Foot Care

 Proper break in and foot care can prevent this happening to you

Proper break in and foot care can prevent this happening to you

With Selection looming on the horizon, I have had to really put some thought into foot care management.  I am blessed with good feet, or shall I say, I have not had alot of problems with my feet, but I have put alot of effort into making sure that is the case.

In Kokoro 30, we traveled a LONG way over 50 hours.  I really have no idea how far we may have gone, but we were constantly running, walking, moving.  We rucked 25 miles, ran lots of 5 to 7 milers, and just moved constantly.  Our feet were wet and boots filled with sand for about 97% of the time.  Previous to my Kokoro training, I would have stopped running if a small grain of sand was in my shoe.  If you want to do Kokoro, Selection or go to the real thing like BUDs or SFAS or anything like that, you can not stop for a little sand in your shoe. Get used to it, there will be far more time that your shoes or boots are wet and filled with muck than nice and dry.

Many people at Kokoro had issues with their feet, but I did not and it was a major factor in why I did well there and even more of why I actually enjoyed the experience.  Your feet are everything and when they go, your mind is likely to follow.  At the end of Kokoro, I saw some guys pull off their boots and socks to reveal the worst looking blisters I have ever seen.  Some had 2 or 3 areas that were blistered, bleeding and extremely painful looking.  I thought to myself and even out loud that if my feet looked like that I am not sure I would have made it. 

Those were some tough guys with unbeatable minds.  Hooyah to them, but I dont want to go into that pain cave for any reason.  Here is how I avoided it last time and plan to keep my feet healthy for Selection:

Break in your boots.  There are zillions of articles on the internet and forums that are written by professional soldiers and people with far more experience than me that are better than anything you will find here.  Search out forums like Professional Soldier and search foot care or boot break in.  They are very particular about posting there...dont do it.  Just read the gold info on the site and learn from it.  There are guys who have rucked heavy loads for more than 250,000 miles that share their knowledge.  Use it.

New age boots.  I used the Under Armour Valsetz boot and it has worked great.  It is really like a running shoe.  This boot and others like them require FAR less effort to break them in, but still need to be broken in in my opinion.  If your event allows them, I suggest them from my own experience.  Those in Kokoro with UA, Bates, Nike or New Balance sneaker boots all did fine.  Others came with steel toe leather boots and boots that were brand new and really hurt at the end. One of the best things about this boot is that it is NOT waterproof and there is plenty of mesh where the water just flows right out.  This is very important.  I do not recommend a waterproof boot for these type events as the water typically stays in the boot as well.  We are not talking about walking through mudpuddles.  This is 5 foot deep full immersion for hours.  Water IS GOING TO get in.  Pick a boot that dries quickly and lets the water out as fast as it comes in.

Break in.  I wore my boots as much as possible and got them wet before workouts every day for 3 months.  I was careful to let them dry outside everyday so they would not get real funky inside.  Walking wet, running wet and rucking wet along with just being in wet boots and socks was a huge factor in getting my feet prepped for the event. 

I think anyone could probably break in a pair of boots and walk tons of miles with nice dry socks, but in Kokoro and, I am assuming Selection, that is just not reality.  You will be wet the whole time.  Even if you get a chance to change socks, your boots are still wet so your feet are wet right away.  New socks still feel awesome but boot changes were nice to get the 3 lbs of sand out of the boot rather than to experience a nice dry foot again.  Things change when your foot is wet.  Socks can bunch up, sand gets in, and your foot slides around.  If you are not prepared for this, your feet will get shredded.  Do yourself a favor and live in wet boots and socks as much as possible.

Blisters/hot spots.  This is going to happen.  In fact, you need it to happen in training both to let you know if your boots need to be broken in further or if your feet need to get toughened up.  When you get a blister, your body responds by building tougher skin or calloused skin in that area.  It works perfectly every time.  Soon you wont be bothered by that spot any more because your feet are tough.  Make sure this happens in training NOT in the event.

After.  After the ruck or workout and you have worn the boots until the are dry or until you cant stand it anymore, pull the boots off, rinse them off and hang them out to dry.  I pull out the insoles too.  I then dry the feet, and give them a bath in rubbing alcohol and let air dry.  Watch for athletes foot starting and address it immediately.  Check for blisters and hot spots.  If you have blisters, consult the Professional Soldier site and various other websites about blister care in SFAS and you will get lots of good info.  Tincture of Benzoin has fallen out of favor for blister treatment over the last few years.  I have never tried it, but it is a sticky liquid that was injected into the blister to glue it back to the skin.  I have heard good and bad reports.  Some say that the pain will make you pass out.  This is enough for me.  I dont want that.  I just pop the blister with a needle and drain it.  If I have to keep going, Moleskin works well.

I will do an alcohol bath again at night which seems to help a little to toughen the feet.

The best advice is to get the boots broken in well beyond what you may think and continuously with water.  Do everything in wet boots.  Practice sock changes and pay close attention to the condition of your feet.

Toenails.  Cutting toenails is so important.  NEVER cut your toenails within a day or 2 of your event.  I always cut them about 5-6 days out and my nails do not grow fast enough to cause any problems in that time frame.  I can address any issues needed with a touch up but many people have had trouble when cutting nails the night before an event. 

I have always cut the nails with fingernail clippers but after reading tons of info on Professional Soldier and other forums, I have gone to using toenail clippers which are straight, not curved and cutting the big toenail straight across rather than curved.  So far so good.

If you are experimenting with different cuts, 200 days out from your event is about right.  Do not experiment close to your event.  It could be a disaster.

There is much debate over foot care and boot break in but there are also the constants which are; make sure they are really well broken in, be prepared for wet feet, and spend a ton of time in the shoes or boots you will wear in the event during training.  Do this and you will both enjoy your event more, but primarily...finish!