Filed under: blister care, Books, Foot Care, Foot Care Products, Health, Sports, Travel
I have known Terri Schneider for a long time. She did triathlons, moved up to focus on Ironman’s, then discovered adventure racing. When I heard about her new book, I knew I had to interview her. Her just released book, Dirty Inspirations, tells the stories of her “lessons from the trenches of extreme endurance sports” – the subtitle of the book.
From the back cover, we read, “By choosing to walk the path of more resistance, we come to a better understanding of ourselves and our potential for physical, mental, and emotional growth. And nowhere is this better represented than in the crucible of extreme endurance sports, where athletes are truly pushed beyond the bounds of what seems possible. Seen through the eyes of one of the most diversely experienced female athletes on the planet, the stories in Dirty Inspirations showcase discomfort as virtue, and demonstrate the truly indomitable nature of the human spirit.”
Chapters in Dirty Inspirations take readers into Ironman and adventure races and ultramarathons in Utah, Australia, California, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Tibet and Nepal, New Zealand, Egypt, China, Argentina, Alaska, and Ecuador. Terri raced in many countries, with huge awe-inspiring challenges, and unforgettable memories.
Along the way, she also learned a lot about her feet and how to do foot care. In this unique audio interview, I talk to Terri about the races, foot care secrets, and a lot more. It’s about 23 minutes in length.
Along the way, Terri learned a lot about herself as an athlete and a person. You and I may not have the opportunities to do the races she did, but we can live them through her stories.
For an in-depth interview with Terri about the book and how she wrote it, check out my Writers & Authors on Fire podcast where I interview her for an hour about the writing process.
Filed under: Foot Care Products, Footwear Products, Health, Sports, Travel
Many athletes suffer from cold feet.
Athletes have several options to deal with cold feet. The first, most commonly tried, is different socks. Some simply try thicker socks or two pair. Others go straight to thermal type socks made with wool or some other blend of yarns.
Footwear is often a contributing factor to cold feet. Today’s running shoes typically have a part-mesh upper, which lets cold air inside the shoes. And since the mesh is over the forefoot and toes, they get cold first. Secondly, footwear that is too tight, because the wearer has thicker than normal or two pairs of socks, causes constriction and impedes circulation.
Something else often tried is disposable chemical warming packets. These seem inexpensive at first, but because they are single time use, the costs add up quickly. Packs of 10, using two at a time, go fast. And they often don’t generate enough heat to provide overall warmth.
Another option for cold feet is one of the new lines of heated insoles. One major heated insole companies is Thermacell. While not cheap, if you suffer from cold feet long enough, you’ll likely be willing to spend the money for warm feet. Their insoles are water resistant, and durable. Once they reach the desired temperature, they turn off and then turn back on when needed. The insole’s top is molded and cushioning while underneath the inner components, is an insulated layer to keep heat from escaping. The insoles can be trimmed to fit shoes or boots.
Thermacell has two types of insoles:
Heater Insole Foot Warmers with embedded batteries that can be recharged 500+ times. Operated by a wireless remote control, they operate with lithium-ion polymer batteries embedded in the insoles. The three options are no heat, medium (100 degrees F), and high (111 degrees F). Each charge will last up to five hours with a medium heat setting. The batteries can be recharged at least 500 times and recharges in four hours or less. Their website currently offers a free car charger with every pair purchased while supplies last. These Heated Insoles retail are selling for $129.99 and come in full and half sizes. Click here for Thermacell Insole Foot Warmers.
ProFLEX Heated Insoles with removable batteries for extended use. They have the same features as the above insoles, same heating options, same wireless remote control, and the same rechargeable batteries. The first main difference is that the batteries are removable and replacement batteries are available. The second difference is that these are charged with a USB port or the customary wall charger. These insoles retail for $184.99. Click here for Thermacell ProFLEX Heated Insoles.
Thermacell’s insoles have been tested by SATRA, the worldwide leader in footwear research development and testing. SATRA found the insoles resistant to moisture, verified the five hour run time, and that the insoles maintain foot comfort with their heating.
If you feet are always cold, I’d look at these Thermacell insoles to help keep them warm. These could work in running shoes, cycling shoes, and hiking boots, as well as your normal everyday shoes. Make sure to check the insole thickness inside your shoes to see if you need to wear a less bulky sock.
Filed under: blister care, Foot Care, Footcare, Health, Sports, Travel
In early October I had the unique opportunity to return to Brazil and provide foot care to runners at the 10th Annual Jungle Marathon Amazon. The race is more than a marathon. It’s three races in one event set in a stage race format. Every day the race camp moves to a new location as the runners go through the jungle and along the beaches of the Amazon River. There’s a seven day, six stage race and a four day race, that both start at the same time. Then on day four, the single day marathon stage starts.
