How to Tape Your Feet for Blister Prevention

Foot Taping for Long Distance WalksI’ve had some great results from pre-taping my feet prior to long hikes and can now walk around 40 miles, confident that I won’t get blisters. Even on this year’s London2Brighton challenge where the weather conditions were appalling and I ended up wearing two pairs of unfamiliar shoes, I managed 57km feeling physically broken but with my feet still intact – not a single blister.

My Blister Prevention Routine

  • Keep your feet in good nick – in the run up to your long walk you should keep your feet free of callouses and moisturise to prevent cracked skin.
  • Practice taping before your big event – there is a knack to applying tape so start practising early.
  • I apply tape to my own feet so I can flex while I’m applying it to make sure it is not too tight.
  • After taping, dust down with talcum powder to absorb any excess adhesive
  • Wear Bridgedale lining socks on top of the tape.
  • Put the hiking or running sock on next, being careful not to introduce creases.
  • During the event, change the lining socks regularly and check the the tape is still secure.

Zinc Oxide Tape for Blister Prevention

I’ve worked my way through a number of different brands of zinc oxide tape and have now settled on Leukotape P. I’ve found this to have excellent adhesive properties and a good degree of stretch. It somehow manages to avoid leaving adhesive on the non-sticky side of the tape, which is a big bonus and a problem I’ve noted with every other roll of tape I’ve tried.

Tape Adherent

A lot of guides suggest that you purchase an additional spray adhesive to apply to the foot before adding the tape. I’ve tried this technique but I’ve stopped using it because there is a fine balance between too little and too much stickiness. If you get a decent tape you shouldn’t need extra glue and you don’t want to have any extra adhesive on the outside of the tape as it will stick to your socks, increasing the chances of fabric folds under your feet. I apply a liberal sprinkling of talcum powder before I put on my socks as well.

Where to Apply the Anti Blister Tape

Ideally you will have slowly built up your long walks or runs and should now have a clear idea of where you tend to develop hot spots. When I first started training for 100km walks I would get blisters forming after only 10k when wearing hiking boots, and they would always be in the same place. Mine started under the heel and across the ball of my foot and for good measure, the back of my heel would regularly rub raw.

I chose the taping technique illustrated in the video below, as it covered all my weak points. If you develop hot spots in other places you may need to extend the covered regions.

Pre-Taping for Blister Prevention

  •  Start by applying anchor strips along the inner and outer sides of your foot.
  • Join the two anchor strips with a piece that goes across the heel.

Foot Taping for Blister Prevention

  • Start applying strips across the underside of your heel, with a slight overlap on each strip.
  • Be careful not to introduce creases and keep your foot flexed upward (dorsi-flexed) so that you don’t apply the tape too tightly.
  • Continue with more overlapped strips on the ball of your foot.
    Foot Taping for Blister Prevention
  • Finish by re-applying the anchor strips on either side of the foot.

Let me know how you get on……

London2Brighton Challenge 2014: The Second Coming

The Start of The London2Brighton Challenge

I’ve done quite few of my long training walks in my hiking boots but none of them were considered successful. I decided quite a long time ago that the London2Brighton 100k Challenge would be completed in my super cushioned Hokas’ with my Inov8s’ held back for the second half when my feet would likely have swelled.

I woke up on Saturday to an apparently relentless deluge and there followed a huge shoe dilemma. I bundled an assortment of shoe options into the boot of the car and developed a strategy that would hopefully give my feet a fighting chance.

London2Brighton Challenge

As Accuweather suggested a potential bright spot around lunchtime, I started in the trail shoes, hoping that Lynn would meet me at the 25k mark for a switch to the Hokas.

The rain came and went, just long enough for me to take off my waterproof jacket and then started again. It was a bizarre weather day and walkers would emerge from woods into bright sunshine and visibly steam as the rain evaporated from their hot bodies.

London2Brighton Mud Challenge

The rain and the 3000 runners & walkers played havoc with the trail. The off-road sections looked like segments of last months Wolf Run, as if the organisers had piped in extra mud to add to the challenge and my planned shoe change became a reluctant boot change.

