Author: Thomas Wagner
Why good foot-care and the right socks matter
When it comes to getting from A to the oh-so-far-away B, your feet are without doubt your most important tool.
Shoes protect your feet from outside factors – or at least they should. But we often forget the layer that comes in between them and our feet: namely, our socks. It all sounds quite logical and simple, but getting the right combination of cared-for feet, the right socks and well-fitting shoes is a question of personal trial (trail?!) and error.
Thick skin is good – but not too much of it, as blisters can form where the hardened area meets the normal skin. This can cause even more problems under the thickened layer. I recommend using mechanical or cream callus removers as part of a regular foot-care programme.
The right socks
Thick or thin? Merino or cotton? Toes? No-shows? Or perhaps they should come up a little higher? These are just a few of the questions involved in choosing the right pair of socks – unless, of course, you run without, which is something I do only on distances of no more than about 50 km.
In my view, merino socks offer a great combination of moisture wicking and a comfortable environment for feet. Moisture levels and the general environment inside the shoe depending on how thick the sock is. So make sure you test this thoroughly during training.
Toe socks prevent your toes from rubbing against each other, but bear in mind that tight-fitting shoes may not have enough space and could pinch your toes. So if you are interested in toe socks, be sure to try them out with the right shoes, as they may work fantastically with one pair but not with another, which may be too tight. Also, take a close look at the seams, because as the sock ages, they can start causing problems, even if they never have before. Nowadays, however, most socks are such good quality that seams rarely cause any difficulties.
Don’t forget, though, that ultras and stage races like the Transalpine Run tend to require more than one pair of shoes – and consequently more than one pair of socks.
The right pedicure
If you are doing a stage race, you will need to keep a close eye on thick skin under your feet and remove it, or at least apply cream to it, to prevent blisters. If I still get blisters, I tend to puncture them in the evening to let the fluid out. So as soon as you finish a race, take off your socks and shoes and give your feet a thorough check.
As you do so, your skin will also have a chance to dry if it has been moist or if your feet have been sweating a lot.
The day after, I apply blister plasters to any sore areas and leave them there either until the race is over or until they come off of their own accord.
If your shoes are wet and muddy from the race, give them plenty of time to dry, possibly using a portable shoe-dryer to speed things up. Alternatively, use a new pair of shoes (and socks!) the next day.
Personally, I do the following in a race:
Before the run, I rub the thick skin off my feet and apply a little foot cream. During the run, I use anti-blister gel and wear merino socks that are not too thick and come slightly higher up the ankle. I also make sure my running shoes are a good fit. A second or third set of footwear is essential.
Austria’s Thomas Wagner turned professional in 2005. His achievements to date demonstrate his passion for trail running and comprise 32 completed ultras, including 5 victories and 15 top-ten finishes. His most recent accomplishments include the 100 Miles of Istria 2016 in Croatia and the Azores Columbus Ultra Trail in Portugal.