This year’s race was the toughest of any event I have been a part of. There was single track trails hacked through the jungle, red dirt roads with loose dirt, swamps and streams and rivers, humidity, heat, rain, sand that got everywhere, never ending wet feet and water-logged shoes, bugs and spiders and snakes, jaguar sightings, a lot of bee stings, either cold food or food heated with hot water, jungle and beach camps, carrying all your gear in a backpack, and nine nights in a hammock. Runner’s feet took a beating and as the days progressed, it was harder for them to recover. The cumulative affect of having your feet wet for the majority of every day, became a struggle for many runners. Maceration was a serious problem for everyone, and blisters affected all runners to varying degrees.
After the race ended, I was able to take a a few minutes and interview Amy Gasson, the second place women in the seven day race. Amy was a joy to know and smiled every day with a great positive attitude. Here’s the link to listen to the audio interview. It’s 17 minutes long.
Considering the interview was recorded with a handheld digital recorder, in the lobby of our hotel with all it’s normal background noises, the sound quality is remarkable. There’s a lot we can learn from what Amy shares. She did her homework and prepared well – both physically and her feet. Here’s a photo of Amy and me at the finish line.
Thanks Amy for letting me get to know you at the Jungle Marathon Amazon.
Filed under: blister care, Foot Care, Foot Care Products, Health, Sports, Travel
Several months ago I received an offer to test several products made by Sportique Brands. It took only a little investigation to learn that Sportique is a high-quality company that carries a wide array of athletic and multisport endurance products made from botanicals and all natural ingredients. Their tag line is “Body Care for Active Bodies.”
Over a few months I used the Hard Day’s Night Foot Cream, the Century Riding Cream, the Foot Gel, and the Foot Spray. I like that these products contain no petroleum or harsh chemicals. As I have used the products and researched their complete product line as well as the ingredients and commitment to all natural product, I have the highest regard for Sportique. Their products are all vegetarian and most are vegan.
Sportique’s product line covers foot care, skin care, joint and muscle care, lip care, active care, massage, and shaving and personal care.
It’s important to understand that the substances we put on our skin is absorbed into our system. While using products with less than stellar ingredients once or twice a month may seem innocent, athletes who use them on a consistent basis, or do ultra or multi-day events should be concerned. Ingredients like petrochemicals, sulfate based detergents, and even petroleums disrupt the oils your skin needs. Toxins are absorbed into the liver and can affect our metabolism. In fact, whatever you put on your skin hits your liver in about four hours.
As I set out to write this review of Sportique products, the list kept growing. As an added benefit, the combination of botanicals and oils make these products smell good too! You can click on each product name to go directly to the product page, or click here to see all product and kits on one page.
Hard Day’s Night Foot Cream – A formulation of botanical and oils that smoothes roughness and calluses. Also works to deodorize and revitalize your feet. Comes in a 6 oz. tube. The cream worked great on the rough skin and calluses on my heels. I used the cream after showering and after using a callus file. Over a period of a month, I noticed a definite reduction in the callus and smoother skin. The thing to remember on callus for most athletes; it’s a continuing job to control the rough skin.
Foot Gel – A cooling gel to apply to tired feet. Its botanical ingredients are antimicrobial, antifungal, and it limits the development of perspiration. Comes in a 6 oz. tube. Just like the Foot Spray, it leaves the skin feeling refreshed.
Foot Spray – A refreshing and cooling foot spray to eliminate odor and absorb moisture. It also has antimicrobial, antifungal botanical ingredients. Comes in a 4 oz. container. The spray really does have a refreshing feeling. It felt good on my toes and bottoms of my feet.
Century Riding Cream – A collection of botanical ingredients to help repair skin after chafing and damage from friction. Contains important plant based occlusive silicones for a long-lasting friction free barrier. Also includes antifungal, antimicrobial, and skin conditioning botanicals. This cream can be used on all friction points with all running, riding, kayak, scuba, surf gear, and to prevent chafing and blisters. Available in 3.5 and 6 oz. tubes. It can be used on toes, feet, seat, armpits, chest, and groin, under sports bras – anywhere you chafe. I tried this on my feet and in my bike shorts and was impressed. I can see this being my lube of choice.
I have several more products on my list to try. They include:
Elements Cream – This is a cream to use for protection from wet, cold, heat and dry weather. The combination of botanicals and oils works to keep four face and exposed skin from chapping and chafing. Elements Cream is infused with a substance, which prevents seaweed from freezing in the ocean – it has been tested to -40 degrees! It was used in November by the winner of the Antarctic Iceman Marathon who beat his competition by some five hours. It prevents windburn and chapping for runners, cyclists, skiers – anyone out in the Elements.Available in a 6 0z. tube. The recommended use is to apply a light layer of cream and then after a few moments, apply a second slightly heavier layer.