I started the London2Brighton challenge an hour later than last year. It was my intention to spend an hour or so walking in the dark before reaching the main rest point at 57k. That way I would remove a potential hurdle to continuing – fear of the dark. Despite actively planning this stint in the darkness I made a huge packing faux pas. I put my main torch in the car to retrieve at the midpoint and popped the Petzl head torch in my rucksack. I knew the batteries would be low so put triple A’s on Lynn’s shopping list, again for the midpoint.

When I tripped over the first root in a dark, foreboding, wood and reached for my emergency Petzl, I was less than impressed to discover the most insignificant glow from the lamp. Completely useless and I was at least 4 hours away from batteries.

I had a glow stick but it wasn’t working and I ended up edging my way forward, gripping onto my poles for dear life and seeking out the breadcrumb trail of glow sticks that marked the route.

I wasn’t completely alone, other walkers came and went but I couldn’t hope to keep up with them. It was a pretty lonely place to be.

A generous chap took took pity on me stumbling over a stile in the dark and lit my way until we reached a road section where there were more walkers.

There was only another 10k before the major rest stop at Tully’s Farm but I was pretty despairing of my ability to get there. I was limping and silent sobbing. It was pretty darn pitiful but I felt like I was torturing myself.

With about 7k to go Lynn managed to find me on a quiet road and thrust batteries in to my hand before driving off again.

Finishing at Tully's Farm

My world looked ever so slightly brighter with a functioning Petzl on my head but it didn’t stop the weeping. I seemed to be stopping at every available tree stump in order loosen my boots and attempt to rub some life back into my swollen Achilles. It is hard to fathom quite how slow those last kilometres were. I sent Lynn a text saying that was it, I was bailing at the next stop. I didn’t actually think I could make the last 2k and when I finally crossed the line I fell into Lynn’s arms and started crying again.

I don’t feel as though I let myself down on the event. I gave it my all on that trail, leaving myself physically and emotionally broken. I can now say that I am finished with this challenge, London2Brighton has beaten me and unless I can commit to working on my body and my diet I will not consider this again.

I’m an extremist. If my exercise doesn’t have that extra edge I just can’t be bothered with it. For the next year I’d like to work on creating a body that has strength and resilience and that earns it’s place in such a challenge.

This is a great event and I have huge respect for everyone that started, and even more for those that managed to push themselves beyond Tully’s Farm and on towards Brighton.

London 2 Brighton Challenge: The Debrief

20130526-164409.jpgIn running events I very quickly find myself in an enforced solitude, I start in the pack but within yards of the start the group have spread thin and my mind is free to wander. As a reformed antisocial loner I’m quite a fan of solitude. With mass participation walking events you have the same adrenaline fuelled pre-race nerves as you huddle behind the line, waiting for the call to arms, but when the gun fires the pack ambles off as an anti-climactic herd that can take miles to disperse.

As a slow walker in the first wave of the 100k London 2 Brighton Challenge, I was passed by hundreds of faster hikers many of whom were pleasant enough to offer a wave or say hi. Despite wishing to while away the hours listening to a good yarn on my iPod, it seemed too rude to just zone out and tune into my latest audiobook so I stayed unwired.

I’m ashamed to say that I had to adopt a “tying my shoelace” strategy to avoid the loudest and most irritating walker in my vicinity. I’d tried the speeding up option first but the overtaking manoeuvre was one of those painfully slow ordeals that would have seen us battling side by side for 10 minutes. In the end it was much easier to sacrifice a minute to my shoelace.

After the first rest stop at 12.5k the pack did start to disperse and I was joined by another slowish walker who had started in the same wave as me. We gelled in a fairly peaceful way and spent the next 25k in each others company. That level of companionship was really appreciated, it lifted my spirits and spurred me on. Unfortunately Ellie succumbed to the cold she had been trying to ignore and her spirit broke around the 27k mark. She decide to quit at the next rest stop which led to a fairly slow trog towards that point.

20130526-164422.jpgI was alone again for the 4th stage which would take me up to the 47k mark. I was seizing up and I felt terribly low. I was shuffling dejectedly across the downs and every time I saw another stile a small piece of me died inside. The downs are riddled with a series of rickety and almost insurmountable stiles, some were dug into ditches with the first step hovering some way above my waist, others had the step at a manageable height but the step over was 2 inches higher than my crotch, which led to an uncomfortable dangle. I wasn’t the only one to struggle with the stiles, the obstacles led to bottlenecks with folk offering assistance with stiff limbs and apologising for the hold ups.

