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.
Lets talk about expectations for foot care at races. I like this subject because being prepared is important. It can make my work easier and likewise that of everyone helping with medical and foot care at races. This coming weekend is Western States and there will be a lot of runners needing help with their feet.
Over the years I have seen everything at 100-mile races. Runners with holes in their socks or socks so worn you can see through the material, severe Athlete’s Foot, long and untrimmed toenails, huge calluses, no gaiters, the use of Vaseline as a lubricant, the use of Band-Aids on blisters, existing injuries that have not healed, shoes that should have been tossed out, huge blisters caused by not treating hot spots, and lots more.
I see runners with crews that manage everything for them – including foot care. These are typically runners who have experience in longer races. They also seem to have some degree of foot care expertise. They will come through an aid station and meet their crew and all is well. If they need foot care, they have the supplies and they or their crew knows how to use the materials. They are prepared.
Other runners are less prepared. They might have crews, but they don’t have the foot care supplies, much less the expertise in how to do what they needed. They count on someone being there to fix their feet.
Many of these runners expect a lot from the podiatrity staff – sometimes, they want a miracle. There are four issues to get past. First, many times there are no “official” podiatrity people at the aid station. No podiatrist anyway. Second, what they get is someone who is maybe a nurse, paramedic, EMT, or even a full-fledged MD, who is volunteering as the aid station’s medical person. Third, often this person(s) has limited skills in fixing feet. And finally, fourth, often they have limited supplies.
So what do you get? You get a person who really wants to help but may be hindered by their limited skills and resources. Don’t fault them if the patch doesn’t work or it feels wrong. You might try and give them directions on what to do – with limited success.
What’s wrong here? Your expectations are wrong. You cannot expect every race to have podiatrity people at every aid station, with supplies to fix hundreds of feet. Some races have medical staff while other races have none. A majority of races do not have podiatrist on hand. Is it their job to provide it? Only if they advertise such aid.
This means you should be prepared at any race you enter, to have the foot care supplies and knowledge to patch your own feet – or have crew that knows how. Does that sounds harsh? Maybe so, but you entered the race. You spent money on travel, a crew, food, new shoes, lodging, new shorts and a top, water bottles, and more. But did you spend a few bucks on preparing a good foot care kit?
Why take a chance that I or anyone else is there to fix your feet? I find lots of runners who have my book (Fixing Your Feet) but I am amazed at the large numbers who haven’t heard of it.
Many of us don’t mind fixing your feet. In fact I love to do it. But we can’t be everywhere – at all aid stations, at all hours, and at all races. Can you do me a favor? Tell some else about Fixing Your Feet and this blog. Make their life a bit easier and help them finish their race with happy feet.
I’ll be in the medical area at the Michigan Bluff aid station. In back of the scales and food tables. If you need me, I’ll be there.
I have held a pretty firm position on moleskin for many years – I don’t like it and I don’t use it.
Here are my reasons. It doesn’t stick. It doesn’t shape to the foot’s curves. And it’s too thick.
I have no objection to other athletes using it, but I don’t touch the stuff.
Several years ago, I worked provided foot care at the 3-day Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Walk in San Francisco. They had a pretty good supply of powder and Vaseline – and boxes of moleskin. Everyone sat around and cut the stuff into small, medium and large ovals. Hundreds of moleskin ovals. It didn’t take long for the rest of the medical staff to figure out the stuff sucked. They quickly learned that I had my own supply of tapes – and they wanted some.
Well, even an old dog can learn new tricks. Pamela Cress, the VP of Marketing for ProFoot (New York), emailed me about trying a pair of their insoles. I agreed and when the package arrived, inside I found a packet of their “special” moleskin. It’s called “VelvetexTM Moleskin.
Reluctantly I took it out of the packet. I my mind, it was moleskin – pure and simple. But I wanted to give it a fair test. I cut an oval, peeled off the backing, and applied it to my heel, right over clean skin without any tape adhesive. It stuck extremely well and stayed on for two days. It’s not thick and is very soft so it formed itself to the curves of the side of my heel.
This evening I took another piece and put it on my heel and a piece of a different manufacture’s moleskin on the other heel. The ProFoot moleskin was superior and stuck better than the other brand. The ProFoot moleskin is shown in photo #1. It is softer than any other moleskin I have seen. It’s stickiness is better than everyone else’s too. After wearing it for two days I found it did not stick to my sock. It stayed in place.
The other brand is shown in photo #2. It’s much coarser in feel and easily comes off. If you look closely, you’ll see the far left edge lifting off the skin. That comes from it’s inability to form to the curves of the foot.
Here’s what ProFoot’s webpage says about their moleskin: “Velvetex is a unique breathable material that is softer and more durable than ordinary moleskin, it also performs better under pressure. The unique Microfiber texture moves with your foot to help reduce friction, further protecting your sore spots. It soothes, relieves, and prevents blisters, calluses, corns, sore spot, and red tender skin. It’s also latex free.”
I can honestly say I like ProFoot’s Velvetex Moleskin. I will be purchasing some to keep in my foot care kit for cases where I want something thicker than tape – probably for the balls of the feet and heels. I will use Compound of tincture of benzoin to help it stick even better. ProFoot has a winner in their moleskin. You can easily add a strip to your kit.
The Velvetex Moleskin is packaged with two 3.25” x 5” sheets to a pack. The ProFoot web page has a button to buy from Amazon, Walgreens, and other online websites. Amazon has it for $3.11 per pack.
Fair disclosure: ProFoot sent me their Moleskin to test. I have no financial investment in the product or company.
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.
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.