and the insole. The fit is the amount of support and the shape of the insole under the foot and heel. With these insoles, you don’t get a one-size-fits-all type of insole. This is important if you have feet that require heel or arch support, like an insole with a well-defined heel cup, or simply want a insole that will hold up for a long time.
Their volume and fit profile is based on three types of feet – low, medium, and high fit; and low, medium, and high volume. Low is the most common foot type, medium fits in most types of footwear, and high gives the most support. Fortunately, the Superfeet website shows how each insole is designed for volume and fit, which makes it easy to find the best insole for your feet.
Their merino wool insole would be a good choice if you want a bit of added warmth in your shoes. The insole has the typical plastic support from the heel and mid-foot. Over that is the full-length foam that supports the top layer of merino wool. I measure these layers at about 1/8th inch each. That gives some added insulation from the cold coming up from the ground. The wool thickness is generous. They are very comfortable. You can get the merino wool insole in grey, which is thicker and made for high fit and volume, or white, which is made for medium fit and volume. All of the Superfeet insoles can be viewed on the Superfeet website. After that, you can purchase them from Superfeet, Zombierunner.com, your local running store, outdoors store, or other online stores.
They key with any insole is to try them in your shoes. Some are thicker and will reduce the amount of space in your shoes for your socks and feet. If that’s the case, you can either move to a thinner and lighter weight sock, or find an insole with less thickness.
So make sure you try an insole in your shoe before going out for your long run or hike. Wear them around the house for a while and see how they feel.
Filed under: blister care, Foot Care, Footwear, Footwear Products
Heel blisters are quite common – although they shouldn’t be.
Today’s post shows one participant’s feet at the 2014 Amazon Jungle Marathon.
If you look closely at this picture, you’ll see two heel blisters, both on the outside of the runner’s feet. The right foot blister is large but is not blood-filled. The blister on the left heel, however, is very large and filled with a large amount of blood.
It’s easy to think these are normal blisters – but their size makes they abnormal.
In my experience, heel blisters are caused by the constant shear when either 1) the heel is moving up and down inside the shoes’ heel, or 2) by the constant movement at the place where the shoe’s insole touches the inside of the shoe. Over the years, the majority of heel blisters have been the latter. One of the characteristics of this “insole/shoe junction” blister is that they often are flat across the bottom. The blister starts at the point where the insole’s edge at the side of the heel touches the inside of the shoe. That’s what makes the flat line at the bottom. Then the blister forms upward as the fluid forms and it grows. Given enough time and movement, you’ll get blood inside.
These are relatively simple to patch. The skin must be cleaned with alcohol wipes, and then the blister can be lanced and drained. Depending on the size of the blister, you’ll need to apply some type of blister patch. The bottom line is that you need to have something over the blister to protect the skin and prevent the top layer of skin from tearing off. For these, I would use strips of kinesiology tape (my preference is either StrengthTape or RockTape H2O) with antibiotic ointment over the blister to keep the tape from sticking to the skin. The larger the blister, the harder these are to patch but it can be done.
You are better off to prevent these blisters in the first place.
Start with the fit. Make sure your shoes hold your heels in place with just a little movement.
Check your shoes and insoles for rough and/or thick edges at the inside and outside of each heel. Side blisters are much more common than the back of the heel. If the insole has a large thick edge, replace them. If the shoe’s fabric is worn into a hole, you are due for new shoes. Under the fabric is generally a plastic edge of the shoe’s heel counter – the plastic that curves around the heel from side to side.
Engo Blister Prevention Patches are perfect for to help prevent these types of blisters. These patches are super slick. Either the small or large oval can be applied to the inside of the shoe and cover the offending edge of the insole/shoe junction. Clean the inside of the shoe and insole first. I work the patch with my fingers to form a curve to fit with area I need to cover. Then remove the backing and apply the center of the patch first and then push the top and bottom of the patch into place. Rub it a bit to assure adherence.
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.