I get emails every week from athletes with foot care questions. Some are easy. But I love challenges and even more so when the person is dedicated to finding answers. This post is on the long side, but it is important. I hope you will read through to the end. Several months ago I received an email from Jakob Herrmann. Here is what he wrote:
The Desperate Foot Care Question
I don’t like to bug you with this question but I’m getting desperate. I’ve studied your excellent written book and have researched online but never found a true solution for my problem. If you do not want to answer this then I understand and simply delete this email.
My issues are my heels. I always had calluses on the outer-bottom sides of my heels and they became a problem when I started to run ultras 3 years ago. Especially on 100 milers I am getting blisters underneath them despite carefully taping my feet.
About a year ago I started to remove those calluses with pumice and I got them all almost gone. The skin feels very soft; however, I still get those blisters underneath them despite of the skin being much softer.
What I then do is to cut off all the death skin on top and remove the blister. This always leaves a deep hole in my heel. During the healing process I use pumice, Footherapy’s Apricot Walnut Foot Scrup and True Blue Spa’s “Heel of Approval” heel treatment cream. Once the skin grows back it’s again soft and nice; however, on my next 100 miler the whole process starts over and I get a blister underneath that area on my heels.
I’ve attached pictures of my last blisters, how I take care of them and how it looks once it’s fixed. The way I fix this problem feels like I’m going around a circle. Any help is great appreciated.
So, I Emailed Jakob.
John: Have you reduced the callus to soft skin?
Jakob: Before I removed my calluses on my heels the skin was hard like a crust on top of the normal skin. After I started to remove it the skin was soft; the hard crust was gone but it wasn’t as soft as the rest of the skin on my feet. I think I’ve made it better but not perfect. And yes, the same thing happens on both heels.
John: Many times with good skin care after a blister, the roof of the blister will reattach to the skin underneath. Have you given this a chance or do you simply cut off the top?
Jakob: When I fix my blister I cut off the whole piece including the roof. The end result is like what you see on the first picture.
John: I have seen a lot of heel blisters caused, in my opinion, by the edge of the insole where it touches the inner side of the shoe. Do your insoles have a rough or thick edge at the point where the blisters form?
Jakob: I’ve checked my shoes and their edge of the insole, where it touches the inner side of the shoe, is not too bad at all. There is a bit of an edge but nothing major.
Meeting at Badwater
We emailed back and forth several times. I asked questions and he sent photos. He was doing a great taping job. I talked to Jakob when we were both at Badwater this July. I gave him some Kinesio-Tex tape and suggested he use it on one heel, while taping his other heel as usual. What I wanted to determine is whether there would be a difference in the tapes. I had my suspicions, but knew this was a perfect opportunity for a good test.
Jakob’s Two-Tape Test
Here’s an update what happened with my feet at the Mt. Disappointment 50 mile race.
As discussed I’ve taped one foot the way I always do with the Elastikon tape and the other with your Kinesio-Tex the way you showed me.
First up, the taping with the Kinesio-Tex is so much easier. It goes on very smoothly whereas with the Elastikon tape I always have to be so careful not to have wrinkles within the tape. I had the Kinesio tape on within 5 min where it took me over 10 minutes for the Elastikon tape. I really liked that.
The Kinesio tape also feels much smoother on the skin and it more comfortable to wear.
During the race both feet felt the same. However, around mile 30 my Elastikon tapped heel started to hurt like it usually does but the Kinesio tapped heel didn’t hurt at all. I was super excited about that.
On the last few miles eventually both of my heels started to hurt but the Elastikon foot hurt more. Every time I hit a stone on that heel it shoot a pain through my leg whereas the other side I could feel the stone but it didn’t hurt that much at all.
Also removing the Kinesio-Tex tape was super easy. It just came off like that. The Elastikon tape is always more complicated to remove. I have to pull it very slowly not to rip open the blister.
Once both tapes were gone I saw that both heels had blisters again; however, the heel with the Kinesio tape looks so much better.
What this Taught Me
In my next post, I will talk about what Jakob’s two-tape test taught me.