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Foot Care for the Ultra Crowd

Posted by Stephen Regenold on Jul 18, 2007 8:20:00 AM

In endurance sports like adventure racing and ultra

running, keeping my feet happy and healthy for hours or days on the go has

always been difficult. Lord knows I've learned the hard way: During Primal

Quest, a 10-day adventure race in Utah last year, the freak combination of

shoe-invading desert silt, 110-degree heat, and 40+ miles of trekking set off a

reaction that dug deep 50-cent-piece-size blisters into the back of my heels.

This took place on the first day of the race. I was then forced to trek,

paddle, climb and bike for 9 days with raw, electrifyingly-painful feet,

utilizing medical tents for aid when available, pain relieving drugs, duct

tape, super glue, and sheer will to keep on.

 

 

(See my story on the race here: http://thegearjunkie.com/adventure-primal-quest-adventure-race)

 

 

 

 

Since that race, I take foot care -- and foot/shoe/sock

preparation -- quite seriously for any event. A case in point was this past

weekend, when I competed on a two-person team in an 8-hour adventure race in

central Minnesota, the annual MNOC Adventure Race. The race course would be

venturing through deep woods and swamps. We'd wade and swim through rivers.

We'd trail run and paddle a kayak. Bushwhacking was to be a large part of the

ordeal as well.

 

 

 

 

As such, my footwear situation needed to be unique.

Regular trail runners and synthetic socks would not cut it.

 

 

 

To prepare my feet, I started at home, trimming my

toenails back. This is important to lessen the chance of contact with a nail pounding

on the front of your shoe. Toenails may also rub neighboring toes, which can

cause blisters.

 

 

 

 

Next, at the race, I applied Hydropel, a gooey salve made

by Genesis Pharmaceutical Inc. that does a good job eliminating friction both

between your foot and the sock as well as the skin-on-skin rub between toes. It

repels water, an important trait for events like this. The product comes in

small, 2-ounce squeeze bottles, which cost about $13 each. It's not cheap, but

used somewhat conservatively the bottle should last you for five to 10

lube-ups.

 

 

 

 

(See my full Hydropel review from The Gear Junkie here:

http://thegearjunkie.com/hydropel-sports-ointment)

 

 

 

 

Step No. 2 was socks, and for this I employed Inov-8's

(http://www.inov-8.com) new Debrisoc, which are essentially merino wool sport

socks with a built-in flap that folds over the shoe's opening to create a

gaiter. These all-in-one innovations, which cost about $22, seal off your foot

from sticks, rocks and mud. A small hook in front stretches the flap over the

laces. Elastic bands loop underneath to keep it on tight.

 

 

 

The Debrisoc is a cool invention. It fits nice and solid,

and the all-purpose miracle material of merino wool is hard to beat in any

season, as it breathes, insulates, cool, wicks, and then dries somewhat

quickly.

 

 

 

 

As promised, the Debrisoc kept all debris at bay during

the race. I never once had to dump out my shoes, despite wading in mud,

swimming, running through swamps, and bushwhacking a couple miles through thick

woods, jumping logs, tangling in raspberry vines, and sometimes practically

swimming through bush as thick as it comes.

 

 

 

 

(See my full Debrisoc review from The Gear Junkie here:

http://thegearjunkie.com/gear-review-inov-8-debrisoc)

 

 

 

 

For shoes, I also went with Inov-8, employing the

company's RocLite 285s. These aren't trail runners. They aren't shoes you'd

wear for a jog on the street, either. U.K.-based Inov-8 Ltd. makes shoes for

the oddball sport of mountain running. I love their minimalist design for

orienteering and shorter races like this 8-hour event in central Minnesota.

 

 

 

The RocLite 285s have a low-profile midsole, which

essentially means there is very little cushioning underfoot, and its upper is a

thin synthetic mesh. They drain water well once submerged, they fit my feet

perfectly, and they are fast and light little buggers.

 

 

 

 

Final note: For ultra events I recommend sizing up at

least a 1/2-size increment from your normal shoe. During long events, when

you're on the go for hours and hours, your feet will swell. The extra area

inside the shoe is mandatory for keeping things happy and healthy down there in

the land of blisters and chafe.

 

 

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