Foot Care for Runners, Ultra Runners, and Adventure Racers

You name it, it’s happened to me - black toenails that eventually fall off, blisters the size of credit cards, bloody feet, hot spots that won’t go away, bruises that constantly ache, etc. As a multisport athlete, I think I’ve made just about every mistake there is in regards to footcare. I tend to push my feet to the limit by doing ultramarathons (a race that is longer than a marathon and is typically on a trail), 36 hour adventure races, Ironman triathlons, and XMS (eXtreme MultiSport) training weekends. After extensive pain, suffering, and trial & error, I finally know how to take care of my feet! Ultramarathons, adventure races, Ironman triathlons, and long runs are much more enjoyable if your feet aren’t screaming! In this article, I summarize the key lessons I learned the hard way. Hopefully, this advice will prevent you from having to suffer and go through the same pain I did! If you have any footcare tips of your own, please leave a comment.

Running on the Sun Trailer - Guy Has His Toenails Removed!

Follow These Tips and you won't end up with a Toenail Necklace!
Follow These Tips and you won't end up with a Toenail Necklace!
Road Runner Sports' Shoe Dog!
Road Runner Sports' Shoe Dog!

Running Shoes

I typically wear thin socks for my road runs, but I wear thicker socks for ultramarathons, trail runs, and adventure races. It took me some time to figure it out, but I kept losing my toenails after adventure races. It was because my shoes were too small. Although I wear size 12 for road shoes, I need a size 12 ½ for trail shoes. This is due to the thicker socks I wear and also due to the more aggressive downhill running that occurs during ultramarathons and adventure races.

Gore-Tex. Avoid Gore-Tex shoes at all costs! There is no point in Gore-Tex shoes. I once accidentally bought a pair of shoes with Gore-Tex. I used these shoes on a 17 hour hiking trip and my feet were totally jacked up after the trip – I could barely walk for about a week. I’m convinced it was because my feet were overheating and couldn’t breathe due to the Gore-Tex material.

I typically buy all my running shoes from Road Runner Sports. I really like using their Shoe Dog feature to narrow down the results for my selections (Stability+). Shoe Dog is awesome. Check it out!

Socks - Cotton Not Allowed!

Don’t skimp on socks - you need the right socks! If you’re wearing cotton socks, you need to switch to a better technical fabric! Cotton = foot problems! For road runs, I typically wear DeFeet Aireator socks – a combination of nylon, coolmax ecomade, and lycra. I use these socks in Ironman races also. The DeFeet Aireator socks are very comfortable and have excellent durability, wicking, drying, and air permeability. I typically buy a “grabbag” of these through amazon.com – this is six pairs with various designs on them. I think these are just excess stock of certain sock patterns, but it’s way cheaper than buying them individually!

For ultramarathons or adventure races, I use wool socks. I typically go with SmartWool socks. I also like the “Darn Tough” brand of socks, made from Merino Wool. REI carries a good selection of SmartWool socks and you can order Darn Tough socks through amazon.com.

Water Crossing
Water Crossing

2008 Primal Quest Adventure Race Highlights

Water Crossings

During ultramarathons, trail runs, and adventure races I’ve seen people do all sorts of strange things at water crossings (trying to jump across the water, throwing rocks in the water to step on, taking shoes and socks off, changing socks after crossing the water, etc.).

If you have the right socks and right shoes, just go through the water! The socks will wick the moisture from your feet and your shoes will breathe to aid in the wicking. My first ultramarathon was the SwampStomper 50K. It rained the entire night before the race, so almost the entire course was under water. My feet were wet for seven hours or so and I didn’t have any issues because I had the right socks, right shoes, and right anti-chafe solution!

Anti-Chafe Products

For any run longer than about 10 miles, I use an anti-chafe product. I typically use a combination of Asics Chafe Free Powder and BodyGlide. I simply put a little of the Asics Chafe Free Powder in my socks and then shake the socks to evenly distribute the anti-chafe powder. For the BodyGlide, I rub it between my toes and on potential hot spots on the rest of my foot, such as the heel.

Clip the Toenails Regularly!
Clip the Toenails Regularly!

Blister Care 101 from The Distance of Truth - You want to Avoid this Situation!

Toenails

Clip your toenails as closely as you can a day or so before a race or training. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I’ve forgotten to do this before and paid severely for it. There’s nothing more irritating than one of your toe nails digging into another toe!

Final Thoughts

I hope these suggestions help you on your multisport journey! If you have something to add, please leave a comment. Best of luck!

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Comments 32 comments

minnow profile image

minnow 6 years ago from Seattle

Great hub--very practical and right on the mark.


Ironracer profile image

Ironracer 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Thanks, minnow!


RunMokha 6 years ago

I loved this article. Its truly very beneficial. I'm retweeting it for others to read. Thanks for sharing :)


Alternative Prime profile image

Alternative Prime 6 years ago from > California

Hello Ironracer,

As a runner myself I found this Hub very useful. Some good tips on how to prepare for this physically demanding activity. Great job.


Madiantin 6 years ago

Excellent article with excessively useful info. But that video!!! OH MY GOSH!!!!! I truly hope I never experience that. Oooooohowww.