20130526-164948.jpgComing in to the 47k rest stop I was so emotional I had to wipe away tears before I gathered the hugely appreciated mugs of tea on offer. I sat down and finished off the peanut butter baguette that Lynn had prepared and started to feel a bit more human. I stretched, gathered my resources, took strength from the support on facebook and twitter and headed off. I started wobbly and then pulled myself together. A quick assessment of my aching body led me to believe I was moaning about nothing much. I plugged in my headphones, tuned into Amy MacDonald and focussed on the 57k stop where Lynn would be waiting.

I was overtaken by a second wind and powered my poles back and forth. I felt like a cross country skier sliding across the countryside and when I became frustrated by the lack of speed I started running. At first it was just the downhills but than I ran past 50k and felt great so I ran on. I felt free and I had bounce in my legs and I was just so damn chuffed and eager to see Lynn that I kept running. At the back of my mind I knew this second wind was going to end and the winds of depression would soon sweep in, I had the adrenaline of the finish line and the lure of hot jacket potato to spur me on.

Lynn was there to meet me and we sat down for a hot meal and another cuppa. By the time I was ready to prepare for the night stage I was in a bad way physically. It took an hour to hobble a few hundred yards to the car and to change in to dry clothing. I couldn’t squeeze my feet back into my shoes as my toes had swollen so much and the tips were covered in blisters. I could barely stand and the thought of another 4+ hours trying to cover the next 12.5k in the pitch black just seemed impossible.

It was a reluctant but probably sensible decision to retire at this point. My heroic (foolhardy) final stage felt like a satisfactory end to one hell of a challenge. I’m sad that I didn’t finish and walk across the downs and see the dawn appear but I am happy with the achievement and so grateful to everyone who supported me through the event.

And there’s always next year….

Packing my Bags

I’m in to the final taper week for London2Brighton.

I was scheduled for a gentle 10-miler but due to the actions of rogue trader, Russell Hollick we were rather pre-occupied attempting to clear up his mess. We were unfortunately introduced to this serial scam artist (aka Russ Hollick Heating Engineer) some months ago and recently allowed him into our home to fit us a nice new kitchen. He chose to take our money, rip out our kitchen and then clear off to enjoy the spoils.

So its been an interesting weekend but not quite as planned.

I don’t think the missed 10 miles will make a jot of difference to my ability to finish the 62 mile course next weekend; the years of overeating and regular Stella indulgence may though.

London2BrightonWe’ve been poring over the stage details this evening and I’m panicking again. I’m not sure if the discovery in the small print of a 33 hour cut off point is a good or bad thing. On the one hand I don’t want to feel the sweeper truck nipping at my heels all the way to Brighton but at the same time, if I’m threatening to be walking for more than 30 hours I would love someone to carry me off the course and put me out of my misery.

ActionChallenge have just released the checkpoint menus and I see that if I can make it as far as Ardingley I will be treated to the Vintage Fudge and Toffee stop. I could almost kill for a good fudge so I’m sure I can walk 67.5k for a chunk.

Lynn is able to meet me at 3 points (25k, 52k and 87k) before the finish so I’ve spent the evening assembling checkpoint packs filled with ever warmer clothes, stronger pain killers and most importantly, fresh bags of fruit sherberts. I am of course sworn off fruit sherberts for my 12 week Julia Buckley Transformation program but I’m having a 33 hour window of sin next weekend where anything that will tempt me to take another step is considered fair game.

If you want to send me a message of support here’s the link to my Samaritan’s charity page.


Operation Surgical Spirit

Grantham Canal at CotgraveThis weekend was going to be epic.

Mileage to the max plus a curry with Rach.

We ticked the curry off no bother, which just left the miles to deal with themselves. The plan was for Lynn to drop me close to the start of the Grantham canal which happens to be in Nottingham, she’d then drive off, spend an extremely long day with her mother and wait for me to pop out 33 miles later at the Grantham end.

