This post is part three in the training series for those participants in this year’s March for the Fallen event.
We are about 5 weeks out from the event and Dave Babulak is helping educate March for the Fallen participants with tips/pointers each week leading up to the event.
Dave’s knowledge package will include the following:
- Training Rules
- Workout Plans
- Footwear and footcare
- Secret Weapons
- On the March nutrition
Here is Dave’s third installment in the series: Footwear & Foot Care
Road marching puts a lot of cumulative stress on the feet so it’s worth paying attention to them. The goal is to prevent problems in the first place and when that fails, keep small problems from becoming big problems.
Last year the biggest problem I had while training for the MFTF was massive blisters under the pads of my feet. These weren’t blisters on my pad, no, the entire pad itself became a blister and would rip open. Half dollar sized holes in my feet made it difficult to walk and nearly impossible to train. This happened several times. I tried a ton of solutions but nothing worked until I learned the secret: Leukotape. If properly applied, you will not get blisters anywhere you apply leukotape.
Pro tip: shave your feet. Laugh now and thank me later.
Because I’ve had significant problems, I use a lot of tape. I cover my forefoot (pad underneath and the top) and my heel. I also tape my first 2 toes. I’ve seen extreme distance athletes cast their entire foot. As you hike, as soon as you feel discomfort or a hot spot forming, stop and apply leukotape. Going forward, I would pre-tape that area every time. Possibly overkill, but Rule 1 of options market making: always own the teeny puts. For $8 a roll your can prevent catastrophic loss.
Caution is advised when removing tape. If you are not careful you can rip your skin open. Go slow, be deliberate and you won’t have any problems.
You may find you don’t have any blister problems until the distance gets longer and the load gets heavier. 12 mile day hikes with less than 20lb were never a problem for me but when I started going over 15 miles with 35lb, my feet simply fell apart. Carry leukotape and scissors / knife with you on long hikes and prevent little problems from becoming big ones. Toughing it out just means you’ll have jacked up feet and have to skip your next training session.
I don’t think sock liners are necessary, but some people swear by them. The idea is to wear a very thin, smooth sock directly on the foot, under wool hiking socks, in order to prevent friction blisters. Can’t hurt, but I like them because they’re easy to put on once my feet are taped. Putting on wool-hiking socks without messing up the tape is harder than it should be and liners make it easy. Pro tip for early morning hikers: tape your feet the night before, sleep with sock liners on.
Wool hiking socks are the standard. Plenty of brands to choose from; I’ve had good results with Smartwool. (Wes here…I recommend bringing multiple pairs and switching to a clean pair 2x during the event).
The MFTF is on paved roads and hard packed dirt roads (one long section does have quite a few rocks in the road). We aren’t going off trail or up a mountain so extreme footwear isn’t required. That said, I recommend something more than standard running shoes. I believe Wes wears trail runners and if you aren’t wearing a pack and/or have a low body weight that might be all you need. (Wes again, last year I went trail runners, this year I’m rocking Cabela’s DPX low hikers).
For most, I recommend hiking shoes. Tons of choices; I’m wearing Merrell Moab Ventilators, same as last year. I like Merrell because they come in wide. Some people might want a mid boot but anything beyond that is probably too much weight for too little benefit. Whatever you shoes you plan to wear for the march, I recommend wearing them for all your training, including treadmill walks.
Most hiking shoes have removable inserts that are probably removable for a reason. I stuck with the factory installs last year but on long hikes my feet always felt like someone was hitting them with a hammer. This year I replaced the inserts with Columbia Montrails – I would say they’re miraculous but they do seem to help. The Internet also seems to like Superfeet Trailblazers.
PS: You are on reading this for the following reasons: