Foot Problems at Western States

June 25, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: blister care, Foot Care, Health, Sports 

This weekend close to 400 runners will start at Squaw Valley and make the trek over the Sierras towards Auburn – 100 miles away. It’s the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Race. I love the race, having completed it three times in the late 80’s. It’s tough and throws a lot at the runners. Cold, heat, extreme heat, streams running down the trail, rocks, dust and grit, water crossings, long ups and long down through numerous canyons – and for many runners, a second sunrise with renewed heat.

Toe Blister

Toe Blister

I will again be working at the Michigan Bluff aid station doing foot care. Later, I will be at the finish line taking care of feet as people finish. Having worked this race for years, I have a good idea of what foot problems to expect. Here’s what I commonly see and a few tips.

First, here are common problems:

  • Toe blisters. Under the toenail, on the tips of toes, between toes, and under toes.
  • Heel blisters. Either at the rear of the heel or at the sides.
  • Ball of the foot blisters. Either in a certain area or across the whole foot.
  • Side of the foot blisters.
  • Stubbed toes. From hitting rocks or roots.
  • Sprained ankles.
  • Sore feet.

Here are some tips:

  • Cut toenails short and them file them smooth. No rough edges to catch on socks or hit the toebox of your shoes.
  • Reduce your calluses as much as possible. This close to the race, don’t file too much off. Aim to get reduce the thickest rough patches.
  • Use Engo Blister Prevention Patches in problem areas – sides of the heels and ball of the foot. They will greatly reduce friction and shear.
  • Pretape any problem areas.
  • Check your insoles for thick edges at the sides of the heel – always a problem area. Thin these down or change insoles. Most side of the heel blisters are caused by these edges.
  • Don’t use Vaseline as a lubricant. Stick to SportSlick, BodyGlide, or a similar lube.
  • Change socks frequently and clean your feet. Today’s trails shoes often have mesh uppers, which allow sand, dirt, and trail dust inside the shoe, on and into your socks, and on your feet.
  • Know how to manage your feet and patch blisters on your own – or your crew should have these skills. You can’t count on aid station people knowing what you need or want or doing it on your time schedule. There may be other runners in front of you or they may be out of supplies.
  • If you feel something inside your shoe, stop and clean it out. Even a small rock can cause problems.
  • Wear gaiters to keep rocks and trail grit and dust out of the top of your shoes.
  • Build your own quality foot care kit. Stock it with what you need and learn to use everything.

Maybe I’ll see you at Michigan Bluff. I hope it’s just to say Hi as you run through.

Have a great race.

Healthy Feet Running the 100’s

June 22, 2009 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Foot Care 

This next weekend is the grand daddy of all 100-mile trail runs, the Western States Endurance Run. There will be close to 400 runners toeing the starting line; the majority racing against themselves and the ever following demons of stomach problems, trashed quads, heat, being under trained, poor equipment choices, bad feet, and mental stresses. I want to talk about what I consider are two of the most important factors for healthy feet on trails runs. While their application here is a 100-mile trail run, they also apply to casual walking and hiking, and to extreme adventure racing and long distance hiking.

The number one factor is knowing what your feet need, and how to do it, before you have to do it. I have patched many feet at ultras and adventure races and have found that most racers have a fairly good knowledge base of what they should be doing. They know its smart to wear the right kind of socks and to have footwear that fits well. Many have also made footcare kits for their crews. I would make a rough guess and say about 30-40% are well versed in what their feet need and how to do it. The other 60-70% kind of wing it. They’ve read about footcare but somehow it falls lower on the priority list than does training, finding foods they can tolerate, the right flashlight for night running, and other choices. So they start their race and manage well for a while-until problems develop.

To have and keep healthy feet, you have to know what works for them in the sports in which you participate. You also have to know what to do when what worked no longer works. In other words, a fallback plan with the equipment to back it up and the knowledge of how to use it. Let me give some examples.

  • Learn what lubricant works but have a container of powder handy.
  • Learn what socks work but have one or two extra pair of other types.
  • Learn how to tape the hot spots that might develop.
  • Learn how to tape your toes, heels, and every other part of your feet just in case blisters form.
  • Learn how to tape like a pro and then practice taping and then practice some more, and then start over until your taping is perfect.
  • Learn that if you tape one toe, it may require a bit of tape on the next toe.
  • Learn how to lance blisters and patch over them.
  • Learn what happens to your feet when you don’t change wet socks and your feet become macerated and feels like there is one humongous blister on the bottom of each foot.
  • Learn that something simple like properly trimming and filing your toenails can prevent toe blisters and even black toenails.
  • Learn that in a 100-mile race, if you don’t control your feet, they will control you.
  • Learn that you may know how to patch your feet, but you crew may not unless you teach them.
  • Learn that an inexpensive shoehorn can prevent the formation of heel blisters when you try to shove your foot into your shoe because you are in a hurry to get out of the aid station.

