Monday, July 5, 2010

Barefoot running and blisters

Went to the beach this weekend and planned on running barefoot/Five Fingers both days. On Saturday, I got four miles in with the VFF and did okay although I think I let myself do a little too much heel striking and I'm a little sore on my left heel. So, on Sunday, I decided to forego the VFF in lieu of an old fashioned barefoot run on the beach. Felt great for the first two miles, splashing in the cool salty water, with a little trail of sand flicked up my heels and ankles. But I started to notice excessive discomfort in my toes and forefoot. I stopped for a quick exam, and I had cropped up 3-4 notable blisters.

When I came back home, my family noted, "You're such an experienced runner, how does something like that happen to you?" Well, unfortunately, it can happen to any of us. The important things to remember are how to care for them and how to change your running and gear to avoid recurrence.

Treating blisters:

Good advice from the Mayo clinic website which is to leave them alone if at all possible. Draining them invites the opportunity for infection. Now, for most young healthy people, this is unlikely and unlikely to be severe if it does occur. For older runners or people with conditions like diabetes, foot care is of greater importance. Always consult your doctor if you are unsure of how to proceed. I may end up draining mine since they are under some tension and somewhat painful, but we'll see.

Avoiding blisters:

Believe it or not, I found a useful page on this at Yahoo answers! That said, a simple Google search will give you hundreds or thousands of pages on low tech and high tech ways of preventing blisters, many trying to sell you their awesome products. Simple advice includes:

  • Keeping feet dry, wrinkly damp feet provide an easy opportunity for skin layers to split and form blisters.
  • Reduce friction with decent socks and well fitting shoes
  • Don't tie them too tight. Allowing your socked foot some mobility will allow the surfaces to glide over one another, where cinching everything down can actually increase friction
  • When necessary lube, body glide is a popular product, personally, I just use petroleum jelly

For me, preventing race day blisters is usually just adding some petroleum jelly between my toes and over my forefeet under my socks. I've never had trouble with staining my shoes and the only race I've had hot spots I got on my heel (might start lube'ing these as well).

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