Monday, 11 November 2013

The Importance of baby soft feet in Ultras and Ironman Triathlons

Baby soft feet are one of the most important but most overlooked aspects of endurance training and racing. Personally I make it a mission to ensure my feet are in tip top condition for any important race for at least a month prior to the race. I make sure I go to a good chiropodist at least twice in that month and a week before the race to ensure all issues have been dealt with and my feet are perfect to compete.

Our feet are the foundation of running and without a decent foundation we cannot expect to go very far or fast. The stories I hear of blisters, lost toe nails, and general pain go on forever. I experienced debilitating blisters in my first long ultra and swore that that was one lesson I would learn from.

Feet are funny things, there are around 20 main muscles, loads of tendons, ligaments, bones and soft tissue that can help or ruin your training and racing so why do so few of us actually take good care of our feet?

In barefoot running the general feeling is to ensure you have built up a good bunch of callouses that will protect your feet and make sure that they are hardened and ready to cope with what the earth throws at them.

But we generally keep our feet cocooned in our Asics, Salomon or other shoes to protect them from the nasty things we might land on. This is great but it makes our feet soft and weak, we protect them too much.

Blisters are caused by friction between either skin on skin or skin on material. It can happen because your toes rub against each other or because your feet are rubbing against your socks or shoes. Yes you can tape your feet, you can wear double layered socks, you can even try a number of remedies such as soaking your feet in petroleum spirit. But whilst these all seem to have some merits I believe you can beat good foot care.

Since I discovered this little secret I have not suffered at all on any distances or races from Ultra's to Ironman Triathlons. I make sure my feet are buffed, toe nails are trimmed, feet are creamed and any old blisters or small issues are dealt with by my chiropodist.

Now running long distances does cause your feet to swell and sweat so there is a high possibility of getting a blister but I have found that great care has eliminated this issue.

As far as toe nail loss goes I have found that it is only down to incorrect footwear in terms of sizing. This is because runners often go for the same size shoe they would normally wear, when in fact they need to be a half to a full size bigger to prevent this happening. Toe nail loss is due to the toes bashing against the front of the shoe, which causes small traumas in the toe nail which leads to black toe nails and eventually nail loss. Keep your toe nails, go bigger on shoes.

An excellent book on this is Fixing Your Feet by John Vonhof  it is a little long and does go into massive detail but if you are into long distance running, Ironman Triathlon or multi day running then this is the book for you.

It covers how to deal with feet issues such as blisters and most importantly how to prevent then along the lines of what I have described here. It covers multi stage races such as The Marathon des Sables and other long distance races.

So look after your feet and they will look after you. It doesn't have to be expensive and you don't need to visit a chiropractor, just get a decent foot buff and some good nail scissors and make sure you don't cut too deep or that will give you issues!

Final tips.....make sure you are hydrated. Blisters often occur as a result of dehydration.

Get some good socks. I prefer X-Socks for general running and Dry Max socks for long distance trails. Both have been my preferred choice

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