Get Going Cream and the Warming Up Cream for pre-and post-race muscle treatment – both work to loosen up, expand capillaries, bring blood to muscle to avoid injury and improve comfort in the cold. Your skin’s sensitivity level will dictate your results of each.
Joint & Muscle Gel – For relief of achy and stiff muscles; helping strained joints and improves flexibility. It’s ingredients work to maximize relaxation, reduce muscle tightening, and calms nerves. Packaged in a 6 oz. tube.
Foot Powder with Lavender – A deodorizing and antifungal powder combined with lavender. Its botanical ingredients help absorbs perspiration, control inflammation, and keep skin cool and dry. Comes in a 3.4 oz. shaker.
I’d suggest putting your choice of Sportique products into smaller container as necessary to carry them in a pack or to carry in your cycling jersey. Many outdoor stores and drug stores offer smaller containers that could hold enough for a day’s event or a multi-day event in a lighter weight package.
For my October trip to the Amazon, Kathleen, the CEO at Sportique Brands suggested, “… for an alternative to DEET in the Amazon use our Foot Spray and/or Deodorant to repel leeches if you are doing any hiking in the jungle. The leeches have a unique way of ending up in your socks and can be a nuisance. Each morning spray your legs before putting your socks on and you should be good to go. I did some extensive trekking in India, Nepal and Tibet in the 80’s during monsoon season. Leeches are the thing to watch for in a wet jungle setting. DEET is usually the recommendation but it is tough on your body…we offer chemical free alternatives.”
Customer reviews are a good indicator of what people think about products. Sportique has a page dedicated to customer reviews. Look them over and you’ll see positive reviews from happy customers.
Sportique products are free of petroleum, animal byproducts, synthetic colors & preservatives, petrochemicals like PEGs, polyethylene and polypropylene glycol, parabens, carbomers, diethanolamine (DEA), and synthetic fragrances – and none of the ingredients and final products are tested on animals. Their products are all vegetarian and most are vegan.
Save 10% on Your Order
My readers can get 10% off your total order when you use the coupon code “FixingYourFeet’” at checkout. Put the code in the box just before hitting the orange check out button. Sportique can ship anywhere in the U.S., Canada, Asia, Europe, Australia, and South America. On international orders the buyer will be charged duties and taxes in the sales checkout process. Sales to Brazil and Columbia are discouraged because products often disappear before getting to the buyer. Sales cannot be made to Africa.
Sportique Brands is the exclusive wholesale distributor of Sportique products in the Unites States and sells through their website retail outlet to those not within reach of a store selling Sportique Brand products.
Disclaimer: I was provided products to test and have no financial involvement in Sportique.
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.
Back in May I posted an article about Training With Wet Feet. My being invited to work on the medical team at the Jungle Marathons in Vietnam and the Amazon prompted the article. While the Vietnam race had to be cancelled, the Amazon race is happening – in a bit over two weeks.
As I wrote in that article, it was long felt the best way to manage your feet was to keep them as dry as possible. This was more and more evident as Denise Jones and I worked the Badwater Ultramarathon in the heat of Death Valley each July. Runners who kept their feet dry typically finished better than those who had wet feet. This was also based on our experiences at Western States and other events.
Then came the invite to help at the Jungle Marathons.
The Jungle Marathons are run by Race Director Shirley Thompson and the Medical Team Manager is Vicky Kypta. They found their runners had a better race when they trained with wet feet. As part of their instructions to their race participants, they stress the importance of training with wet feet.
The reason for this is the Jungle Marathons are wet. Very wet is typical in the jungle. Whether through rivers or streams, the Amazon is full of water.
When I am helping runners at the race in early October, I will be closely monitoring the condition of their feet. I expect runners will use lubricants and other products to control the moisture, or powder, socks, well-draining shoes, and maybe a few home-grown tricks.
Over the past few months, I have shared some of the findings by Rebecca Rushton, a podiatrist from Australia. In her Blister Prevention Report, she talks about managing moisture control. She supports her report with studies from medical and other professional journals. What she found through the studies is that you could reduce the incidence of blisters by keeping the skin either very dry or very wet.
Rebecca writes that, “… the very high or very low skin moisture strategies aim to reduce the coefficient of friction value between the sock and the skin to below blister-causing levels.”
The Coefficient of Friction
The coefficient of friction (COF) is the number that represents the slipperiness or stickiness between two surfaces. According to studies, this number is generally below 1.0. Inside the shoe, the COF between the foot’s skin, and the sock and insole can range from 0.5 and 0.9. Compare this to the COF between a sock and a polished floor – about 0.2.
