I’ve always had trouble with blisters on my feet when doing long runs - runs longer than, say, 40 miles or so. I suspect part of the problem is that at the longer distances I end up doing a fair bit of walking, and there’s something about the way walking imposes shear stresses on the soles of my feet that creates the blisters. But that’s mere speculation on my part, I don’t really know.
Last year at Hamster Endurance, I ran 101.4 miles. For the last 40 miles, my feet were an utter disaster, and when I look at the post run photos of my feet I wonder how I persisted. Some photos of the carnage after the blisters were lanced, for reference:
This was taken a day after the race. The discoloration shows the extent of the blister which covers the entire forefoot.
And that shows a similar view of my right foot. Again a big blister that covers essentially all of the forefoot.
That’s what the small toe of my left foot looked like. I had the 3rd and 4th toes on that foot buddy taped together because the 4th toe on that foot is arthritic or there’s some neuroma or something, and that toe often causes a lot of pain. Anyway the tape from the buddy tape job apparently just rubbed the skin raw on the adjacent smallest toe. The photo doesn’t really convey the carnage, beyond mile 70 that smallest toe was just a raw bloody mess. I remember pulling the shoe off that foot around mile 70 and being shocked to see a bloody sock. (side note: dried blood washes out of Drymax socks surprisingly well)
Beyond those big blisters and the toe turned into hamburger, I also had blisters on the sides of both big toes and some ugly ones on the ends of various toes. An example of that:
Part the anguish of big blisters like this is that healing takes a surprisingly long time, and while they heal you go through all sorts of nastiness:
Obviously I’ve been pretty highly motivated to find a way to prevent blisters on my feet.
Things I’ve tried, some of which helped and some which didn’t. None of them were close to a solution to the problem.
In 2018 I ran Badwater Cape Fear, 51.4 miles on Bald Head Island. We had a roommate in our rental house who covered the soles of his feet with kinesio tape, and claimed it prevented blisters. I was skeptical this would work. But this year, during training, I gave it a try, figuring I’d try it on some long training runs and if it didn’t actively cause problems I’d give it a try at Hamster. I didn’t get any problems on runs as long as 27 miles, and I left the same tape on my feet during a 60 mile week and the tape held up fine, so I decided to try it at Hamster.
Those photos were taken the day AFTER I ran 67.6 miles at Hamster Endurance. You can see on my right foot there’s a little patch of skin on my heel where the tape shifted to the side and exposed the skin.
When I pulled the tape off just after taking those photos, my feet looked great. No blisters on the balls of my feet. No blisters on the sides of my big toes. One teensy blister, hardly worth mentioning, on the end of one of my middle toes. I hardly even have calluses.
In addition to the tape business, I also went wild on foot care in the 2-3 weeks before the race. I put anti-fungal cream on my feet every morning. Hand lotion on most nights. Toenails were filed very short, with attention to sharp corners. I filed calluses down so that my feet were soft skin everywhere.
One puzzle for me is how this prevented blisters on the sides of my big toes and on the ends of my toes. I was prepared to slap patches of KT tape over hot spots in those areas as they cropped up during the race, but didn’t get any hotspots. I don’t know if that’s a result of the tape, or a result of some subtle change in the shape and fit of the Altra Lone Peak’s I run it. Last year I ran in Lone Peak 4’s, this year in Lone Peak 5’s. I like the Lone Peak 5’s a lot better, they seem cooler and also have just a bit more room in the forefoot. They also look like they’d drain a lot better, which wasn’t an issue for this race but if you had to do stream crossings or run in the rain, it would be a big help.
If you give this a try, let me know how it goes regardless of whether it works or makes things worse!