My question for today is, “Do you do any conditioning of your feet before a big race or long hike, or any other adventure?” Or do you just go out and hope for the best—because, after all, what could go wrong with your feet?
So, what is the best way to condition your feet? Your feet must be conditioned to endure the rigors and stresses of your chosen sport or sports. Train in race conditions in the shoes and socks you will wear on race day. Do short hikes with a pack on your back before taking off to tackle a multiday hike. Use a wobble board to strengthen your ankles. Toughen your feet with barefoot walking. Work up to distances that you will tackle in your event. Work out the kinks; find the best shoes and socks for what you will be doing. Learn how to trim your toenails and reduce calluses. Discover the proper insoles that provide support to relieve your plantar fasciitis or heel pain. Strengthen your toes and ankles. In short, do your homework before you head out to tackle the big one. Your feet will thank you.
If you are training for a long hike or an adventure race, at least 60% of your training should be done while wearing your pack with about the same amount of weight as you plan to carry during your race. This works your upper and lower body and trains the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of your ankles and feet to handle the extra weight. You must also train on somewhat the same terrain you’ll face during a race—rocks, sand, up- and downhills, even with wet feet. Knowing in advance how your feet respond to these conditions will help you anticipate problems. Finally, you must train for the same distances as the race itself. One or two long runs a week is much better than five or six short runs. To the undertrained, the multiple days of pounding on your feet can take a cumulative toll and make every step painful.
If you’ve read this far you may ask, “What could go wrong?” My answer is lots of stuff. You could sprain an ankle on uneven surfaces or on a root or rock in the trail. You could get blood under a toenail because your shoes are too short in the toebox length and height. You could get toe blisters because your toenails are too long, untrimmed, too thick, and have rough edges. You could get an unexpected blister under the ball of your foot, on your heel, under the heel, between your toes, on the side of your foot, at the base of your toes, in the arch of your foot, or under a thick callus. You could get a blister in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of your run or hike—and you don’t have the supplies to take care of it when it matters most. You could realize that your shoes are really, really worn out and you should have replaced them weeks ago. You ask yourself why you didn’t replace your worn out, threads-bare socks before today. You could hit yourself on the side of your head for not buying gaiters to keep crap out of your shoes while running trails. You could get a new blister on top of an unhealed blister from last week. You could realize that, yes, you should have let your sore Achilles heal before pushing it on today’s run or hike. You could take a fall on a rough section of trail and realize you should have worked on using your balance board to strengthen your ankles.
So yes, conditioning and planning are important.