The question always comes up: How do some stage racers avoid experiencing foot issues while others suffer greatly? I am sure there are factors outside of our control that play into this including genetics but there are many which we have the ability to influence. Here are some thoughts and things that work for me. No one can guarantee a blister free experience but with a little diligence you can improve your lot.
- Shoes that fit: Snug in the arch/top of the foot, no slipping in the back, plenty of room in the toe box and a drop that you are use to. It does not matter if it is the most popular shoe on the market, if the fit is wrong it is not the right shoe for you.
- New shoes: A stage race can destroy a pair of shoes. This is especially true for long, self-supported races. Get a new pair and break them in lightly before the event. Do not rely on a old pair with lots of miles on them.
- The right type of shoe: Typically you will want some form of trail shoe even if there is a large amount of road work. The cushioning and protection are worth it. Minimalist shoes usually do not fair well.
- New socks: Splurge on new socks for a stage race. Worn out socks will cause you grief.
- Plenty of socks: Have as a minimum two extra pairs. I typically bring three extra pairs for a total of four for the race. Heaven is putting on a new, clean pair of socks. Dirty socks will foster blisters due to the embedded grit.
- Variety of socks: This allows matching for the conditions. I will bring a combination of Injinjis, double-layer Wrightsocks (hilly terrain) and Darn Tough wool blend socks (wet conditions). Some like a little more padding in their sock selection too.
- Feet prep: Be sure toe nails are in good shape and your feet are toughened up. This can be accomplished by some barefoot training (I take my shoes off and jog the last half mile home up the sidewalk) and using products like Tuf-foot.
- Clean and dry: After the stage, get your feet out of your shoes, wipe them off and allow to air dry. Reserve a clean pair of socks to wear around camp. This pair can be used in the last days of the race.
- Knowledge: Know how to deal with blisters. Read up on the subject and practice.
- Pre-tape: If you have known trouble spots, pre-tape them. It is better to prevent blisters from developing in the first place.
- Deal with issues early: If a hot spot or blister develops, STOP AND DEAL WITH IT. The five minutes you spend early on can save you hours later if it gets bad.
- Prep for the stage: A daily ritual. Lube feet/toes as you like. Be sure all tape is in good shape, reapply if necessary. Socks are on with no wrinkles. Shoes are free of sand, etc. and tied appropriately (not too tight or loose). Note: there are a variety of ways to lace/tie shoes depending on where you need additional tension or slack.
Hopefully these suggestions will minimize foot issues for you. Racing is much more enjoyable if your feet are happy!