In Rushton’s report, she illustrates this with an example of a runner whose feet sweat a lot. His socks become damp, creating a moist condition. The COF in this case might be 0.7. By moving away from a moist condition to either very dry or very wet, the runner might reduce the COF to 0.5. If the runner’s blister-causing threshold is 0.6, getting to 0.5 will reduce his chances of blistering. Reducing the COF between your skin and socks/insole combination is important to having healthy feet.
Moist skin produces higher friction than very dry or very wet skin. Whether skin is dry and becomes moist through sweat or through a water moisture source, or is very wet and becomes moist through heat or simply drying out, when it hits this middle stage, it becomes more susceptible to blistering.
Very Dry Skin
Drying the skin can be done with powders, antiperspirants or other drying agents, used by themselves or in conjunction with moisture control socks. Keeping the skin very dry is tough because our feet sweat naturally. Humid or hot conditions can also make it hard to keep the skin dry. Dumping water over your head to cool yourself can result in water running down your legs into your shoes – defeating your efforts to keep your feet dry. Airing your feet with shoes and socks off can help. If you use powders, make sure it is high quality and does not cake, which can be an irritant. When counting on any of these methods to keep your skin dry, you mush also have shoes that allow moisture to escape. That may include shoes with mesh uppers and drain holes in the arches and heels.
Very Wet Skin
Increasing skin moisture leads to very wet, lubricated skin that reduces the skin’s coefficient of friction. This can be through the use of a lubricant and or by simply having wet feet. The thing to remember is that over time, 1-3 hours, friction will increase as the lubricant is absorbed into the socks – so ongoing application is required.
Remember too what happens to your skin when you spend too much time in the water. It becomes weaker and less able to resist trauma on wrinkly skin. In extreme cases, the skin can fold over on itself and split. Severe maceration can be painful and athletes say it feel like a giant blister on the bottom of their feet.
In the Amazon Jungle Marathon, the trick will be to dry the feet at the end of each day’s stage. Because the feet will be wet during much of each day’s stage, the runners will have to find the balance between very dry and very wet, avoiding moist as much as possible.
Here’s some advice from my previous post about training with wet feet.
As said earlier, stop and deal with any hot spots as soon as you feel them. Check for folds in your socks, friction from dirt or sand, pressure inside your shoes – and get rid of these irritants. Lube the area or apply a piece of tape or blister prevention patch to help. This may seem like common sense, but many people ignore this simple step.
At the end of each day’s stage, remove your wet shoes and socks, dry your feet and air them as much as possible. If your feet have tape on them, remove the tape to dry the skin underneath. Wear sandals or Crocs around camp to keep your feet away from the wet ground and dirt and sand. Walking around barefoot will often aggravate wet, cold, and soft macerated skin. Later in the day or the next morning, re-tape your feet and patch any blisters.
Rest assured that I will write about how everyone’s feet held up in the wet Amazon jungle.
Credit is due to Rebecca Rushton for her Blister Prevention Report. Her website is Blister Prevention. Check out her website and sign up for her newsletter and free reports.
Here is the link to the Jungle Marathon Amazon.
If you want to read more, check out this article I did in November 2012 about Stuart Crispin who completed the race in Vibram FiveFingers.
Filed under: blister care, Foot Care, Footwear, Sports, Travel
Last week I read a report over at BirthdayShoes.com about a guy who completed the Jungle Marathon in the Amazon in Vibram FiveFingers. I was fascinated by what I read and contacted the race director who made the connection. Stuart Crispin sent me the article he submitted to Vibram.
“I recently completed the 2012 Jungle Marathon in Brazil, and in doing became the first person ever to take part in and finish this grueling event wearing a pair of Vibram FiveFingers (VFFs). With the help of a pair of VFF Spyridons men’s 43 I even managed to finish the worlds toughest endurance race, as listed by CNN, in 5th place overall. I did not wear toe socks at any time during the race. [Stuart’s overall time was 47 hours, 43 minutes.]
The race is a six-stage, seven-day self-supported foot race. Runners have to carry all of their food, clothing, hammock, sleeping bag/liner, medical kit and other mandatory kit, as well as 2.5 litres of water (picked up at every checkpoint). My rucksack at the start of day one weighed about 12.5kg. The longest stage on day five is a non-stop 108.5 km ultramarathon. The total seven-day distance covered was over 255km across swamps, dense jungle, mangroves, sandy beach, creeks, rivers and dirt roads. (Details at junglemarathon.com).
Before flying out to take part, I wrote to the race director who advised me not to wear VFFs suggesting they might not offer enough support for such a long distance race. I also emailed a previous competitor, who is also a physiotherapist for her advice on wearing VFF. Her response was ‘… FiveFingers will be a disaster… they will not offer your feet the support they need… they are not designed for such long distance running… and they won’t have enough grip to help you stay upright on the seriously wet and muddy terrain, particularly on the severe ascents and descents.’
Despite this advice I opted to go with my Spyridons. Thanks to the clever Kevlar lining in the sole I had every confidence they would give my feet enough support to avoid injury to the sole of my foot while running through the dense jungle, where the floor was covered in sharp spiky objects as well as spiky stinging insects like scorpions. I felt no impact at all underfoot and the Spyridons’ grip was more than adequate to cope with the muddy terrain. A week before going to Brazil for the race I wore my Spyridons to hike up Snowdon, the UK’s third highest mountain. They were great for that too, although while walking across large, wet slightly tilted rocks and boulders I could feel my feet slip slightly, but I think that may have happened in walking boots also. The hike up to the summit left me in no doubt that my Spyridons were the right choice for the Jungle Marathon.
The tough material used for the upper is still in exactly the same condition it was before the 255km race. There are no tears or cuts at all to the upper of both shoes, and the soles too are also damage free. The only minor sign of wear and tear is a very small section of the material on the outside of one of the big toe pockets, where it has very slightly come away from the sole. But in order to see it you have to look closely and after such a long way in some seriously aggressive and tough terrain, including deep bogs and swamps I think that is extremely impressive and shows how robust the Spyridons are.
I did have a concern about using the Velcro strap version as I wondered how it would hold up in the swamps and bogs. Some of the bogs were up to 1km long and over knee deep with mud. My concern was whether the strap would stay secure and tight when pulling my leg up out of the mud, as I did not fancy losing a shoe. However, the VFFs are designed to fit snugly to the foot so although on a couple of occasions the strap came undone the shoe remained firmly in place on my feet. But this did not happen during every swamp or bog, and there were many.
Every single day of the race I had several other competitors asking me about my choice of footwear, often questioning whether I would be able to finish the race. My reply was the same every day, that they were extremely comfortable and I felt no pain or any objects under foot at all. They looked amazed but also looked very impressed. Many of them said they were going to try using VFFs after the event. Perhaps even more impressive than the toughness of the shoe, is the comfortableness of the Spyridons for running and hiking. After running 255km I did not have a single blister on either of my feet, and that is dispite starting and finishing every day with wet soggy feet. The only sores I had on my feet were between a couple of my toes caused by sand getting between them during the 108.5km long stage. I had already run several miles on sand during the previous four stages without any problems with the sand at all. During the long stage I think it only happened due to having had wet feet since 4.30am at the very start of the stage when we started with a river crossing, and by the time I ran on sand I had been running with wet feet in 35 degree heat in almost 100% humidity for over 12 hours. Perhaps if I had put on a pair of toe socks I may have been able to prevent the sores at all but as they were only minor I opted to just carry on to the finish.
The race director, who advised against wearing VFF, saw me on day four at the first checkpoint and said she couldn’t believe I was still going wearing them, and going so well. She said every day she expected me to pull out with trashed feet and after the race told me how seriously impressed she was with me for finishing in 5th place and wearing VFFs for the entire race.
I had reservations myself about wearing VFFs and I don’t think my Bikilas, KSO’s or Classics FiveFingers would have been up to the task. But thanks to the Spyridons trail running qualities I was able to wear them. In my opinion the Spyridons are the most comfortable running shoe I have ever worn. I have run over 20 marathons on both road and off road, and several ultramarathons including multi-day events in the Sahara, the Atacama in Chile, the Himalayas and Scottish highlands, as well as 100km and 100 mile non-stop races. I have worn several different brands of running shoes, some of which have left me with horrendous blisters. Some have been ok when it comes to blisters, but even if I finished blister free I always felt ‘hot spots’ which is the start of a blister. I have never worn a running shoe that has left me with zero blisters and zero hotspots.
I would have no hesitation at all in recommending VFF to other runners and for trail/off road running at the moment in my mind there is no better option than the Spyridons.
I will definitely be using Spyridons for my future off road running and will continue to recommend them to other runners who always approach me at races and while I’m out training, asking about them and how they feel.
I would be happy for you to use this review if you wish, as I would like other people to know about my experience of using VFFs. I searched the web before the race looking for other reviews or advice on using VFFs in such extreme environments but the information out there was limited. No one has ever worn Fivefingers in such an event and I would be happy to share my experiences with others. I am also a qualified personal trainer, as well as a London based firefighter, and will recommend the sensible and safe use of VFFs to some of my clients where suitable.