I set off in fairly good spirits, a little hungover and a bit intimidated by the wiggly, windy road ahead but mostly #upforit.

I might have mentioned previously (here or here for example) that I haven’t been much taken with the concept of walking but the long distance trail really does appeal to me. Cutting swathes across the countryside leaving a breadcrumb or GPS trail that would actually show up an aerial shot of the UK is rather satisfying.

Grantham Canal - with actual waterThe Grantham canal seems to be a lesser spotted variety of long distance trail. There was a tiny stretch where I was assailed by manic dogs and a couple of joggers but mostly I was alone, admiring the birds and longing, longingly for a bench to appear. It deserves to be more popular and I recommend it to anyone in search of a peaceful walk/bike/run through the lush lincolnshire countryside.

The pubs are a little sparse though and I missed the planned stop at Hose where I was supposed to meet my folks for a burger and Stella shandy. Hose has the greatest concentration of Grantham canal ale houses but it has an inconsequential bridge (n0 39) that is easy to pass, make a note of it if you want to complete the route in style as you’ll need to exit the towpath and head right in search of the Rose and Crown.

This map from the Grantham Canal Society is worth reviewing.

Grantham Canal

I did meet my mum and dad and they ferried me off for a cup a tea, a bacon butty and supplied me with emergency plasters for a pair of evil blisters starting to burn on both of my heels. They then joined me for a short stroll, timed to perfection with a peculiar hailstorm.

The blisters started at mile 8 so the moment I found a bench I whipped off my socks and changed them for my spare pair which unfortunately felt like a sisal door mat. I was limping by lunchtime, then the plasters offered some relief for a few miles.

Collapsed by Grantham CanalFrom mile 18 onwards I was completely taken over by the pain from my blisters. It is amazing how crippling an inch long bubble of tissue fluid can be. I tried everything available to me – switching socks again, having another fruit sherbert, re-applying plasters, walking barefoot and then I laid down. That was marvellously effective. It was so warm and peaceful and I could have stayed there all afternoon. I very nearly had to as well, it was a complete bugger to get back up again and my poles are no use under 16 stone (+) pressure – they just concertina back to packed size.

I did make it back to vertical without pitching myself into the canal and the hobbling continued, one bench to the next.

Despite all the support from the facebook sidelines I decided at 22 miles that I ought to save the crippling heroics for the big London2Brighton day and so called for my carriage home.

It had felt quite important to get this 30-miler under my belt. I’ve been incredibly concerned about my ability to complete the 100k route and this half distance trek would have given me a psychological boost. I still feel fairly positive though. My feet let me down but I was mentally strong and the rest of the body is willing.

Puncture Repair KitI need to go away, reassess footwear, buy lining socks, compeed, heavy duty zinc tape and embark on a twice daily application of surgical spirit. I might even consider some Nightgear Military Magnum boots to go with my military twin layer socks.

It’s easily going to be the hardest challenge I’ve ever set myself. Driving back to London last night after a warm bath and a roast chicken dinner I was aware that if I were doing the 100k I would still be walking – barely half way to Brighton, easing my painful feet into bed at midnight I would still be walking and when the darn cat woke me at 7 am, I’d still be walking/crawling into Brighton.

If any of you would like to donate to the Samaritans on the back of my painful London2Brighton attempt I’d be very grateful – here’s the link.

GPX of the full canal available here.

Long Walks and Gadget Melt Down

I’m still struggling with the temporary transition from running to walking and yesterdays outing with multiple gadget failure just hammered another nail in the coffin. Today’s gadget doesn’t support the long drawn out monotony of a distance walk and if I can’t play with technology I’m just not that bothered.

Walking is too pure for my liking, it’s designed for the rugged “at one with nature” types who aren’t scared by the hours of silence and EMF solitude.

Yesterday’s program started with a slow yet painful parkrun at Bushy Park, followed by a planned hike along the Thames Path from Hampton Court to the Embankment. I was gadget free for the parkrun due to a late arrival at an extremely packed venue which meant I was bundled out of the car without the usual accoutrements of hydration packs, Garmin, jelly babies and iPhone.

I survived.

Leaving the park after a short interlude for champagne and the collection of gadgetry, I realised I had become disorientated and needed to engage the google maps app. The iPhone was at 97% and all was well. I spun in circles trying to orientate myself before following a bus heading in the direction of Kingston. I engaged the Runmeter app to record my GPS and submit my whereabouts and pace to my standby rescue vehicle (Lynn) and pressed play on the latest Audio book (The Art of Fielding).

Thames Path ice cream2 hours later I paused for an ice-cream and noticed that the battery life had shrunk to 27%. That’s pretty drastic when you are miles from home and feeling weary. At that rate I’d have barely managed 10 miles before being cast into a telecommunication black hole.

I sent out a single text with my last known location (Richmond) and my intended direction (East along the Thames), then switched the phone off.

That’s it, radio silence.

Just me and the rowers and the occasional kamikaze cyclist. It wasn’t long before I started my own entertainment, humming along to the pulsing in my throbbing toenails. My spirits were flagging as fast as the crappy iPhone battery.

I made it as far as Hammersmith before joining the prostrate sun seekers in a riverside park. I’d completed a total of 17 miles including the preliminary parkrun. I’d learnt a lot, not least that this 100k London2Brighton walk is going to be a killer. As we currently stand, I think I’ll be ready to quit at 50k and ready to be airlifted out at 75k. I need an endurance boost over the next 5 weeks and I also need to find a solution to the technical blackouts.

I have a kit bag that PC World would be proud of, including iPhone 5, iPod Nano (2nd Gen from the bottom of a very old drawer), an ancient Nokia N82, assorted car chargers and a plan to switch my iPhone with Lynns every 25k. The fact that the phone died before 15k is a bit of shock. I’m terrified of hitting the wooded areas of the South Downs sometime post midnight and losing all contact with my hope of escape.

Power Monkey ExtremeTwitter has been extremely useful on the subject of expedition style battery sources. The ideal power replacement for the hike would be these impact driven piezoelectric boots which would give my iPhone a boost with every step but unfortunately they don’t seem to have hit the manufacturing stage yet and besides I have just bought a new pair of boots for the occasion.

I am now coveting this expedition ready solar charger from powertraveller. The power monkey extreme holds enough juice to charge an iPhone 6 times over which ought to do the trick. At £120 its probably a bit too much gadget for one single day and I may have to sign up for another crazy challenge just to get my money’s worth. has become my latest go to website for gadget ideas to help me cross the downs. It is a military themed site but has stacks of top notch kit that I might be able to find a little more space in my kit bag for. They have everything I need including lighting, map cases, solar iphone chargers, protein snacks, rain gear and a Bergen to squeeze it all in to.


London Loop – Hamsey Green to Banstead and Back?

london loopI wheezed my way to the top of Hamsey Common and then paused, teetering on my hiking poles and steaming like the bagged cheese sandwich crushed at the bottom of my rucksac. I felt ready to reward my efforts with a picnic atop the chalk downs and call a taxi for the homeward journey but unfortunately I’d only covered 2 of the planned 18 miles for the day. This section of the London Loop was already threatening  to take its toll.

The London Loop forms a 140 mile circuit of the capital, covering an unexpectedly rural corridor that still offers glimpses of London’s highrise skyline. It’s an ideal training ground for long distance walkers enclosed within the confines of the M25. Today I was planning on hiking from Hamsey Green (close to Sanderstead in Croydon) across to Banstead and then back as far as required to hit my distance/time requirements.

The schedule for the 100km London2Brighton Challenge has been escalating rapidly and I’m struggling with the time demands required. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not a big fan of walking. The transition from running to long distance walking has not been entirely satisfactory – the walks although beautiful, tend to be so flipping slow and are devoid of the natural running highs and the post run satisfaction and glee. I think I will happily fall back into my weekend run routine as soon as I’ve walked across the finish line in Brighton next month.

Today’s route was inspiring even at my walking pace. Crossing assorted commons, the Happy Valley and Farthing Downs I was spoilt by undulating countryside and the signs of a rich history written into the landscape. Battle of Britain bunkers and observatories still stood on the edge of Kenley Airfield hinting at a time when Spitfires would have ruled the skies and I spent much of the next hour pondering whether I would have enjoyed life in the Land Army.

London Loop - The Happy ValleyIt was a glorious day, one of the few nice days of the year, and so I took an extra-specially relaxed pace, punctuated by hillside rests to admire the view. It’s perhaps not surprising that I ran out of time long before I had finished the desired 18 miles. I called a weary halt to the proceedings about 14 miles along the loop and called for my welcome chariot home.

At this rate I will need to reassess my estimated time to complete the 100km. I’m beginning to think that 27hrs will be much closer to the truth than my initial 18-24 hr estimate. This is going to one heck of a gruelling challenge.

One of the unexpected bonuses of my new “hobby” is that its opened up a whole new world of gadgets and technical outdoor walking gear. Today I was sporting a new pair of Meindl hiking boots and a Paramo Velez Adventure Lite Smock. The latter was bought for its highly breathable and waterproof fabric, but it also sports a bonus array of zips and pockets. Today the huge chest pocket housed my London Loop guidebook and iPhone but on the big day I will ensure it is filled with a multitude of penny sweets. I reckon I can walk for 24 hours providing I never run short of fruit sherberts.

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New Year Planning of Ultra Proportions

I’ve never been a great fan of New Year’s eve, the social pressures generally make me quake with inadequacy. In recent years though I have discovered the joys of New Year planning, preferably to be conducted with a glass of wine and a credit card in hand. You need to be puffed with bravado and uninhibited by sense and reason and then you set to with an event calendar and an internet connection.

highlight running eventsI’ve been ahead of the game this year and have been creating a list of must-do events to draw upon. I started the eve, circling events of interest and then as the excitement built I moved on to panic purchasing places before other New Year planners had a chance to nick my spot.

Of course it will soon be the day after the night before and I will have to take stock of the damage, assess the implications and start all over again with the planning. I’ll have training programs to organise and mammoth weekend run/walks to schedule. I’ll have months ahead to panic and wonder whatever possessed me to click the “register here” button.

For now I am still excited.

In 2013 I shall become an ultra runner or at least an ultra run/walker. I have entered the 100k London2Brighton to take place in May. I cycled it a few years back and remember thinking the congestion was so great I could probably walk it faster than cycle – here is my chance to prove myself. So far the intention is to do it solo, so I’m going to have to psych myself up for running across the downs by the light of the silvery moon. I’ll be re-reading Moire O’Sullivan’s fabulous book, Mud, Sweat and Tears, to get some night time tips and perhaps start by conducting most of my Janathon runs after sundown.

The plans don’t stop there though, here’s a sample of the most inspiring events for 2013:

  • Feb – Thames Meander 54mile ultra: this is too soon for me but I hope I’ll be up for it in 2014.
  • March – Hastings Half (committed)
  • April – Coastal Trail Series in Exmoor: just noticed that this one is graded extreme so I may try and find a more sedate option.
  • May – London2Brighton 100k Ultra (committed)
  • June – Keswick Great Trail Run: Ran last year and re-registered but unlikely to be recovered from L2B.
  • June – Nightrider: 100k night time ride around London. I’ll be doing this if it’s possible to recover from the L2B in 2 weeks.
  • July – Para’s 10: I’m doing this one just for t-shirt!
  • August – (RAT) Roseland August Trail, 64, 32, 20 or 11 mile options across the Cornish coast.
  • August – Thames Meander Half through Richmond Park. I’d did this last year and will undoubtedly be back, I love the mixed distances races as its a great way to ensure I’m not last over the finish line.
  • September – Farnham Pilgrim, half marathon.
  • September – Thames Path Challenge 100k Ultra – depending how I fair with the L2B in May.
  • September – RideLondon 100m cycle along the Olympic bike course (registered)
  • October – Loads of choice in October, maybe the Great North run again or perhaps the more scenic Royal Parks Half. However, following a conversation with my 72 year old mother who may have just suggested she’ll try a half with me next year, I may have to do the Bridlington Half.

2013 mindmapSo now, I’m in time to crack open a bottle a champers to greet the new year with the loved one’s.

I can save the rest of the planning for the morning, after I’ve ticked off the first Janathon run of the year. Perhaps then I can concern myself with finding time for the other schemes and challenges I’ve set aside 2013 to complete.

Happy new year everyone and good running.