I have always thought, the personnel of any of the armed forces units are more like elite athletes but often fail to see themselves in that way. A shift in that belief system, could help the armed forces, help themselves in preventing injuries and also blisters that end up compromising their duties. These simple suggestions can make such a difference to the completion of any training event.
TIPs for the Armed forces
Shoes and Boots
The principle of wearing the best footwear you can afford still applies and this is the most important footwear that needs to be right as they will be the one item that gets you through the training and tours that you will do. Always make sure you get the boots/ trainers at the end of the day or after a period of activity as then your feet will have retained a bit of fluid and be slightly bigger in size. This should be the time when your boots/ trainers should fit correctly. If your feet are slightly wider then buy a wider fit, do not size up the length in the hope it will compensate for the width of a shoe, that never works and you will end up with blisters all over the feet. Wear new shoes in overtime and don’t try and participate in a strenuous event with a new pair of boots or trainers. Once the sole of a shoe has worn excessively, especially in the heel area, this can put the foot at an odd angle during heel strike and can cause injuries of the foot and higher up the body. A shoe’s function and ability to shock absorb has also been lost due to this excessive wear
This is such a simple thing to do with a really big impact on preventing blisters on the feet. Some boots have their own lace locking system, situated around the ankle area of the boot and you might have not realised why it is there?
Lace locking at the ankle joint is so important in the prevention of blisters all over the foot as it prevents excessive movement of the foot in the shoe/boot preventing high friction areas against the skin. Walking or running downhill is particularly a problem for the ends of the toes as they can impact at the front of the shoe, repetitively when the foot moves forward too much, within the shoe. Please refer to the “how to lock your lace tutorial” for guidance on how to achieve this.
If you are prone to blisters on your feet then consider the socks you are wearing? Moisture wicking socks are not like your normal socks, they are a technical sock, because they wick the moisture away from the skin. Cotton socks are not great in this situation as they keep the sweat next to the skin of the foot and this will cause blisters.
Merino wool and coolmax are the materials that are needed to wick the moisture away from the skin I personally like Darn tough as they are guaranteed for life and although they can seem expensive to purchase initially, they last for much longer than all other socks. I always think these socks would make great Christmas and birthday gifts from family that are not sure what their family of friends in the armed forces would like.
They come in different lengths, thickness, cushioning underneath and are all seamless. Some people need a liner sock and an outer sock, this sock arrangement allows the friction to be taken up between the socks and not between the sock and the foot. The liner needs to be of moisture wicking material as well. Armaskin do a great liner sock and they last on average for 260 miles.
Waterproof socks are only a good idea if the outside water is more than the sweat produced from the foot, if the foot sweat is more than the external water ie the conditions you are in then the foot will end up being macerated. This I covered in the macerated section. Below
Fungal Infection/Athlete foot
These two descriptions are actually the same condition and are so underestimated, they can cause a problem for the skin of the feet especially if the ambient temperature is warm and humid. Often presenting as red patchy areas, sometimes with fluid filled bumps on the skin, often itchy when warm, especially in bed at night. If the skin becomes broken from scratching, then a bacterial infection will be introduced to the open skin. This in turn, can cause cellulitis if the conditions are ideal and that can be a big problem that will require a course antibiotic.
A large percentage of the population struggle with fungal infections and most of the time they are not any trouble. To prevent a fungal infection being a problem, the easiest treatment for anyone in the armed forces especially those touring in humid climates is a product called `Lamisil once`
It is a gel that is applied to all areas of the skin on the foot, top, bottom and in-between the toes. The feet need to be kept dry for 24 hours so an application needs to be well timed. This application should keep the skin fungal free for between 4-8 weeks. It requires re- applying after this time as the problem will always there but just needs managing. Treatment of the fungal infected skin will help prevent the fungal infection jumping under the nails.
Maceration of the foot/Trench or festival foot
This condition is where the skin of the foot become saturated with moisture, often resembling skin that has been in the bath for too long, where the skin wrinkles like a prune. The skin becomes more fragile and prone to tearing and blistering.
The skin, ideally needs 24 hours to the open air to evaporate, wearing flip flops allows this to happen. Wearing them in your down time is important, athletes do this all the time, when participating in multiday events. The socks need to be dried out, preferably moisture wicking socks as in the sock section or use a liner sock like Armaskin that takes the moisture away from the skin. Allowing the boots to dry out before using them again is important.
Gaiters help to prevent water getting into the inside of the boot, so the boot remains dry, preventing the problem in the first place View tutorial video on macerated feet.
This sounds like such a simple suggestion but it is often the one that is overlooked. If toe nails are incorrectly cut, torn or ripped then it is likely to cause an ingrowing toe nail or rips the skin of the neighbouring toe.
Nails are less trouble if cut straight across and the edges are filed. Scissors and those small finger and thumb clippers often found in Christmas crackers are unsuitable and more often than not, will cause in growing nail.
The nail clippers we use in clinic have straight or curved edge that close and meet together which then cut the nail with a straight clean edge. The smaller versions of our clinic sets are available on the website.
If you have an ingrowing toe nail already, then soak the toe in a solution of table/sea salt and water for ten minutes, this helps to clean the toe and then dress it with a sterile antiseptic dressing. Book an appointment to see a Podiatrist and they treat it conservatively or to chat to you about permanently removing the nail completely with a local anaesthetic. Ingrowing toenails and how to get rid of them permanently | Lindsey Ebbs Podiatry (footcheck.co.uk) This is not as bad as it sounds and is a better option than being on tour with a problem toenail that could hamper your duties. Correct cutting of toe nails will help prevent that happening.
There is no point looking after your feet in preventing blisters if they then the blisters present themselves in the groin or shoulders, use the blister prevention principles for the rest of the body. Moisture wicking underwear is readily available from Runderwear, Rohan and Under- armour all have many options to choose from as well as wearing undergarments next to your skin like long sleeve vests that have the same moisture wicking properties in preventing blisters and chaffing.
Pain the joints and soft tissues of the feet
Joint pain is often felt as a sharper pain and is present, either from the start of weightbearing and gradually builds up after a period of time.
Soft tissue pain can be present all of the time and will increase in intensity if not addressed and treated. Both can be disabling and prevent the sufferer from performing any activity.
Pain is there for a reason; it is a warning to seek help. Lower limb joint pain can be often be discovered by a biomechanical assessment and subsequently a prescription of orthotics to go in the shoes. Soft tissue problems can also be treated with laser Marco the M6 MLS Robotic Laser | Lindsey Ebbs Podiatry (footcheck.co.uk) or shockwave, What is shockwave therapy and will it work for me? | Lindsey Ebbs Podiatry (footcheck.co.uk)fascial manipulation Fascial manipulation of the lower limb. (Stecco Method®) | Lindsey Ebbs Podiatry (footcheck.co.uk)and with the help of orthotics Pressure plate gait analysis and 3D printed orthotics | Lindsey Ebbs Podiatry (footcheck.co.uk) to resolve the problem and help prevent the problem repeating Consult a Podiatrist, who can easily diagnose any problem with the lower limb and help with a treatment plan to resolve whatever the issue may be.?
Silica gel sachets
You know those small sachets of silica that come with everything you buy, keep them in a jar/ sealed plastic bag. They absorb 24 % of their weight in water, so when packing your kit for humid/wet climates, put these in with your damp garments in a sealed bag and they will absorb the moisture, keeping your kit dryer.
KT Tape pro
If you are thinking of using this amazing tape to prevent blisters on your feet then order the yellow colour as it is picked up better than the other colours by the night vision equipment that you use.