I asked Stuart a few questions and here is what he wrote back, “The Jungle Marathon was my first multi-day race wearing Vibrams. Before that I ran the London Marathon in VFF Bakilas but since I hadn’t run further than 12 miles in them before the marathon the jump in distance was rather silly and I did get some minor pain in my left foot. But I didn’t get a single blister or hot spot and like in the jungle I ran with no socks. My longest run before the Jungle was 14 miles off road and I ran with wet feet and again had no blisters. I have run several multi-stage ultras and marathons and only the VFFs left me with no blisters. I know they probably won’t work for everyone but I won’t run in trainers ever again. Before wearing VFFs I used Injinji toe socks and they definitely helped reduce the amount and severity of blisters I got from running than when I wore normal socks (including two socks).”
Thank you Stuart for this great report and congratulations on your finish.
If you are interested in learning more about the Jungle Marathons, the links are below. Shirley Thompson, the race director, puts on challenging races, well run with a great safety record, and a professional staff. It is my hope to be at both these events next year.
In October 2010 I wrote a blog post about a runner at the six-day ThanksRockies who wore FiveFingers for the 115 mile race. If you want to check out the link, here’s the post: Vibram FiveFingers at the Gore-Tex TransRockies.
I have worked a lot of events. Every one has its one set of conditions that stresses the participants’ feet. Sometimes, it’s the dry heat of Death Valley or the rainy British Columbia coast, or the ups and downs on the trails of the many trail hundreds.
For years, the norm has been to avoid getting your feet wet. Wet feet often mean skin that is soft and can become macerated. In long events, and especially in multi-day events, that can lead to trouble. Taping or patching wet feet, or macerated feet, is very difficult. So it is best to keep your feet as dry as possible.
And then there’s the Jungle Marathon.
The Jungle Marathon is held in the Amazon Rain Forest of Brazil. This year’s race is held over October 4 to 13.The race is in the stunning State of Para – often referred to as the Caribbean of the Amazon. Competitors have the choice of two distances: 240km or 100km, which will be completed in stages throughout the week. The longer distance will include six stages and the shorter will include four. Imagine running through the jungle with stream crossings, wet foliage, wet trails, mud, and extremely humid conditions. Your feet are always wet.
At the Jungle Marathon runners have to be self-sufficient, carrying their food and provisions during the race. They are provided bottled water at designated checkpoints. Nights are spent sleeping in hammocks at campsites along the shores of the river.
Shirley Thompson is the race director and she stresses, “Our medical team has many years experience in remote locations. Your safety and well-being is our prime concern and we employ only the most experienced personnel to assist us.”
Shirley told me, “We always advise runners to train with wet feet so that they can focus on a strategy before they get to the jungle. We also tell them to buy your book and try to find a strategy that works for them. As far as footwear is concerned, we always emphasize trail shoes with good grip, and that comfort is the main factor.
I personally spend quite a bit of time in the jungle preparing the trail and doing a trial run of the course, and I always use the same strategy, which I found years ago in your book. I spray on two coats of New Skin Liquid Bandage, then wear SealSkinz hi-tops, with a thin lining sock. I have never had a blister.”
Vicky Kypta instructs new medics who join the team on foot care and she gives clinics for competitors in the United Kingdom on foot care and preparation for the race. I emailed her and asked about their strategy for managing runner’s feet. Here is her response.
“Feet are soaked from the start of each stage, so in the end it made more sense to get people used to their feet being always wet. We found runners had less problems during the race when they had trained with wet feet. There was a lot of hideous feet in the first couple of years of the event before we adopted this strategy.
As far as blister prevention is concerned, we encourage all runners to find a shoe/sock combination that works for them and to train in them including getting them wet. During the race, the runners are told to stop and deal with any hot spots as soon as they start which includes not waiting to get to a checkpoint. It is amazing how just stopping for 20 minutes to deal with feet saves so much time and pain later in the race.
Some runners have their own preferences on how to treat blisters and if they do then we follow their instructions otherwise we tend to drain non-blood filled blisters. On those hardy enough we the inject compound tincture of benzoin to help seal the space created by the blister, to serve as a local antiseptic, and to prevent further abrasion or loss of skin. However, due to the intense burning sensation experienced for a few moments after injection not all runners want this method used – so for all others we drain the blister and then use the benzoin over the top to provide a tacky surface to help the tape stick. Over the top of the blister we then apply a layer of fleecy web and tape over that using zinc oxide tape.
Over toes we just use tape without the fleecy web as otherwise it becomes too bulky resulting in the runner being unable to put their shoe on.
Some runners like to use Compeed on their blisters and whilst they are very good at protecting the blister we have found through experience that with an ultra event such as the Jungle Marathon, they are very difficult to remove should there be any further problems with the blister later on during the race and more damage is often caused in attempting to remove them so we therefore don’t encourage their use.