The bottom line is that if you don’t learn what works for your feet, intentionally, you will learn the hard way. At mile 56, or 72, or even mile 96. It has become harder and harder each year to find volunteers to provide footcare for the racers. Medical care yes, but footcare, well, that’s a different story. If you need footcare the medical staff may be able to help, but they not know the finer points of footcare. You need to go into each race prepared.

The number two factor is real easy to solve. Keep your shoes free from trail debris. Small rocks, large rocks, sand, dirt, pine needles and other foliage, grit-all the normal stuff that finds its way into your socks and shoes. It starts with the debris causing a hot spot,which you ignore because it takes time to stop and clear out the offending junk. Besides, if you just shift your foot around inside the shoe, it may move and no longer be a problem. Then after a while, the hot spot has become a blister. Now you can’t stop because you don’t have the fixings in your fanny pack. So you have to wait until you get to an aid station. Once there you then hope they know what their doing and have the right supplies.

The solution? Gaiters. They can be store or mail order bought or home made. It doesn’t matter as long as they do the job of keeping trail junk out of your socks and shoes. Some runners are so light footed that they rarely get debris in their shoes. If that’s you then skip the gaiters. Just be sure that if you get something in your shoe, get it out. Many blisters and other foot problems come get started by an irritant in your shoe. A small pebble in your shoe works its way down to your forefoot. You shift your foot around and it seems to finally disappear. A few miles later it surfaces under the ball of your foot. After playing the shift-it-around-inside-your-shoe game, it gets the best of you and you stop to remove it. By then, some damage has been done. A hot spot or blister may have developed, or your foot may simply be sore and tender from the offending pebble. If you really want to be safe, tuck a spare pair of socks in your fanny pack or pin them to the outside. Dirt laced socks, caked hard with trail dust and whatever lubricant you are using  can cause problems too. The small particles of dirt or sand can cause as much damage over time as larger pieces of trail debris. Gaiters can help protect your feet.

Here are a few extra tips:

  • Use Hydropel on your feet to control moisture and maceration.
  • Trim toenails short and file them smooth so as you rub your finger over the tip, you don’t feel any rough edges.
  • File down your calluses – you don’t want blisters under them.
  • Add shoehorns in your crew’s foot care kit. This can save your heels when trying to put your shoes back on.
  • Before the race starts, pretape any know problem areas.

I truly believe that today’s trail runners are more educated than those of past years. Technology has improved shoes and socks. Products with names like DryMax, Smartwool, Hydropel, BlisterShield, and Body Glide have made it easier to take good care of your feet. I may see you at Michigan Bluff aid station at Western States or at the finish line, but I hope it’s only as you pass me by and say, Thanks, but my feet are fine!”

New Year’s Resolutions for Your Feet

January 2, 2006 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Footcare, Footwear, Health, Sports, Travel 

I’d bet some of you are laughing. New Year’s resolutions for your feet! He must be nuts. Actually, I’m quite serious. Most resolutions people make have to do with something they find enjoyable or to change something that bothers them. I am going to assume that when you walk, run, hike, or participate in any sporting type activity, your purpose is to have a good time. If that’s true, then I’m sure you’d agree that when your feet are healthy and happy, it is easier for things to go right.
     So, let’s list a few things that are common feet problems. Here are what I call the top 10 issues people have with their feet:
1.    Blisters
2.    Ingrown toenails
3.    Athlete’s foot
4.    Plantar fasciitis
5.    Black toenails
6.    Achilles’ tendonitis
7.    Calluses
8.    Corns
9.    Bunions
10.    Toenail fungus

     Each of these can be bothersome—but they can be resolved—often very easily. In today’s information age, we are inundated with solutions to everyday problems. Some of these 10 can be managed with creams or ointments. Others will take a bit of effort to find the right solution. The important thing is to know there are solutions. Your feet don’t have to hurt, itch, or throb.
     So, take a moment and write down one New Year’s resolution for your feet. This is the first step in making a solution happen. If you want to share your resolution or make a comment, feel free to send me an email. In the days ahead, we’ll tackle some of these common problems. Until then, I wish you a happy New Year.

%d bloggers like this: