Ultra168 Beginners Guide to Running 100 Miles – Part 2- Feet & Shoes

Continuing our beginners guide on running 100 milers, we now get to hear the collective wisdom of Andy Jones-Wilkins and his colleagues as they explore the complex issues of shoe choice and dealing with the ever present problem of feet and blisters.

Over 40 years worth of experience is condensed down into a few practical gems that can make or break your race. Even amongst the Ultra168 boys and our training mates the final shoe choice for GNW100 is still being decided and will continue to be debated based on the conditions that may prevail on race day. But as AJW and his friends clearly demonstrate, swift and decisive decision making is key when dealing with shoes and that most precious of cargo, your feet.

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12 thoughts on “Ultra168 Beginners Guide to Running 100 Miles – Part 2- Feet & Shoes

  1. I think one of the greatest inventions against blisters are Injinji toe-socks. I never ever got any blisters. In Ireland all the races I have done in them were blister free, and over there the weather is just cruel wet all the time. Many athletes swear by them.

    A good fitting shoe is also crucial for blister free running, also the regular readjustment of shoe laces as your feet is swelling and shrinking during a 100mi race.
    Shoe material also plays a big role, as the moisture wicking properties of the upper is the key to dry feet.

    I think heel strikers are more prone to blisters on both ends of the foot, while efficient runners develop more likely toe blisters. This can be taken into account too.

    The new minimal trend tends to give us shoes with wider than usual toe-box, what reduces friction between the toes also reduces the chance of black toenails due to continuous chaffing to the upper.

    I have wide forefoot; still I am fan of Inov-8, I use their under 200gramm line for any given distance.

    1. I agree with a lot of what you are saying L3vi, I used to wear toe socks until I moved over to my Inov8’s and Nike Free’s, as you say, lots of room in the toe box prevents any chafing.

      Glad you like the Inov8’s, I love my Talon 190’s for anything up to 60kms then its the Nike Free 3.0’s that take over.

  2. I am surprised there isn’t a CR thread dedicated to choice of shoe for GNW. Where is Brick when we need him?
    Regardless of shoe I agree with L3vi that injinji are the go. Anything long throw some Blistershield in there as well.
    And I missed trying on DJB’s Inov8s at GOW so I still don’t know if they suit my foot.
    Nice work boys.

  3. It has taken me many years to get things right sock, shoe and anti-friction stuff to prevent blisters. And even then, your tried and true formula can come undone occasionally in different conditions – particularly over many days in a row in a multi-day – so don’t just have the blister treatment kit available but know how to treat the main type of blisters in an ordered, fast and military precision way- good if you can do it yourself but your crew (if you have one) should be taught as well.

    I prefer to run most races of 24h or less in the same shoes and socks unless any issues are arising. I have seen people (including myself as a rookie) make the mistake of changing socks and maybe shoes every “X” hours (based on advive from some guru or another) when there was nothing really going wrong – only to find that things deteriorated foot-wise with the fresh gear.

    My standard set-up (similar to Whippet) is Injinji socks, Blistershield powder, Inov-8 Talons/F-lites or NB MT 100/101s for mountain and trail- Saucony Fast Twitch or Asics Speedstar for any distance track or road. Another factor many people forget is that if you don’t stay properly hydrated you will blister more easily. Finally, it is worth trying out different lacing systems – both method of lacing (normal, “Lydiard”, heel-lock etc) and materials (elastic vs normal) as these have very different effects as well, and can often solve recurring problems on distinct parts of the foot .

    1. Thanks as always Martin for your insights, very telling that it has taken you many years to perfect. There is hope for us mortals.

      Interested in your comments about dehydration and blisters, can you expand on that ? Is it the fact that the internal structure of the skin is weekend ? Its funny, I blister more when my feet are wet which is a form of over hydration is it not 😉

      1. Marcus – When you are dehydrated the cells nearest the outer layers of skin have less water in them and less structural integrity (“turgidity”) and are more prone to shear when frictional forces are applied to them.

        Your comment about blistering with wet feet is interesting as I have rarely had any blistering problems in the wet over quite prolonged periods of time – the Blistershield powder seems to be the answer for me – the other wet based lubricants never seemed to work as well – not sure why- but John Vonhof (the author of the must have Foot Care Manual “Fixing Your Feet”) reckons that some people do better with powders and some with wet based foot lubes- so definitely worth exploring both camps to see if the other is any better.

        Final comment on blisters- I had considerably less issues once I moved to lighter, more flexible shoes that breathe well- so I am very happy to see shoe design moving in this direction with lots of great choices (except the Hokas!)

        Dan, Andrew, Marcus and all at ultra168-this is a fantastic site and a great resource- congratulations and keep up all the great adventures and info. Hope I can contribute some helpful hints now and then….

  4. Tape feet using strapping tape, 2 big strips across the balls of the feet, tape toes individually, Bodyglide across the tops of the toes, Injinji liner mini crew socks on, Smartwool ultra phds socks over the top, Brooks Cascadias on, dirty girl gaiters on, do up Brooks Cascadias and go and run blister free without touching your shoes again for the next 30 hours plus.

    Like martin it took a lot of experimenting to get this right. 2008 GNW I lost 5mm of height due to my feet delaminating.

    Blistershield causes blisters for me, never again – this seems to support Martin’s idea of some people are wet or dry for foot care.

  5. One pair of Bridgedale socks (injinjis do my head in), no bodyglide, slap on the Nike Frees and away we go… Blister Free for the best part of two years – just shows how different we all are.

  6. awesome work putting this out here for us. – thanks 168!

    Blistering has not been a problem for me on any course other than GNW. I think it’s the combination of heat and damp, possibly also dehydration as Martin is saying (even though Hoka mostly keep you up out of the puddley stretches and the uppers we have coming are even lighter and more breathable than they are now).
    Trying some different Balega socks, might be using Injinji, but either way I think spare socks, carrying powder or gel, and dealing with any wetness issues as they arise will be the key for me this year. This is in line with what the second last speaker was saying I think.

    and a tip if you’re using powders on your feet – get it inside the sock, not outside. Outside the sock it will do what it should – reduce friction – which is the opposite of what you want happening when you want your shoe to work with, rather than against, your foot.

  7. P.s. Vizey, is there a How To video online that shows the taping technique that you swear by? I still just have a reluctance to tape because have alway preferred to have less in shoe rather than more, Taping just soles might be the good compromise.

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