Preparing your feet for an event
Conditioning and Training
Whichever activity you are participating in has the same preparation rules. Conditioning the body by training in that activity for a reasonable amount of time prior to the event is crucial as the body and feet will need to be prepared for the stresses and strains applied to them. If they are not they will injure, blister, or both. An event that has a greater distance, or requires you to be active for a longer time, then the training will also have to reflect that. For example a half marathon will require less training time in relation to iron man event. It is worth remembering that feet appreciate the repetition of training as they adapt to be more conditioned to the event you’re training for.
Footwear is probably the biggest issue for all weight bearing activities as they need to be right on many levels. If the length of the shoe is too short then the toes will blister. Place your thumb widthways at the end of your longest toe (not necessarily the big toe) and this is the gap that is required from the toe to the end of the shoe. If the shoes are too wide the foot will move around in the shoe too much, reducing traction and causing friction. If the shoes are too narrow they will cause pressure hotspots which will lead to blistering.
Do not wear new shoes to an event! You should wear the shoes well in advance of an event, two weeks at a minimum but we recommend longer, especially for distance events.
Also, do not wear shoes that are past their best as where they have worn may cause your feet to be put at an angle that could lead to injuries and blisters. You should know that that trainers are usually good for around 400 miles and walking boots are 1000 miles before they start to lose their shock absorption and support. If your feet are prone to swelling you may need a bigger size shoe for your event. Fit Engo patches to the areas of the shoe that may be causing hotspots.
Footwear for after completing an event is important, take a loose pair of old trainers or flip flops to wear when travelling home in. Your feet may have swollen or have blisters, so something comfortable at this stage is invaluable.
Best socks for an event
Socks are just as important as the footwear regardless of the event. The material of the sock really does matter as it needs to be able to wick the moisture away from the skin. Cotton does not do this as the material holds the moisture next to the skin, which increases the chances of blistering.
A snug fit is important so the sock does not ruck up in the shoe and cause blistering. Thickness matters too, a thinner sock is used shorter distance events, but in general a thicker one should be used for training. Trekking and endurance running however, require a thicker sock. Any events that come into contact with water, such as tough mudder and triathlons, are an example of where thinner socks are required as they need to drain quicker and release the water from the shoe and consequently the skin. All socks required for training or events have one thing in common and that is the ability to wick away moisture from the skin. If you are training a lot, you will find the combination that works for you, rarely does any athlete get it right the first time around.
As a general rule make sure that the toenails are kept short and filed in order to prevent blood blisters forming under the nail. Any callus formation on the skin should be removed by a podiatrist to prevent blisters forming underneath the callus, as these are agonising and have the potential to stop you from completing your event.
Preparing the skin prior to an event is recommended as the skin needs to adapt to the stresses applied to it. A supple, good quality skin will flex and resist the stress applied to it, whereas a dry, cracked poor quality skin will not adapt well to the extreme conditions the feet are exposed to during an event.
- Professional Nail Care Kit£20.00 inc.VAT
Laces and Lace Locking
There are many different ways to tie laces and are dependent on your foot type. Some styles will suit wide feet, others narrow, some are meant for high arches and finally there are styles for low arches.
Laces coming undone in an event is annoying and dangerous so ensure practice your lace tying before the day. You may need to trial alternative styles during training so you know which works for you. Here is a link for 55 ways to tie a lace https://www.fieggen.com/shoelace/
Lace locking is equally important as if the laces are loose around the ankle area then the foot can move forward in the shoe and, also out of the back of the shoe. This movement cause’s shear forces which then blister the skin at the heel area, toes and underneath the balls of the feet.
The shape of the laces needs to be a consideration too as round laces tend to slip more than flat laces. You should also consider which material the laces are made from as an absorbent material like cotton will soak up more water, become heavier and, then flap around on the skin causing problems. A Polyester, Nylon and Kevlar blend are a better alternative to cotton, but they can con come loose if not secured correctly.
Easy laces and lock laces are stretchy laces that have a locking device where the bow should be. A lot of athletes like this mechanism but there can be downside to them, if you have feet that swell during an event then there is less control when adjusting the laces to avoid a hot spot of pressure.
Whatever lace and type you choose, make sure the lace loops and lace ends are either cut to size or secured away in the lacing crossings and not tucked into the shoe this is to ensure they don’t snag or pick up surrounding debris.
Who would have thought the humble lace could present so many choices!?
Gaiters are probably the least thought about piece of equipment prior to an event. It goes without saying if you are an ice skater, footballer, or netballer, etc, you will not need gaiters! However, if you’re walking, trekking, or trail running you definitely do as debris and water that enters through the top of the sock and shoes will sit next to the skin and start to rub causing excessive shear and then blisters. This will be very painful and maybe put a halt to completing at the event altogether.
SOS Blister kits
What are you going to take with you in case you need treatment during an event?
Every athlete should be responsible for care of their feet during an activity, whether it be a walking event, endurance race, triathlon or a rugby match!
- Emergency Blister Treatment Kit£45.00 inc.VAT
Take a Blisterhelp SOS blister kit with you. They are lightweight, portable and you can carry them on you when training or participating, or you can give the kit to a supporter on the side lines.
When you feel a hot spot forming, stop and treat it as soon as practicable. Time given to your feet at this point will save you from discomfort and pain in the long term and will help you to complete your event, no matter how long it is.
Do not rely on the event organisers to offer that service to you as it is unlikely that they will have the right materials or expertise to help you.
Being prepared is the key to successfully completing an event!