Recently I was asked the following question: “I lace up shoes in various ways to minimize ankle movement in shoes but still wear down the material at the top of the back end shoes (especially laterally) in all brands but more noticeably in Topo shoes. See photo attached with Ultraventure with 450 miles on the pair (but notice this starting at 100 miles). Any suggestions as to how to prep this area with a durable so shoe fits better and does not wear down? I am currently using duct tape to push in the hemorrhaging foam from the back of my Phantoms. I never get hot spots or blisters in this area.” The picture here shows a worn through area at the top of the heel counter on the lateral (outside) side of the runner’s left shoe.
Runners can get these worn through areas all around the heel counter. It could be that the heel counter is too tight on the foot. Or the runner shoves their foot into the tied shoe, putting undue stress on the seams and materials of the shoe. Or the runner supinates or pronates in their stride, putting undue stress on the shoe’s upper. The runner could also have Haglund’s deformity, which is a bump on the back of the heel. At any rate, the rest of the shoe is probably fine, just this problem area that may or may not be rubbing against the ankle at the back of the heel. If it is, blisters may develop.
So what can we do?
Here was my response. “It’s odd that you are wearing through the shoe’s upper at the same place regardless of the make of shoe. You appear to be supinating your feet to the outside. Correct? I’d suggest looking at Engo Blister Prevention Patches. These are very slick patches that are applied to insoles and shoe’s uppers to make a stick surface to reduce friction. They make small and large ovals, which I suggest are good for the area you are trying to protect. They are very sticky. Rub them a bit between your fingers to soften them a bit and make them more pliable. Then hold one to the area needing fixing. When you see where to place it, remove the white backing and apply it to the inside of the shoe’s upper. You want to make sure the edges will not rub against the foot. The top could be just above the top of the shoe or you could try and fold it over a bit. If you are careful, you can remove them once they are placed. I would apply these before the area separates and opens up. Try spreading the shoe’s upper to use as much of the Engo patch’s adhesive surface as possible. When the blue surface wears through to white, you should replace the patch. Apply Engo patches to dry shoes only.”
I have used this trick on a variety of shoe problems. I love Engo Blister Prevention Patches. The patches work on insoles under the ball of the foot, overlapping the edges of the insole and heel counter over hot spots of blisters, in the forefoot of the inside of the shoe over a bunion area, and more. It’s a good company and the patches are useful beyond shoe repair. I’ve seen them used on oar handles, tools; anywhere that skin comes into contact with a fixed surface.
Give Engo patches a try. Put a few in your foot care kit. You could also pin one to your bib number in case you need one mid-marathon or ultra. Those doing adventure racing should always carry a few in their kits.