Filed under: blister care, Foot Care, Footwear, Health, Sports, toenails
I believe strongly in prevention as a proactive measure in foot care.
Tim Noakes’ sixth law of running injuries must be heeded—any running injury can be cured only after the cause is found and eliminated. All of us who run, hike, or adventure race at some point have problems with our feet or sustain foot injuries. The prevention chapters are numerous and lengthy because many factors contribute to foot problems and injuries, and for every factor, there is a preventive measure that can reduce or eliminate it. Prevention is the key to saving your feet. Dave Scott, a good friend and ultrarunner, put the foot problem in proper perspective: “When you don’t take care of your feet during a long run or race, each step becomes a reminder of your ignorance.”
It’s very easy to relinquish our responsibility for preparedness and let someone else dictate what we should do. We tend to listen to those whom we look up to and to those who are more experienced. In many ways this is OK, and it is often the way it should be. However, only you can determine what works for your feet.
Knowing your prevention options is important. That’s being proactive. I get emails every week from athletes who are looking for answers for their feet issues.
Some have my book but others don’t. Some have the book and have gone through the chapters to find possible treatment options. Others have the book and haven’t read it – and want me to answer their questions.
I try. Sometimes it works and sometimes not. While I answer from my experience and knowledge, I don’t have your feet. And that’s important.
Your feet have your abnormalities (hammer toes, bunions, thick toenails, skin that calluses, a tendency to athlete’s foot, a tendency to blisters, etc.), your ankles, your shoes and socks, your fit (good or bad), your training base, your stride and gait, and more.
You are the best person to find what works for your feet. Others may give suggestions. Fixing Your Feet can give suggestions and I may offer a few via email or in this blog, but you need to try them on your feet to find the one that works best.
You are the key to prevention.
Please, don’t show up at a race with a bad case of athlete’s foot, holes in your socks, shoes that have outlived their support, insoles that are flat as paper, toenails that are long and untrimmed, shoes that don’t fit, huge thick calluses, blisters that are unhealed, thick nails from untreated toenail fungus.
Yes, I have seen all of these.
Again, you are the key to prevention.
Next week we will get back to a regular posting routine and a continuation on the insoles – but for now, an explanation is in order. My ability to post has been interrupted by a writing project. Well, I am happy to report, the project is complete. But it may be of interest to you if you like adventure. Let me explain.
Over the past years, I have had the unique opportunity to provide foot care at many events. Western States 100 has been a great event to work and I have patched a great number of feet for more than eight years. I have also patched feet at three of the Primal Quest Expedition Adventure races. Then in 2004 I traveled to Chile to work the Atacama Crossing, and in 2006, to Costa Rica for the Coastal Challenge, both running stage races, of seven and six days respectively. These events have been fun but I saw firsthand how limited the foot care experience is. Many are eager to learn but few have any degree of knowledge. I have taught podiatrists, doctors, nurses, paramedics, EMTs, and even regular people, how to patch feet. It has been rewarding and fun.
Then came an opportunity to be a contributing author to a book on expedition medicine. Dr. David Townes, a good friend and ER doctor, was one of those charged with compiling content. I knew David from Primal Quest and Costa Rica. He had seen my work and asked me to take the lead on a chapter about foot injuries. My co-author is Zak Weis, a podiatrist from Texas. We had worked side-by-side at several events and through our weird sense of humor (necessary when patching feet for hours on end), we became good friends. It has been a good match.
So, over the past months, Zak and I have been emailing files back and forth until, finally, we have a finished chapter. It may not sound like much, but the chapter ended up 42 pages in length, with 17 footnotes and 37 photos. We cover foot injuries common to those involved in extreme sports as well as average athletes—and those who walk. The chapter is in the mail to the folks in charge of the book project. Now we sit back and wait to see what has to be rewritten.
I am excited about this book. There is definitely a need for an exhaustive volume about expedition medicine. When things go wrong at some of these events, there is little room for error. Lives are dependent on quality and efficient medical care. I understand your comment that no one has ever died of a blister or black toenail. But, many do get infected and have the potential to be problematic—even to the point of death in a remote setting without the right medical equipment and knowledge. The book will cover important topics like trauma, water disinfection, dental, orthopedic, soft tissue, cardiac, internal injuries, and other medical emergencies.
Maybe some day, when you are on an adventure, you will be helped by this book. Maybe the medical person patching your feet read the Foot Injuries chapter that Zak and I wrote. So, that’s why, for the past few months, my postings on this Happy feet blog and my Fixing Your Feet e-zine, have had to take the back burner. I apologize for the long pauses between postings. Hopefully, things will quickly get back to normal. In the meantime, I hope your feet have been happy.
Massage is great for the feet. It helps increase circulation to injured areas and the increased blood supply helps speed recovery while reducing swelling. Inflexibility associated with tightness can hinder efficient training and performance. When muscles are relaxed and receiving better circulation, they are stronger and tolerate higher levels of training with less pain and breakdown. Tight muscles can lead to strains and soft-tissue injury. This is where massage can help.
Self-Massaging Your Feet
To do a self-massage of your feet, start by warming your feet in a bath or with warm, moist towels. Cross one leg over the other with the sole facing you. Use both thumbs to massage your feet in a deep, circular motion, working small areas at a time. Work from your toes toward your heel, and then to your ankle. Use various movements and pressure to find what feels best. Generally, all movement and pressure should be toward the heart—moving the old “stagnated” blood back to your heart. The use of massage oil or creams can help with the kneading of the skin and can soften dry heels and calluses. Self-foot massage is easier if you’re limber. If you find it difficult, have a partner massage your feet. Try a few of these foot massage techniques:
• Bottoms of your feet – Place your thumbs on the heel of one foot. Apply pressure to the underside of the foot starting at the bottom and slowly move towards the toes.
• Heels – Massage the bottom and sides of your heels using your thumbs.
• Toes – Stroke the toes and between the toes upward towards the ankle.
• Top of the foot – Using your fingers, massage the top of the foot focusing on the soft points between the bones of the forefoot upward towards the ankle.
• Stroking the foot – Using both hands, place your fingers on the top of the foot and the thumbs underneath. One hand at a time, stroke by sliding your hands upward towards the heart.
Related Massage Products
The Stick is a tool that can be used on any major muscle groups through clothing or directly on the skin. Provides instant myofascial release that promotes healthy and relaxed muscle fibers and good circulation. It comes in four sizes and can be used before and after exercise to aid strength, flexibility, and endurance.
Hand & Foot Massage – This book by Mary Atkinson also covers pedicures. 128 pages.
Natural Foot Care: Herbal Treatments, Massage, and Exercises for Healthy Feet – This book by Stephanie Tourles presents a holistic approach to caring for feet, introducing alternative and natural treatments for good foot health. 192 pages.