Next week is the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run and all the fun and hoopla that goes with it. I ran the race from 1985 – 1989 with a best time of 24:32. It was a challenge but I had fun every year. Ever since then I have been associated with the run in some capacity and for the last 16 or so years have provided foot care help at an aid station or two and the finish line. In that time I have seen a lot of runners come through aid stations needing foot care.
This year I decided to make a list of my top 12 foot care tips for success at 100’s – whether Western States or any other 100-mile run. You don’t want feet like in this picture.
- Make sure your shoes fit. That means a bit of room in the toe box and good grip in the heel. It also means that the shoes are in good shape.
- Make sure you wear good socks. That means no cotton, but only moisture wicking or water-hating socks. If you are prone to toe blisters, consider Injinji toe socks.
- Trim your toenails short and then file them smooth so when you run your finger over the tip of the toe, you don’t feel any rough edges or points. This goes for thick toenails too – file them down.
- Reduce your calluses with a callus file and moisture creams. Trust me, you don’t want blisters under calluses.
- Wear gaiters over the top of your socks and shoes. This keeps dust and grip from going down inside the shoes and inside your socks. Understand though that the mesh in today’s trail shoes does allow dirt and grits inside the toe box, even with gaiters.
- Use a high-quality lubricant like SportsShield, Sportslick, RunGoo, Trail Toes, or ChafeX. Do not use Vaseline.
- Know how to treat a hot spot and blister between aid stations – and carry a small kit in your hydration pack. Early care is better than waiting until a blister has formed or until the blister has popped and its roof torn off.
- Just as you have trained by running and conditioning, you need to know what your feet need to stay healthy and blister-free during the race. Just as you have learned what foods you can tolerate during a race and during the heat, you need to be prepared for foot care problems. Your feet are your responsibility.
- Make sure you have a well-stocked foot care kit(s) with your crew and they know, in advance, how to care for your feet. Trailside, at an aid station, is not the time to learn or to train them what you like done.
- When you pour water over your head and body to cool off, lean forward to avoid water running down your legs and in your shoes. Getting wet feet or waterlogged socks can lead to maceration very fast.
- Consider using RunGoo or Desitin Maximum Strength Original Paste liberally on your feet and toes to control moisture from excessive sweat, stream crossings, snow melt, and water poured over your head that runs down into your shoes. Reapply at aid stations. Maceration can quickly lead to skin folds, tender feet, skin tears, and blisters.
- Finally, DO NOT assume that every aid station has people trained in foot care or have the supplies necessary to treat your feet. If you have a crew, have them work on your feet. Many times the medical personnel are backed up or dealing with more serious medical emergencies. And, truth be told, blister are not a medical emergency. Heat stroke, heat exhaustion, dehydration, and the like are more serious than blisters.
Every year I am amazed at the number of runners who are ill prepared. They put extra socks in their drop bags – that have holes in them. The have open Athletes foot sores between their toes. Their shoes are shot and should have been replaced. They have not done good toenail care. They have thick calluses. They start the race with old unhealed blisters. Their shoes don’t fit. They wear full-length compression socks and then are amazed when we can’t get them off at the aid station to work on their feet. Tight fitting compression socks may feel good but are almost impossible to get off and even worse to get back on over patched feet.
While medical people will always try to help you, we can’t work miracles with your feet when you have neglected caring for them from the start. Again, your feet are your responsibility.