Feet Tell a Story

August 15, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: blister care, Foot Care, toenails 

I have a large file of feet pictures on my computer. Pictures of toes, heels, balls of the feet, and arches. Pictures of blisters of all shapes and sizes. In addition, I see all kinds of feet when I work events. Over the years, I have worked races ranging from short distances to ultramarathons, to multi-day stage races.

I am probably one of a limited number of people in the world who gets excited at photos of bad feet. I like them because they tell stories.

The first full multi-day event I worked was Racing the Planet’s Atacama Desert six-day stage in the high desert of Chile in 2004. The stressors of being on your feet for long distances day-after-day for six to seven days often bring out the worst in feet.

A lady in that race wanted us to remove her toenails at the end of day two. Another runner had the worst case of trench foot I have ever seen. That was nine years ago and my techniques have changed for the better, but the feet remain the same – bad!

I believe that feet tell a story.

Hurting Toes

Hurting Toes

The photo here is from the Racing the Planet Iceland. I don’t know the owner of the feet. I don’t know the level of training and experience the person had prior to this race. I also don’t know what experience this person had with foot care planning before a race and during the race.

Here are my observations about the story behind these feet.

  • Almost every toe has something going on.
  • The photo was posted online for stage five, meaning the runner had to tolerate these toes for four plus days.
  • These blisters don’t typically happen in one day. My guess is they started on day one, progressed to blisters on day two and then got worse.
  • My bet is the shoes’ toebox was too short in length and/or too low in height.
  • The runner may have worn two pairs of socks, which could have made the fit too tight.
  • The toenails don’t look too long but it’s hard to see if they have any rough edges or are thick, both of which can lead to toe blisters.
  • These toes scream pain – especially if they are encased inside shoes.
  • It’s possible the toes received some degree of care, but it is hard to tell from their condition.
  • Four of the toes have major trauma.
  • We cannot see what is going on under the toes, but from the outside edges of the big toes, you can see blistered skin of the left one and maceration on the right one.
  • The left big toe has blood showing in the blister on the outside edge.

That’s a lot of information pulled from a photo. I wish I knew the toes’ owner. It would be nice to learn more about his/her race. What shoes and socks they wore. How the trauma to the toes progressed day-to-day. What care they received. Whether they finished the race.

My guess is that with proper care, much of this could have been prevented. That care could have included lubricants, moisture control skin protect, tape, modified shoes, and nail care.

What story do your feet tell?

Here’s the link to the Racing the Planet’s Iceland race. Racing the Planet does four desert races every year called The 4 Deserts: the Gobi in China, the Atacama in Chile, the Sahara in Egypt, and Antarctic. Every year they add a new location for that year. Past sites have included Australia, Nepal, Namibia, Vietnam, and 2014 will be in Madagascar. You can check them out at Racing the Planet.

Foot Care – Day after Day after Day after Day….

May 29, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Foot Care 

The June 2009 issue of Men’s Journal has a small filler piece at the bottom of a page that told of a man who ran seven marathons in five days. It seems Richard Donovan broke Sir Ranulph Fiennes’s mark by running seven marathons on seven continents in five days, 10 hours and eight minutes. I’m impressed. 

Richard Donovan

Richard Donovan

He ran his first marathon in Nova, Antarctica at 2:50 am on Saturday and finished his fourth at 4:00 am Monday morning in London – in a snowstorm. As you might guess, much of his time was spent in transit. The World Marathon Challenge website has a lot of information on what he did, including maps. Over the course of the 130 hours and 8 minutes, he ran a total of 295km (183 miles), spent over 62 hours on planes, and flew 43,000km. The route took him from a Russian base on mainland Antarctica to Cape Town, Dubai, London, Toronto, Santiago and eventually Sydney. He ran these marathons back in January.

Admirably, in undertaking this challenge, Richard wanted to specifically draw attention to the GOAL charity’s humanitarian work in Darfur.

Then I received an email asking about how to manage feet in a multiday event. This is similar to what Richard Donovan must have been doing (hopefully). In Fixing Your Feet I have a chapter on Extreme Conditions & Multiday Events. I thought a brief overview would be helpful.

I wrote the following to the Kurt, who had asked the question:

Stage racing foot care is largely proactive prevention rather than reactive. That means reducing calluses, trimming toenails short and filing them smooth at the tips (I’ve written a lot on toenail care), wearing the best possible fitting footwear, good insoles that won’t give you blisters at the side of the heal (a very common problem area), wearing the best possible socks (I prefer Drymax and think they are the best), changing socks regularly, airing and elevating feet when resting and sleeping, the use of Hydropel as a lubricant (which also helps control moisture), knowing how to do preventive taping, knowing how to patch hot spots and drain and patch blisters, carrying a good foot care kit, and educating yourself about foot care. Sounds simple right?


Injinji socks under Smartwool socks in the seven day Atacama Desert Race

Injinji socks under Smartwool socks in the seven day Atacama Desert Race

Most of the things above are just as important when doing a long hike or walk, or any significant distance run or adventure race. Forget one item and you will probably be okay. Forget two or more and the odds of a successful event are reduced. For Richard Donovan, messing up his feet during one of the first three marathons would have spelled disaster and cost him the chance to do seven in five days.

If you are looking for a one stop shopping place gear for stage racing or any long race or event, for my book, Drymax socks, Hydropel, Kinesio Tex tape, tincture of benzoin, and more, check out ZombieRunner. Click on the “Online Shopping”. I also sell the book at my FixingYourFeet.com website and it is available through Amazon, but lots of the stuff you could use is at ZombieRunner.

I will have to investigate talking to Richard Donovan. He sounds like an interesting guy.

As a matter of disclosure, although I receive a small incentive to refer athletes to ZombieRunner, I send people there because it is the best place to purchase many items related to foot care – all in one place. Don and Gillian have helped thousands of athletes get the stuff they need.

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