Moisture on Your Feet – Moist, Very Wet or Very Dry

September 22, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: blister care, Foot Care, Health, Sports, Travel 

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

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.

Amazon Wet Foot

Amazon Wet Foot

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.

Flip-Flops or Sandals?

June 3, 2006 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Footcare, Footwear, Health, Sports, Travel 

Warm weather is here and with it comes flip-flops and sandals. These range from the inexpensive throw-away-after-one-year flip flops to more expensive sandals. Given a choice, which are better for your feet?
     Flip-flops, sometimes called thongs (not to be confused with underwear), are typically a piece of foam the shape of a foot and about ½ inch thick, with a rubber piece that come up between the big Images_6and first toe and extends to the sides. They are a simple design. As your foot moves through a footstrike, the heel often comes up and slaps your heel, making the tell-tale flip-flop noise. They offer no support, little cushioning, and no degree of control over the motion of the foot and ankle. Depending on the wearer, their toes may curl against the foam to keep the flip-flops in place. They may also be worn tight on the foot to keep them from coming off.
     Variations on the flip-flop included designs with a strap over the top of the foot, a loop to hold one or two toes in place, nubs on the top of the foam to massage the feet, and various types of foam for durability.
     Flip-flops are fine for around the house and at the beach. Too many people wear them out in public when they should have tossed them a long time ago. The foam is compressed down to nothing and the foot seems to roll off the top. As you step down from a curb or over a rock on a trail, there is nothing to control where your foot goes.
Images1_3     Sandals, on the other hand, with their variety of straps and strapping methods, offer more support and control. Usually, the sole is stronger and thicker, offering cushioning, can be safely worn on trails. Many sandals have a strap around the heel that locks the sandal on the foot. With well made sandals that have a good strapping system, stepping down from a curb or over a rock on a trail will provide a small degree of support and control. Strapping variations include toe loops, quick-release buckles, and straps over the forefoot and around the heel, or just over the forefoot.
Images3     Sandals also offer a classier look in public. Many people wear sandals everywhere and with all types of clothes.
     Given a choice, I’d choose sandals over flip-flops any day.
     Of course, if you are going to wear flip-flops or sandals, make sure your skin and nails are well cared for. Nothing says “poor foot care” more than unclipped toenails, toenails with fungus, heels full of calluses, or an obvious case of athlete’s foot. Previous blogs have discussed Dry and Cracked Feet?, Filing Toenails, and Trimming Toenails – It’s Not That Hard!.    

Dry and Cracked Feet?

December 23, 2005 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Footcare 

It’s that time of year when the effect of cold and the dryness in the air has a negative effect on our skin. If the skin on your hands is cracking from being outside, you can bet your feet are also suffering. Be sure to use a moisturizing lotion on your feet. In extreme cases when your skin is especially dry and cracked, apply the lotion or cream and then cover the area with plastic wrap to hold it in. Here are my favorite skin care choices:

1.  SkinMD Natural – This is a new shielding lotion that adds moisture while stopping the loss of your natural moisture to heal dry and damaged skin. 

2.  Zim’s Crack Crème – A natural, herbal lotion that moisturizes and softens dry and cracked skin.

3.  Burt’s Bees Coconut Foot Crème – Heals and protects dry, rough and callused skin.

4.  Weleda Skin Food – An herbal crème that moisturizes dry, flaky, and damaged skin.

The important tip to remember is to use the lotion daily or according to the package’s directions. Using these lotions once or twice a week will not allow them to work their healing magic on your skin.

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