It’s been many years since I ran my first ultra. It was probably about 1984 and it was the Skyline 50KM in the East Bay from San Francisco. I think I had a few smallish blisters. In later years as I ran longer ultras, I recall having more blisters. The one thing I know is that I had no idea what to do to manage prevent and blisters. I was a newbie and there was little or no information available about foot care.
So looking back to that first ultra and what I’ve learned since, what would I say to those doing their first ultra? I’m going to write this as a list. The list in in priority order.
- Wear the best fitting shoes possible, which means
- Getting fit for shoes at a reputable running shoe store
- Making sure there’s wiggle room in the toe box.
- Making sure the heel counter grips my heel
- Checking my shoe laces to make sure they are not worn through
- Wear high quality moisture wicking socks that are not threadbare in any area
- If it’s a trail run, getting a pair of gaiters to keep trail dirt and grip out of my shoes
- Pick the best lubricant I can find and apply a dab between my toes
- Making sure I have trained in similar conditions for the race I’m going to do
- Making sure I have trimmed my toenails short and filed them smooth
- Making sure I have spent time reducing any calluses on my feet
- Get two ENGO Blister Prevention patches to pin to my bib number in case of a hot spot
- Pin a six inch strip of kinesiology tape to my bib number, with rounded corners
- If I’m prone to blisters on any part of my feet, I’d know how to pre-tape over the area
- Know the right way to drain any blisters that might develop
- Know the right way to patch any blister
- Know to stop and clear any rocks or stones out of my shoes when I first feel them
This list assumes you are running either a 50KM or a fifty miler. If you are doing a 100KM or 100 miler or 24-hour race as your first ultra, I’d challenge you to run something shorter to start. Longer races require many more steps and much more care as more things can go wrong.