For the GORE-TEX® TRANSALPINE-RUN and most other PLAN B events, Medical Crew GbR is responsible for maintaining the wellbeing and safety of all runners day after day. This highly skilled team treats a variety of ailments from GI upset to serious trauma. This includes blisters, toe trauma, skin tears, overuse injuries, swelling, and more. These injuries may come as no surprise and are sometimes seen as unavoidable. But this does not have to be the case.
Here are 6 things you should do everyday in between runs:
1. Dry Your Feet
After crossing the finish, the first task is to begin the process of drying your feet. The GORE-TEX® TRANSALPINE-RUN often involves rain, stream crossings, snow, and mud. Basically, it’s wet. And even when conditions are dry and warm, sweat can lead to soaked feet. Prolonged exposure of the skin to wet conditions can lead to maceration. Maceration, to put it simply, is overly saturated moist skin that leads to skin breakdown, separation of skin and tissue layers, and delayed healing. This is a problem experienced by many trail runner, especially during multi day events, and it can lead to debilitating pain and long term damage.
“It’s a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, germs and mycosis…” says Matthias Hoeter, co-founder of Medical Crew.
We have all seen it in various stages. In it’s beginning stage, maceration presents as soft, wet, pale skin usually on the foot sole. As it progresses, the skin looks wrinkled and pruny, it may be painful. And finally, the skin can tear at the surface, leaving underlying raw and very sensitive tissue exposed to the elements. While, it’s best to fight maceration during the run, the next defense measure is after run care and foot drying.
Remove wet socks and allow your feet to air out for about 30 minutes to an hour. Inexpensive drying powders like talcum or cornstarch can be applied to help draw out moisture. If you are not going to clean your feet right away, although strongly recommended, then be sure gently rub off excess foot powder afterwards. Drying powders will absorb moisture, but if not removed from the feet they can contribute to moisture retention. They are only best for short term use.
Keep in mind that not all powders have the same properties. Do not use a foot powder that is specifically designed to prevent blisters if you are trying to dry your feet. These are made with a substance called PTFE and will not absorb moisture. Rather, it works by reducing friction. It’s like a dry lubricant.
Gently clean your feet at the end of each running day. This should preferably be done early as it will maximize the time your feet have to be dry and clean between runs.
Remove any tape or plasters. Clean feet with warm water, a soft sponge and gentle soap. Be sure to thoroughly remove any lubricants or residues because it can attract grit. Avoid harsh soaps and scrubbing, as these can irritate the skin, leading to more issues. Pay attention to areas that tend to collect dirt, like between the toes, in skin folds, and under the nails. Pat feet dry with a clean towel.
3. Pamper Your Feet
Next is to pamper your feet like they are royalty. Afterall, they work hard day after day, step after step, to carry you across the wonderful mountain terrain. They deserve your love and attention.
Trim and file down long or jagged toe nails. Consider filing away large, rough calluses. Calluses can provide protection for the skin but only to a certain point. They can create pressure points or increase friction. Blisters can still form under calluses. It’s not pretty.
After cleaning, apply a moisturizer. The goal here isn’t too keep the skin overly moist, it’s more to help soothe and prevent dryness and irritation. If you have areas of maceration, then it’s probably best to skip the moisturizer. This applies to ointments as well. If you have questions about what to apply and when, just ask Medical Crew!
If you have areas of exposed raw tissue without a skin roof, then apply a hydrocolloid plaster. These are commonly known by their brand names like Compeed, Blistoban, Blister Band-aids, etc. Despite popular belief, these plasters were not designed to prevent blisters. They were designed to help heal exposed tissue by providing a skin-like barrier while the blister wound heals. In fact, they are meant to be left on for days at a time. However, in the extremes of trail running, they often do not last as long. Once you apply a hydrocolloid plaster, it can be left on overnight and even the next day while you run. One less thing you will have to do in the morning!
And of course, consider massaging and slightly stretching your feet to increase circulation and relax the foot muscles. Better yet, have your running partner massage your feet.
Now that your feet are dry, clean, and pampered, it’s times to sit back and relax. Pull on a pair loose fitting socks and comfy shoes. Sandals are ideal. Avoid tight shoes and socks.
Elevate your feet to reduce swelling. This brings up another important topic...do not over do it with anti-inflammatory medications. Like any drug, they have side effects and should not be taken over long periods of time without careful consideration. There’s also a max dosage per day. Again, this is where Medical Crew can help.
5. Dry Your Shoes
This next part is all about your shoes and will make a huge difference for your feet over the period of several days. Dry, clean shoes can help prevent many foot issues. But again, the environment and the course is working against you here. Wet shoes can take awhile to dry. Consider alternating your running shoes every other day of the run. This allows more time for each pair to dry.
Before drying, do your best to clean your shoes of mud or debris. Dirty shoes are more likely to cause skin irritation and increase friction. After cleaning, remove insoles, loosen laces, and pull up the tongues to allow for maximum airflow. Consider using a portable electric shoe dryer overnight in your hotel room. Or use drying inserts to soak up moisture.
6. Wear Clean Socks
The final step for foot care occurs in the morning just before your run. Always start with clean dry socks. Moisture wicking socks are preferred. These are made of merino wool or synthetic fibers that work to pull moisture away from your skin and evaporate. They can also provide some insulation when you are running at the higher, chillier altitudes. Avoid cotton socks. These keep moisture and require more time to dry.
Consider carrying a pair of extra socks with you. Changing out of wet socks and into dry ones can make a world of difference for your feet. Don’t look at it as extra weight. Healthy happy feet will carry you faster and further.
Congrats to all the runners of the 2017 GORE-TEX® TRANSALPINE-RUN! And good luck to all future Transalpine runners!
And as always, from your friends at Base Medical, stay safe!