Oxfam Trailwalker Foot Care: The Definitive Guide 
One hundred kms is a long way! The risk of ankle sprains, tight muscles and blisters threaten to make this event harder than it needs to be!
With this in mind, here's some advice to help minimise your chance of injury and maximise your comfort and performance. It's time to get your feet in perfect working order so you can cross that finish line.
Choosing supportive and comfortable footwear that fits (shoes or boots - that's up to you) is obvious advice. But it's sometimes easier said than done. I have 3 tips for you:
- Initial comfort factor - This is a critical indicator not to be ignored. It might seem too simplistic to be important, but it's one that has been shown to be a good indicator for optimal footwear selection!
- Get expert advice - The team at Paddy Pallin are all geared up to provide you with the footwear range and fitting advice you need. If you're having trouble finding shoes that are comfortable and keep you pain-free, see a podiatrist.
- Lacing - The whole reason for having laces is so you can optimise the fit of your shoe at all times. Be prepared to readjust your laces a few times each day as your foot volume increases. You can have perfect shoes for your feet but if you have them too loose (or tight) you might as well not have bothered. The Lace-Lock technique is a great one for blister prevention and for preventing bruising, abrasions and black nails, particularly on hilly terrain. Try it.
Boots, trail shoes or joggers for Oxfam Trailwalker? Image credit: Jasonmalouin.com
Sock selection is important for things like moisture control, insulation, blister prevention but also general comfort. And a little bit of comfort will go a long way in this event.
- Moisture-wicking socks - By keeping perspiration away from the skin, friction levels are reduced and this goes some way to reducing the incidence of blisters. Look for words like Coolmax, Dri-fit or anything moisture-wicking. Read this for the full story on the pros and cons of natural vs synthetic fibres here. And if you get blisters between your toes, toesocks are worth a try.
- Don't wear cotton - Cotton does the opposite, it keeps moisture on the skin, so it increases friction and makes blisters more likely.
- Several pairs - Depending on how sweaty your feet get and the conditions on the weekend, consider taking several pairs. Waterlogged and macerated skin is weak and prone to injury.
Select your socks wisely for Oxfam Trailwalker. Image credit: http://www.aideroxfamsol.be
3. Blister prevention
Foot blisters continue to hinder Trailwalkers' performance year after year. In fact, blisters are the No. 1 reason Trailwalkers don't cross the finish line. 73% of participants (Sydney Trailwalker 2011) is a lot of blisters!
There are 14 types of blister prevention strategies that could help you. Take a look at this quick overview:
Get specific advice for your blister locations:
- Whether it's on your heels, between your toes, big toe, little toe, under the ball of your foot, instep or somewhere else
And find out how to treat your blisters safely:
What's in your blister kit?
Blisters are the number one reason for Oxfam Trailwalkers to not cross the finish line - don't become a statistic. Image credit: www.katclay.com
Taping can protect the skin from blisters and abrasions. Here are some videos from both Anna Beetham and myself to help you with your technique:
- Taping your heels
- Taping the big toe and knuckle joint
- Taping the ball of your foot
- Taping the toes
- Find out more about blister taping here
Taping is popular during Oxfam Trailwalker - make sure you practice your technique. Image credit: www.katclay.com
5. Foot care
Prepare your feet in the weeks leading up to Trailwalker:
- Trim nails a few days to a week before the event. File them from top to bottom so there are no rough edges. Or get your podiatrist to thin any thick nails.
- Get rid of callouses! A lot of callous is not protective, it will damage deeper soft tissues and may cause blood blisters. Use an emery board / foot file or see your podiatrist for professional help.
- Keep interdigital spaces dry to prevent tinea eg: methylated spirits, alcohol wipes, teatree oil. Put it on, leave your toes open for a few minutes so it can evaporate (it will only dry the skin when it evaporates), then put your shoes and socks on.
To get your feet prepared for Oxfam Trailwalker, your podiatrist can help. Image credit trailwalker.oxfam.org.au/
6. Musculoskeletal injury
Consider the work load your feet have ahead of them. And the influence they have on the rest of your body. Knee, shin, ankle, heel, arch, toe joint pain and other lower limb injuries are common occurrences in endurance events like Trailwalker. If you sustain an injury or start to get sore, help will be available along the trail to give you every chance to carry on. But here are 3 tips to help you proactively anticipate and overcome injury:
Consider your injury history - this will be where you're most likely to have trouble. Anticipate it and plan ahead.
Start training ASAP - The idea is that any problems will become apparent early, giving you time to sort them out well before the event.
Calf stretches - Tight calf muscles wreck how feet work, to put it bluntly! It's one of the most common underlying causes for the pain, deformity and impaired performance I see on a daily basis. Stretch soon after stopping for a rest, every time! Make sure your technique is spot on so you're not wasting your time (hint: make sure your back foot isn't out-toed). See a podiatrist or physio for more advice on stretching the calf and other muscle groups properly: in the months before the event; while you train; during the event itself; and after.
Foot care advice can help Oxfam Trailwalkers cross the finish line. Image credit: jasonmalouin.com
Are you on top of your blister situation?
If you're not 100% sure what you're doing, I encourage you to take a look at the Fix My Foot Blisters Fast program.