Over the years we have been very fortunate and have had very few macerated feet as at the end of each stage we get the runners to remove all the tape and to thoroughly dry out their feet. Blisters and problem feet are then freshly taped later that evening or the next morning ready for the next stage.
Despite the incredible punishment the runners feet endure during the Jungle Marathon, year after year we have very few cases of macerated or infected feet which I believe stems from early and effective treatment of problems as they arise.”
Vicky holds foot care clinics including medical care prior to the races to help provide the runners with increased knowledge to enable them to treat themselves more effectively which will hopefully reduce the amount of foot problems even further.
The Jungle Marathon helps their runners successfully complete the race because of their unique approach to foot care. Here are my observations:
- They encourage participants to train with wet feet
- They even suggest soaking your shoes and socks before heading out for a training run
- They give specific advice that runners find the best shoe and sock combination for their feet when wet
- After each day’s stage, they have runners remove their tape, which allows the skin to dry out – re-taping afterwards
This combination of advice and attention of the runners keeping their feet healthy for the multiple stages of the race works well. I commend Shirley and Vicky and the Jungle Marathon for their success with foot care.
I encourage you to check out their website and Facebook page. If you are looking for a stage race with adventure, this is a well-organized event.
Here’s the link to the Jungle Marathon’s website.
Here’s the link to the Jungle Marathon Facebook page.
Next week is Badwater. I’ll be there along with Denise Jones, patching feet. I’ve captured the press released from Chris because if utilizes the best of social media and the web to keep followers in touch with the race. After the race, I’ll post pictures. Promise. Here’s the story and links.
AdventureCORPS, Inc., an event production firm specializing in ultra-endurance and extreme sports events, will host the 35th Anniversary Badwater Ultramarathon on July 16-18, 2012. Recognized globally as “the world’s toughest foot race,” this legendary event pits approximately 95 of the world’s toughest athletes – runners, triathletes, adventure racers, and mountaineers – against one another and the elements. Covering 135 miles (217km) non-stop from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, CA in temperatures up to 130F (55c), it is the most demanding and extreme running race offered anywhere on the planet.
The start line is at Badwater, Death Valley, which marks the lowest elevation in North America at 280′ (85m) below sea level. The race finishes at Mt. Whitney Portal at 8360′ (2533m). The Badwater course covers three mountain ranges for a total of 13,000′ (3962m) of cumulative vertical ascent and 4,700′ (1433m) of cumulative descent. Whitney Portal is the trailhead to the Mt. Whitney summit, the highest point in the contiguous United States. Competitors travel through places and landmarks including Mushroom Rock, Furnace Creek, Salt Creek, Devil’s Cornfield, Devil’s Golf Course, Stovepipe Wells, Keeler, and Lone Pine.
A true “challenge of the champions,” the 2012 AdventureCORPS Badwater Ultramarathon features 49 Badwater veterans and 49 rookies: die hard “ultra-runners” of every speed and ability, as well a athletes who have the necessary running credentials, but are primarily known for their exploits as adventure racers, mountaineers, triathletes, or in other extreme pursuits. They represent twenty countries by citizenship or residence: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Canada, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, and United States of America (and nineteen America states).
There are 18 women and 80 men. The youngest runner is 23 (rookie entrant Claire Heid of Tacoma, WA) while the oldest is 70 (Arthur Webb of Santa Rosa, CA, a thirteen-time finisher), with an average age of 45. Full details are available on the race roster.
The men’s course record is held by Valmir Nunez of Brazil with a time of 22:51:29 set in 2007, while the women’s course record of 26:16:12 was set in 2010 by Jamie Donaldson of Littleton, CO. It is expected that the winner of the 2012 AdventureCORPS Badwater Ultramarathon will finish in 22 to 26 hours. The average finishing time is approximately 40 hours, while the overall time limit is 48 hours, as compared to the 60 hour limited used in the races held through 2010. For those who finish in less than forty-eight hours, their reward is the coveted Badwater belt buckle. There is no prize money.
The 2012 race field is particularly competitive. Veteran contenders include 2011 men’s champion Oswaldo Lopez, 40, of Madera, CA (also place 2nd in both 2009 and 2010; Mexico citizenship), 2010 men’s champion Zack Gingerich, 32, of Tigard, OR, 2009 men’s champion Marcos Farinazzo, 44, of Brazil and 2004 men’s champion Dean Karnazes, 49, or Ross, California. Also competing is Marshall Ulrich, 61, of Idaho Springs, CO, the 17-time finisher who placed first in 1991, 1992, 1993, and 1996.
