By Daniel Staudigel
We recently won a very foot-intensive race - the Endless Mountains race in central PA. We won the race on foot, basically - every foot stage we gained time on the treks and in transition, and lost a bit or held steady on bikes and paddles. We absolutely flew - I've never felt as good on my feet as I did in this race, and this is despite having basically soaking-wet feet for nearly the entire race.
After the race, another racer asked how we'd gone so fast. Part of it, obviously, is intensive training and lots of experience. However, a huge part of it is regular foot care stops. Every 5 hours (or so), we stopped, took off our shoes and socks, let our feet dry for about five minutes, lubed our feet with Skin Doctor("BendRacing at check out and get 10% off)! and put our shoes back on. During the 5 minutes, we brushed our teeth, prepared food, went through upcoming navigation decisions, and did other things easier to do while stopped. But honestly, even if we had stared at the sky or counted sheep, it still would have been time well spent.
Happy feet are fast feet! You only need to increase your pace by a few seconds per mile in order to make up the time, and my experience tells me it's a lot more than that.
When I told him, he responded "of course you have time for that, you're 12h ahead of the next team!". Obviously, it's easier to do what's right when you're in the lead, but being in the lead doesn't change what's right...
I saw some absolutely trashed feet at the finish line. Folks had let their feet get so bad they were limping around. We had zero blisters on the entire team. None, not even the little ones that sneak in around the heel or toes that "don't count". How much faster do you think you are on perfect feet? The answer, for me, is a lot. Not only because you're more willing to touch the ground, and you're not cringing away from the pain, but also because your brain is more free to think about other things.
Everything is worse when you're in pain. It's harder to listen to your gut, harder to notice navigational details, harder to spot a better route through the bush... In pain, your world closes down, and the whole thing becomes a slog. Slogs are not fast.
Obviously, conditions change things - cold, dry feet in soft ground need a lot less care than hot, wet feet on hard ground, so there's not really a hard-and-fast rule about how often you should stop for foot-care, but 5 minutes every 5 hours is a good starting point I think.
Stop complaining and start stopping to care for your feet! Commit to it and try it out for a foot-intensive race. It's so easy to skip it when you're right behind a team, or struggling to catch up to your estimates... but just try it. If it doesn't work, at least you'll finish the race with more comfortable feet, and you can yell at us on Facebook!