Tuesday 19 March 2013

Best foot (going) forward

**  Please note:  This is still a work in progress **

I'm lucky in that I'm not often bothered with injuries (touch wood) but it's been well-documented that my feet are a source of pain and discomfort.  Some people might say that experience and mileage-bagging toughen your feet up for ultra-distance running.  Unfortunately, for me, the opposite is true.  Over  the years my feet have got consistently worse.  To the extent that it's a major limiting factor in the amount of races I do. 

Using my 2012 ultras as examplesGlasgow Edinburgh Ultramarathon - my toes were bashed and badly bruised.   During the GUCR my feet were macerated after being wet for so long.  I could hear and feel the blisters popping as I ran.  The end result was so horrific I had to shout everyone in when I was changing to witness the destruction.  On last 10 miles of the Devil o' the Highlands, I felt like I was running on glass.  And at 24 hour world champs, my big toes nails fell off during the race.

All as a result of negligent foot care.  Instead of worrying about "wasting time" fixing a problem, it could have enhanced my performance.  Especially in the 24-hour race.  I've often said, with foot destruction, that ignorance is bliss.  Actually, it's just ignorance.  There was nothing blissful about it.

So I bought Fixing Your Feet last June!  Basically within days of finishing the GUCR. And it gathered dust on my bedside table for quite some time.  Ignorance, no more though.  It has now been attacked with a highlighter pen and I am now armed with lots of useful tips and advice

As per the disclaimer above, this is not gospel.  What works for some, won't work for other. For me, it's a work in progress and I'm still learning what does and doesn't work.  I used a combination of the various steps below on my long run this year and my feet seem better.  Not perfect, but better

General foot care

1) Remove callouses and hard skin.  I soak my feet, use a pumice stone on the rough bits and then apply some Flexitol Callus Remover Cream, which I picked up from Boots for £6.99 (they've got a buy one, get one half-price deal on too).

2) Filing toe nails down the way - towards the tip of your toe - so they are smooth with no rough edges.

3) Apply foot cream daily.  I've been using Gehwol Footcream (based on a Facebook chat recommendation by Mike Blamires), which I bought from Mankind for £5.87... with free and fast delivery.

Pre-long run foot preparation

This is bit time consuming, but worth it.  As I normally start very early, I have done steps 1-5 the night before and then added some more cream in the morning before putting my socks on.

1) Apply what the book refers to as Compound Tincture of Benzoin.  I struggled to find this in the UK, until the lovely William Sichel told me it's called Friar's Balsam here - £3.50 from Amazon. (Try to) Ignore the fact it's a decongestant, just slap it on.  Top tip:  Wear rubber gloves.  The first time I didn't, and my hands looked like I smoked 40 cigarettes a day.  Also put down some newspaper on the floor, as it can get messy.

2)  Allow to dry for a couple of minutes

3) Apply blister plasters - I use Compeed (approx £5) - to areas which are prone to blister.  My worse points are the big toe joints.  Other blister areas I cover with step four.

4) Cover the other blister points and hot spots with Kinesio Tex Tape.  So far I have only covered my big toes and the second toe.   I first put on a vertical strip over the top of the toe and then wrap another strip around the toe.

5) Then I apply some Gehwol Footcream.  The book recommends Hydropel, but this product has been discontinuted.  If I prepare my feet the night before, I go to bed with loose fitting fleece socks and then I apply more cream in the morning.

6) First pair of socks is an Injinji light weight no-show. Available from the ULTRAmarathonRunningStore for £10.99

7) Then I wear Drymax Drymax Lite-Mesh No Show Tab Running Socks on top.  Also available from the ULTRAmarathonRunningStore for £7.99.  I tend to wear no-show socks - even for everyday life - because my ankles and feet are prone to swelling and I think this helps.

8)  I've bought shoes specifically for long-distance training runs and races, which are at least a half size bigger than my normal running shoes.  I take a UK4 in dress shoes, usually buy UK5 for trainers, but my new Hokas are a UK6.  They are small made, but the size 6 is nice and roomy.

9) And finally, I put on some Dirty Girl Gaiters (approx £15) to keep all the nasties out.

During this weekend's 100 miler, if my feet get wet or I sufffer some discomfort my (untested!) steps will be to dry feet - reapply taping if required - apply some Sudocrem and then some Gehwol Footpowder (£5.62 from Mankind) before putting on another set of Injinji and Drymax socks.

I will also keep hydrated and drink water with High Five Zero tabs, because dehydration and salt loss cause blisters too.  Trust me, read the book!
I'll post a picture of my taped feet...and let you know how it goes... :-)


Vicky said...

We also bought that book a couple of years ago. It's a really interesting read.
All the extra time spent on your feet before hand should hopefully save wasting any time during the race. It worked for Paul. Best of luck for this weekend. I'm sure you will be awesome as always xx

Dorothy said...

Good advice, but that's not Kinesio Tex Tape in the picture!

GERRY said...

Debs I may have a more cost effective solution, I will give you a pair of builders steelies to test. Instead of your usual work footwear try them out. I have worn them for 20+ years and don't seem to have any issues with my feet, although the wife aint to happy when they brush up against her in bed.

Debs M-C said...

You are right, Dorothy. It's some cheap imposter. That's what I get for pinching images. I'll get that changed :-)

Gerry, If I wear the steelies do I need to do hard labour? I'm a comfy office softy.

rhona @ redwinerunner.co.uk said...

Some really interesting points, I should buy that book as I also suffer from fairly disgusting feet failure regularly. Of course I'm only on short ultras at the moments so Lord only knows what they'll be like once I make it to 50 milers and beyond :/

I was intrigued by the tape suggestion though. I tried taping once and I've never done it again, because the blisters formed anyway under the tape (on the inside side of my big toes, in between big toe and 2nd toe) and then proceeded to spread further around both sides of the toe than I've ever blistered before. It took weeks to heal. It was as if the pressure of the tape was forcing the blister pressure outwards and the fluid was forcing the skin layers apart far away from where there was any rubbing happening.
I am experimenting with toe socks this year, although I didn't wear them at the D33. Maybe I should have as I have a total monster similar to that which was described above, and another race on Sunday :/

Robert Osfield said...

Is there a chance that running gait might have an effect.

If you land with the your foot still travelling forward then the shoe will stop abruptly on landing and foot will slide forward a little causing friction on your soles as well as the top of the foot and toes rubbing against the upper. The later might well be where toes nails get hammered.

Mid stance I wouldn't expect too many issues.

Late stance/toe off all the vertical and horizontal forces get transmitted to the shoe through your forefoot, any slippage when applying these forces could cause problems on your soles as well as upper.

Any rotation of the foot whilst on stance could also cause problems.

Over-striding will create more of these problems than. Ideally you want to land with your foot coming down vertically at the instant of landing - so work to avoid any scuffing.

Over-striders tend to have to push off harder too compensate with the large breaking on landing so problems with toe can happier.

Fixing over-striding is largely about just keeping your cadence up, landing with the foot underneath the knee and avoiding pushing off too strongly. Do a regular body scan as you run to see if you are slipping back into any bad habits as your fatigue.

Good luck with your 100 miler :-)

William said...

Brilliant, so glad you have put such great effort into this - well done!

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