Ironracer profile image

Ironracer 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

@RunMokha - thanks for stopping by and the retweet! Glad you liked the article.

@Alternative Prime - I like your name :) Thanks for leaving the comment. Glad you liked the tips.

@Madiantin - thanks! Yes, that blister video is intense, but that dude is laughing the whole time...probably from exhaustion :)


Money Glitch profile image

Money Glitch 6 years ago from Texas

Great information that can be very helpful to someone interested in starting to run. Thanks for sharing and congrats on being nominated to the HubNugget Wannabe's for this week. Good luck! :)


Ironracer profile image

Ironracer 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Thanks, Money Glitch!


travel_man1971 profile image

travel_man1971 6 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

Used to experience that black nails, too, on my feet. Thanks for the tip, Ironracer. Congrats on your nomination!


travel_man1971 profile image

travel_man1971 6 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

Used to experience that black nails, too, on my feet. Thanks for the tip, Ironracer. Congrats on your nomination!


Ironracer profile image

Ironracer 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Thanks, travel_man1971! Black nails aren't fun!


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Footcare is very important and this hub has lots of info...great job. Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination.

To all who would like to vote for this hub, make way to the Hubnuggets: http://hubpages.com/hubnuggets6/hub/The-Hubnuggets...


Ironracer profile image

Ironracer 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Thanks, ripplemaker! I like your name :)


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Thanks ironracer :) Remember to ask your family and friends to vote for your hub. Just not in the forums. Even non hubbers can vote! Go, go, go! LOL


izettl profile image

izettl 6 years ago from The Great Northwest

I'm passing this on to my marathon runner friend. She got into running a year ago for a good cause. Now she sports these silly shoes with the toes all separated and the blisters to go with them.


Ironracer profile image

Ironracer 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Thanks, izettl! Those silly shoes are probably called five fingers - it's part of the latest running craze - minimalistic footware.


purpleangel47 profile image

purpleangel47 6 years ago from Baltimore, Maryland

Oh my goodness ... great info Ironracer!

I haven't been running that long, so the distance I cover is only about 3 miles two or three times a week. BUT my feet have already forced me to make changes. My size 11 feet now pound the trail or treadmill in size 11wide New Balances. (I like that New Balance seems to have more toe room.) And what's frightening is I recently bought a size 10.5 in men's which means a size 12.5 in womens - and THEY'RE comfortable! I sure hope my feet have stopped expanding! :)


Ironracer profile image

Ironracer 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Thanks, purpleangle47! I too have noticed my feet have expanded as a result of running. There are several studies that show foot size increases as you spend more time on your feet running, hiking, etc. This makes sense to me!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

Excellent information for runners. This is a very good article. Congratualtions on your nomination.


Ironracer profile image

Ironracer 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Thanks, Pamela99! I'm glad you liked my information. Happy running!


lillm profile image

lillm 6 years ago from Berkeley, CA

Invaluable information! I'm going to keep these tips in mind as I increase my mileage over the next few weeks.


Ironracer profile image

Ironracer 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Hi lillm! Thanks for the feedback! Good luck with your increase in mileage - I'm currently suffering from a minor hamstring issue.


Anjelica Rae profile image

Anjelica Rae 6 years ago

love it. I've been a casualty in the past of bad foot choices; it's strange how we often overlook and take for granted the part of our bodies that, if not taken care of, will sideline us with either primary or secondary injuries!


Sass99 profile image

Sass99 6 years ago from Worcestershire, UK

Very interesting hub. Well done.


Ironracer profile image

Ironracer 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Thanks, Anjelica Rae! Yes, we often worry about straining our muscles, but neglect the feet! A simple blister can sideline someone as much as a pulled hamstring!

Sass99 - thanks for stopping by and reading!


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

Wow, thanks for all this valuable information. Most of my hiking is at altitude in the very dry Sierras. I love Asics shoes and will check out their powder. Sore feet can certainly ruin your day!


Ironracer profile image

Ironracer 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Thanks, Gypsy Willow! Hiking at altitude sounds great! Have you hiked the John Muir trail? It's on my list! I love Asics as well.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

Hi Ironracer - I actually wear a full size larger in my running shoes than I do "regular" shoes. I've lost the same toenail several times on my right foot training for my last marathon, but since it doesn't hurt, it doesn't really bother me. ;-)


Ironracer profile image

Ironracer 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO Author

Hi Stephhicks68! That's good that your toenail doesn't hurt. I saw on your profile that you qualified for Boston - that's awesome!! Congrats! I hope to qualify one of these days :)


Janifer 4 years ago

Very informative hub. Keep on the good works people. Thanks. http://www.comfortor.de/products.html


kjrzeek1 profile image

kjrzeek1 4 years ago from New Jersey, USA

I really noticed some foot problems when I started training for half marathons, I am going to try some of these methods you recommend. I really don't have a runners build and I think that sometimes hinders my running, but I can't give up the weights(34yrs old, 5'10", 205lbs)!Thanks.


Vince Corlew 2 years ago

One of the best things I have found for my feet are recovery socks and good flip flops like vionics. It's so important to recover right with your feet as well so you avoid foot injuries.

Vince

www.tribikerun.com

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