Injinji and 24 hours of funrun
I recall visiting with some female runners many years back after completing my first 100-mile race distance. I was changing my shoes and socks, a task that usually isn't too easy after spending 29 hours on a rocky trail, but it did make for some good conversation because my feet were in great shape. Ten toenails intact. No noticable blistering. Minimal swelling. Afterall, my ultra-marathoning days had really just begun, and the destruction the sport takes on one's bodies (especially the feet) hadn't begun its wrath.
"Your feet look really good," one commented,
Both unknowing and unexperienced, at that time I didn't really get what they were getting at. But as time has passed with more training and more racing, I understand the sarcasm in that simple conversation. Ultimately, miles on miles on miles will have some effect on a runner's feet, and it's usually not pretty. This is why it is so important for a runner to protect their feet on the forefront, handle them with care and take advantage of the countless foot-care products specifically designed for long-distance running.
One such problem I recently faced relevant to runner's feet was painful blistering between my toes. I first encountered the blistering during a hot and rainy 100 mile race in south Florida some years back. Instead of taking the few extra minutes to check on my feet during the race, I just ran on throughout the day and night never giving a second thought to what condition they might be. They didn't hurt to anything unbearable, and seriously, "why try and fix something that ain't broke?" But, finishing up and untyng the destruction, I found my feet to be in horrific shape, water-logged with uncountable quater-size blistering. Some blistering was even underneath my toenails!!! That summer I lost a total of six toenails, some that would never grow back right, and even a few that had to eventually be surgically removed for good.
Since that one particular race, blistering for me at any distance was expected to say the least. Blisters might even surface during my longer training runs. Sometimes, they became so big and nagging that I had to stop and drain them or they would pop on their own. Ouch. Over the last couple of years, I had learned to just deal with them. I taught myself how to pop them from one side to the other using careful diligence not to destroy the thick outter covering. I reminded myself to stop during races to take care of a blister before it got too full and popped on its own. I learned that greasing my feet up with a lot of vasoline was a must before racing any distance. I learned all this through trial and error, never realizing that there was simply a sock that would help protect my feet and rid me of the problem. I had always preferred a thin running sock, and had never put too much thought into it making such a difference where blisters were concerned.
My prefered socks for many years had been the Elite Feature brand. When I discovered Features, they seemed to be great for my performance level as well as provide adequate protection. I also loved all the bright color combinations that they used. However, overtime, the Feature brand seemed to stop working as well as they had, and I began blistering between my toes more and more. The drama was trying my patience, and my pace was suffering as once the blisters formed, they became really painful. Draining them was the only way to ease the pain, but ultimately, they would fill up again. So I hit the web to do a little investigating on the topic, and I came across the Injinji sock. This brand had been mentioned to me before, but I never took the advice seriously as I never thought that a simple sock could really help with blister prevention. I decided to give in and give the Injinji's a try on my next race at 100 miles.
I purchased my first pair of Injinji toe socks and would try them during the 6-12-24 Hour Endurance Challenge in Benton, AR. This race, directed Pete Ireland and the Saline County Striders, is a 1-mile certified course, and runners can sign up for one of the three times. I signed up for the 24 hour and set a goal of 100 miles. It was a perfect course to try out the socks because I passed my personal aid every mile. If the socks gave me any problems or discomfort, I could change into a pair of Features really quick and be back on the course within minutes.
For those that don't know about Injinji socks, they are toe socks that allow for premimum performance with a layer of protection without sacrificing comfort. Each toe is protected by the sock. The company makes all different styles and types for different sports and performances. I purchased two pair of the run Injinji style from Fleet Feet in Little Rock. Both pair featured mositure utilization, blister protection, arch support and protective cushion. The cost was roughly $30 for the two. My plan was to change to a clean pair mid way through the race (rougly 12 hours).
I was also experimenting with using Desitin instead of vasoline underneath the socks during this race. Normally, I appled vasoline, vigorously, underneath my running socks. I must admit, I was not stingy with the Desitin either, and while it was messy, it did serve a good purpose. I covered my all toes and the balls of me feet extensively with the cream. The Injinji socks were snug over my feet, and each toe fit perfectly. Very comfortable to start I will admit. While running the socks stayed in place and were non-irritating. There seemed to be some moisture, but I am assuming this was from the Desitin. I stopped in six hours (50k) and reapplied the Desitin. My feet at this time were in great shape with no blistering between any of my toes. At the end of 12-hours, I stopped to regroup and change into the second pair of clean Injinjis. I again vigourously applied the Desitin before the new pair of socks. I repeated the Desitin process once again before a 100-mile finish at 23 hours.
Very proud to say that at the finish line and 23 hours in, my feet were blister-free, so HUGE props to Injinji! There were some hardened areas (almost like calloused skin) in certain spots that caused minimal pain, but no quater-sized blisters anywhere on my feet. Between my left second-toe and big toe, I did have a tender spots; however, I'm pretty sure this spot was from a previous blister that hadn't completely healed. I do believe that these Injinji socks were a life saver for me and well worth the money. After distance running with them just one time, they will be a must on any future race list. I would recommend washing them before wearing them for the first time. I would also recommend applying Desitin cream profusely to both feet underneath the socks as well. As with any product, you might want to try them out before race day.