This post came about because of a Backpacker magazine article about skills. One of the items was about endurance and was for, “Blistered feet during a high-mileage trek.”
The tip was to, “… protect against hot spots by applying a skin lubricant like Vaseline to high-friction areas…”
I’m sorry, but I think Vaseline is a bad choice.
When I ran my first ultra, back around 1982, there was not a huge choice in lubricants so Vaseline was commonly used. But I learned very quickly that its stickiness helped it collect dust and grit, sand and dirt, and other things that found their way into your socks and shoes. Once absorbed into my socks, it also became stiff. I looked for an alternative and discovered Bag Balm, which I used for years.
Over the years, Vaseline has been surpassed by lubricants that are slicker without attracting “stuff’ that can cause hot spots and blisters, that last longer, that don’t cake up on your socks, and that are much more effective.
So, here’s my choice for a bad lubricant: Vaseline.
And here are my choices for good lubricants:
- Solid Stick
- Pocket Slick
- The Original Anti-Chafe Balm
- FootGlide Foot Formula
- Ant-Chafe with SPF 25 Balm
- BodyGlide Anti-Chafe for Her
- Liquefied Powder
- WarmFX Anti-Pain Balm
- Anti-Chafe Stick
- Anti-Chafe Stick, Sensitive Formula
Hydropel Sports Ointment
Many of these are available through ZombieRunner. Click on “Anti-chafing & Skin Care.” I you are looking for a new lubricant, or want to try one of these, check them out through ZombieRunner.
Disclosure: Clicking through to ZombieRunner and making a purchase credits me with a few pennies to support this website.
A few months ago, received an email asking if I could comment on the use of Vaseline or petroleum covered with powder. Cas Camara, of Florida, was going to run the Brazil 135 and was looking for feedback.
I responded: “Vaseline is the old-time standard for a lubricant-but it has problems. The problem is that it is sticky and attracts grit, gust, sand, and whatever the athlete comes in contact with. It tends to also cake up over time and can almost harden over time on socks, shorts, or other materials. Newer lubricants are less sticky and are much slicker and better at lessening the effects of friction. Putting powder on a lubricant can be done but usually athletes use one of the other. I have only seen a few use both. Powder may cause the lubricant, especially Vaseline, to cake up.”
Cas emailed me later and said, “I concluded the race without any foot problem by applying a mix of lanolin and Vaseline several times a day. I wore an Injinji sock under a Thorlo sock with loads of powder in between.”
Then a few days ago I received another email, which in part, said: “…it seems that the socks I used with just a basic Vaseline smearing were not the right tools to use, so it’s back to the store I go to get some different socks and to find the right solution for me and my feet.”
The point here is that Vaseline is still used by many athletes – but in my opinion, it has more faults than value. To repeat what I said earlier in this article, Vaseline and other petroleum-based lubricants are sticky and attract grit, gust, sand, and whatever the athlete comes in contact with. They tend to cake up over time and can almost harden over time on socks, shorts, or other materials.
When you have such great products such as BodyGlide, SportsSlick, SportsShield, and Hydropel, why use an inferior lubricant? Use what will work best on your feet. The newer lubricants are proven as longer lasting, better bonding with your skin, they do not cake up in your socks, and a few excel at repelling moisture. The use of Vaseline on feet is just as bad as wearing cotton socks.
If you want an easy one-stop shopping experience for all four of the the above products, check out Zombierunner.com. Click on Foot Care and then Lubricants.
How about being nice to your feet this Christmas and giving them a gift. In fact, be nice to a freind and give them a gift for happy feet. Here are a few suggestions. These can easily be found through a Google search—but many of the items are available at ZombieRunner.com (marked with an *).
A copy of the 4th edition of Fixing Your Feet: Prevention and Treatments for Athletes. If you have the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd edition – you are out of date.
A copy of my Happy Feet booklet. A short 36 page booklet for those who don’t need the full book.
* A tube of BodyGlide
* A container of BlisterShield Powder or Roll-On
A pair of Smartwool socks
A pair of Dirty Girl gaiters. Lightweight gaiters made in a multiude of patterns and colors. Unisex.
* A pack of Spenco Blister Pads
* A pack of Spenco QuikStik Adhesive Blister Dressings
A callus file from your local drug store. Use every few days to control those pasky calluses.
A good nail file, not the throw away kind, from your local drug store
A pair ShockDoctor insoles
* A gift certificate from ZombieRunner.com
Blisters are very predictable. Take three elements, moisture, friction, and heat, common to your feet when you run, and the likelihood of a blister appearing is high. The longer these elements exist on the feet, unattended to, the greater the risk. So, what can we do to reduce one or more of these elements?
Proactive or Reactive
You have the option of being proactive or reactive in managing
blisters. The proactive runner chooses to take steps to prevent
blisters before they develop. The reactive runner treats the blisters
after they develop. Many reactive runners simply think blisters are a
normal part of running. Wrong! Working with the blister prevention
options below can help eliminate one of the most troublesome problems
in walking, running, hiking–any sport that stresses your feet.
The first order of business is to recognize that you, and you alone, need to find what will work on your feet. Others can give suggestions, but what works for another may not work for you. What follows is a synopsis of options you need to consider….
Many athletes have been raised on the common belief that one of the best ways to prevent blisters is to use a lubricant. The use of a lubricant has been proven to reduce friction which causes hot spots, blisters, and after prolonged friction, calluses.
Vaseline has been used for years but is no longer the best choice. It’s greasy, can cake up on socks, and tends to attract grit particles that can become an irritant and themselves cause blisters. Better choices are newer products like BodyGlide, Bag Balm, Blistershield Roll-on, and SportsSlick. Many of these are petroleum-free, waterproof, non-sticky, and hypoallergenic.
For athletes in conditions where their feet are exposed to extended periods of moisture, there are several lubricants that are better than any others. Hydropel and Friction Zone are advanced skin protectants. These are water and sweat-resistant.
Use a lubricant where you need it—between the toes, on the balls of the feet, or on the heels. If you have a history of blisters, you’ll know where it should be applied.
Some people, however, use a lubricant and still have problems. If this is you, a good idea is to try using a powder. Lubricants will soften the skin and for some, this makes the feet more sensitive to the stresses of walking, running, hiking, etc. In some cases, you might even feel the weave of the socks as an irritant. The softened skin can lead to painful feet, and in some cases, even blisters.
There are some great powders to try. Zeasorb and Odor-Eater’s Foot Powder are both great super-absorbent and will not cake up. Gold Bond is also a high-quality powder. A unique powder is Blistershield’s Miracle Powder. Its super slick compound reduces friction better than any other powder while repelling moisture.
There are several tricks to using either a lubricant or powder. They need to be reapplied if your event lasts more then several hours, or if you go through a lot of water or a lot of dirt or sand. Clean off the old coating before applying the new one. Shake the powder into your socks and then shake the socks to distribute the powder. If you are prone to athlete’s foot, use an anti-fungal powder or lubricant.
Lubricants and powders are valuable tools in the war against blisters. Try one and if problems persist, try the other. They’ll keep your feet happy.