One of the biggest threats to any endurance race is Blisters. Therefore knowing how to prevent blisters can give you the edge in the race and avoid a lot of unecessary pain.
There's no way I can be considered as an elite athlete, nor an endurance race junkie. But I do have two big events under my belt and checked off my bucket list and another Oxfam Trailwalker notch as Support Crew. The Oxfam Trailwalker 100km and Sydney Coastrek 50km. For both events I used something that would forever change my view on foot care during these long events and help prevent blisters. Who else want's to finish their endurance race with their feet still in one piece, rather than in pieces?
Let's look at the stats:
The number one reason anyone pulls out of Oxfam Trailwalker is....you guessed it, Blisters.
A survey of the 2011 Oxfam Trailwalker said that 73% of participants experienced blisters! Big Ouch!!
So what can you do to avoid or prevent blisters?
1. Get some help, starting from the ground up
You can see your podiatrist, your physiotherapist or our Osteopath for some Body Maintenance. This might include analysis of your gait, posture and biomechanics in the feet and ankles. Second would then be specific treatment and support to prepare your feet for your event including Osteopathy, Physio or Massage. Whether you're running, walking, cycling or some other mode of transport, your feet are going to take a lot of wear and tear in a short period of time.
Also on race day visit the physio/massage tents for mobilisation or injury management. This can be a priority for your Support Crew to be aware of any pre-existing injuries you have so they can help take you over to these tents. For more Support Crew briefing ideas, click this button:
2. You definitely need some TOYF
The veteran endurance racers will know this too, however, if you're a newbie to these events, I can't stress enough how important Time On Your Feet is. This isn't just the fitness training, huff and puff and getting your heart rate up stuff. It's also about getting on the trail, having time on your feet, walking and wearing in the soles of your feet like they were a pair of shoes. Do in training what you'll be doing during the actual event. Get your feet used to fatiguing and physical discomfort. The more Time on your Feet in training, the more prepared your feet will be on race day.
3. All the gear and no idea?
I'd like to hear your opinion, but mine is knowing if you're blister prone comes down to your socks and shoes you're wearing and if they're actually suitable for your foot shape. This is where professional advice on shoes can save you a lot of time, money and pain instead of finding out the hard way.
You'll also quickly find out in training if you're blister prone and where its happening - your heel, sole of foot, ball of foot or between the toes. In training, have awareness about these hot spots before they turn into blisters. Know that these areas are your weak points and need some extra attention on race day.
Firstly, Try out different socks, one different pair per training hike. As you train, you may find are some socks too rough, toot thin?, too tight?
Secondly,once you've decided what socks are most comfortable for you in training, keep them and change your shoes around. For example, do one hike in trail runners and another in your light running shoes. The bottom line is, figure this stuff out in training. Training is the dress rehearsal.
Replacement Socks and Shoes are key elements of a support box for your support crew to manage for you at checkpoints if you're doing long distance events. There's nothing like a pair of dry socks if your race day is bucketing down. To grab a Free Guide to organising your Support Crew, check out my free Support Crew Organiser, by clicking on the yellow button:
4. Second Skin
If you know you're prone to blisters as you've discovered this in your training, it really depends on where you get them. The ones between the toes are the worst! If it's around the heel or the sole of the foot, taping or strapping with adhesive tape can simply prevent the rubbing from destroying your skin. I used this strategy for Oxfam as I had a history of instable ankles and several sprains. I found the taping not only supported my ankles for the first few hours, but when I did feel rubbing, of my shoe it was in contact with the taping, not my skin, so it wasn't painful. I am proud to say, I made to 100kms with no blisters whatsoever. The next tip was also part of my blister-free success.
5. Runners Tip: Giving you the edge when it comes to endurance racing
The best product I've seen out there is Gurney Goo and if you haven't got some it's a must. Gurney Goo could be something even a veteran Endurance racer won't know about.
Silicon & Tea Tree based, this product trumps Vaseline by a mile. Vaseline is sticky, Gurney Goo allows glide.
Anti-chafing, anti-blister and anti-prune foot are Gurney Goo's flagship benefits. It can be applied to the feet to prevent blisters but also the armpits, groin & crotch area where chafing may occur. Also any contact points with clothing, tags or labels that might rub or create friction in the case of chafing.
I have seen exhausted runners finish half and full marathons with two blood streaked lines down the front of their shirts from nipple chafing- yes a BIG cringe out of pain!!! All of this can be avoided when using Gurney Goo.
I have personal experience using Gurney Goo and found I walked the 100km Oxfam Trailwalker blister-free on my feet and the Coastrek 50km with no blisters either. This is a massive deal when the Number 1 reason people pull out of endurance events such as these is due to bad blisters.
You can coat your feet before any training and put your socks on as normal. On the day before race day, coat your feet in a layer before bed and then apply another on the big day. Also keep a jar in your Support Box held by your Support Crew.
If you're going to be trekking in wet weather, the Gurney Goo puts a thin film-like seal on your skin, making them water-proofed and less likely to get trench foot in the mud and puddles.
Available in Australia at The Fixed Wheel in Manly and other stockists.
Whether it's Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, True Grit, the Seven Bridges Walk, Coastrek or Trailwalker, what got you hooked?
Curiosity was what got me hooked on long distance events. I started with Oxfam Trailwalker and I was curious to see if I could simply complete the distance of 100kms. I had never undertaken an event like these before and so wasn't sure if it was even possible. I loved my hiking and my other love was my job as a bodyworker therapist. Taking care of people when they're injured and helping recovery was a common presentation in the clinic, I knew it well, so I had to share this to save your feet too!
For more information about Blister Prevention, check out the online resources on the website for your event. If you need professional advice for muscle conditioning, gait analysis or postural work to help your body through the event, you can book online with one of our practitioners today.
Check out these other blogposts on Endurance Training & Prep: