Blisters and other foot problems can bring even the fittest, strongest person to their knees. I don’t care how tough you think you are, if your feet start to breakdown, the rest of you won’t be far behind.
Make sure your feet don’t let you down by preparing them properly.
INCREASE MILEAGE GRADUALLY
Covering too many miles too soon is a great way to tear your feet to shreds. Like weak, unconditioned muscles, a sudden increase in mileage can leave your feet sore and raw. Increase your mileage gradually so that your feet become accustomed to the added stress.
Shoes and boots are very supportive, which is good news because that support protects your feet from injury. On the downside, constant support can make your feet weak. Strengthen your feet and make them more injury-resistant by going barefoot whenever the opportunity arises.
Walk around in just your socks indoors and consider wearing minimalist shoes for your workouts. If you decide to run in minimalist shoes, make sure you increase speed and duration gradually to avoid over-stressing your feet. Walking barefoot on sand and trails will also strengthen and toughen your feet.
HIT THE BOTTLE
Alcohol can help toughen your skin. Don’t drink it though; rub it on your feet. Get some surgical or rubbing alcohol and pour it onto a cotton pad. Wipe the alcohol on your feet and then allow it to evaporate. Do this a couple of times a day for two weeks to see a noticeable increase in skin toughness.
BREAK IN YOUR BOOTS
Nothing is more likely to cause blisters than a new pair of boots. Straight out the box, most boots are stiff and unforgiving. Instead of moving with your feet, your feet move inside the boot – even if it's the right size. In time, your boots will soften and mold around your feet, but initially, they can be uncomfortable.
Make sure you spend time breaking in new boots. If possible, start breaking in your new boots before your old ones wear out. That way you won't have to get used to new footwear quickly. Wear your new boots as often as you can for short periods and wax or oil the uppers to make them more flexible.
PRACTICE GOOD FOOT CARE
Don't just think about your feet when they go wrong – look after your feet, and they'll look after you. Trim your nails, file down calluses, wash and dry them thoroughly, and use foot powder. Just as a well-serviced car is more reliable, your feet are no different. Take care of your feet – you are only issued one pair!
GET GOOD AT TAPING HOTSPOTS
Even toughened feet and broken-in boots can produce blisters. If you have a big march coming up, tape your feet to provide an added layer of protection. Place a thin layer of tape over any known hot spots, so your boots rub against the tape and not your skin.
Start taping your feet a few weeks before your big test. It takes practice to apply tape in the right places and so that it doesn’t come off. Don’t try and mummify your feet. Instead, use the least amount of tape to achieve the desired result. Too much tape will make your feet hot and sweaty, and that will increase the chances of blisters.
I preferred zinc oxide tape and taping my feet meant that in all my years, I never had a single significant blister. Taping, along with the other strategies in this article, really do work and will make a huge difference to your training.
If you are preparing for a selection course and don't know where to start with your training, then make sure you check out the Elite Operator 12-Week Plan. This plan is designed to prepare you for selection and make sure you can ACE that testing.