The women’s field, with 18 entrants, includes 11 rookies and 7 veterans. Veteran contenders include the 2011 women’s champion, Sumie Inagaki, 46, of Aichi, Japan and Pam Reed, 51, of Jackson, WY, the 2002 and 2003 overall champion who also won the women’s field in 2005. Every year is a new year at the Badwater Ultramarathon, with rookies and “previously unknown” athletes surprising the contenders with top performances. New stars will shine as the race unfolds in July.
RACE MAGAZINE Download the 2012 edition (44 pages; 3.4MB).
RACE WEBCAST Follow the race live via the webcast.
BADWATER ON TWITTER
Follow the 2012 Badwater Ultramarathon via Twitter. We will post race updates and observations, photo links, and important news and announcements. NOTE: Please use hashtag #bw135 to join the Twitter conversation! Here’s the current conversation stream.
BADWATER ON FLICKR
Official race photos by the Badwater Race Staff will post to Flickr July 15-18. Race Director Chris Kostman’s race photos will post to Flickr July 15-18 in his photostream.
BADWATER ON INSTAGRAM
Badwater Race Director Chris Kostman will be posting photos “live” (whenever a cellular connection is available, which is in Furnace Creek and then the latter 1/3 of the course and the finish line) via his Instagram account. Follow his photo stream on your iPhone or Android with the Instagram app and his stream at “chriskostman.” Photos also automatically post to Chris’ Instagram stream for viewing online.
BADWATER ON YOUTUBE
We will be posting videos from the race on the AdventureCORPS YouTube channel. Most videos will appear on Tuesday and Wednesday, where the internet connection is far superior to that in Death Valley.
Some of you may have been wondering where I have been for the past three weeks. Or maybe not. In any case, please allow me to share my story.
Three weeks ago I left on a week long mission trip to Ecuador. I was one of 18 people who made the trip. We flew into Quito where we spent the night before moving the next day to Riobamba, 4 1/2 hours south. Both cities are above 9000 feet. That was our staging point for the next four days. Over the next four days, our team traveled to remote villages in the the high mountains.
In each village we set up in their school building. They were very poor villages and the facilities were rough. Broken windows, warped floors, dirt everywhere, primitive school supplies – but warm people. Our mission was to deliver shoes and socks to children in each village. We set up chairs and worked in teams of two, with an interrupter for each team.
We washed their feet and applied powder before putting on socks and a new pair of tennis shoes. After that we shared the Gospel with each child. At the end of four days, we had seen over 500 children and each received shoes and socks. Some of the adults received shoes too.
The little girls also received panties. It was hard to imagine that none of the girls have these basic things we take for granted. Likewise, for shoes and socks. Most of the children wore high rubber boots – without socks. Of those that had shoes, most had broken straps, no laces, holes in the tops and bottoms, and holes in the inside bottom. Many were too small for the child. It was obvious that these were handed down from child to child. Pity the youngest.
The parents were happy to see their children getting shoes. They mingled around and it was fascinating to see them with their children. Women were spinning yarn, feeding babies, and helping with the children. Each day we had a team from the Ecuadorian Army who accompanied us and helped with the children. It took teamwork to process the children. I took close to 500 photos.
You might ask why I made this trip. For more than 12 years I have worked on feet at runs, adventure races, and walks; taught clinics on foot care and talked to athletes about their feet; and written on all aspects of foot care. This trip provided a challenge of a different nature. These children live in villages from which most will not leave. They have little chance to improve their lives. I had the chance to touch the feet of children and make a difference in the lives of those that have very little. Did I make a difference? I believe so. But, just as important, the children touched me. I will remember their faces for a long time.
I am sharing a few of the images from the trip. I ended up as the compiler of the team’s photos – more than 2500 in all. I have been working to prepare several presentations for the team members, edit some of the images, and sort them. It is a time consuming job, but the memories of the trip are rewarding. I hope you are as touched by the images as I was.
This last image is one that really touched me. Maybe I read too much into her expression, but when I ask people what they see in her face, their answer mirrors mine. Despair. She was about 13 years old.
If you are interested, we went with an organization Happy Feet International, from Alabama. They do eight to ten of these trips a year, mainly to South and Central America. Each trip goes to new villages.
Would I do it again. Yes. Without a doubt. I will always have the opportunity to work on athletes’ feet. And I love doing that. This was different. I touched feet and touched lives. My faith is important to me and as a Christian, I needed to do this trip.
Something else I observed is worth saying too. We saw no beggars or panhandlers. People of all ages worked. Children helped with their younger siblings. They worked in the fields alongside their parents. Their parents worked – in fact even old people worked. Life for people in these villages is very simple. You work to survive. Every child told us they had cows, chickens, pigs and sheep. They go to school and they work after school. They were happy, as most children are, playing with simple toys. In retrospect, if more Americans had the opportunity to visit a third world country, they would appreciate their home and lives even more.
In my next I will return to discussing a new aspect of foot care.