The worldwide Oxfam Trail Walker event sees groups of 4 walkers complete a course of 100km in under 48 hours, raising money to help tackle poverty around the world. Melbourne’s turn at this incredible event is scheduled for 27th and 28th of March and this year a new course has been selected, from Churchill Park in Lysterfield to Heidelberg.
Even though this is a walking event as opposed to an ultra-distance run (though people do run it), the fact that it is a walk does not mean preparation isn’t crucial. It is. You wouldn’t turn up to run a marathon on limited training or knowledge, so why would you do that when you are preparing to walk 100km? I ask that question having seen many times people do just that, and it still defies belief in my mind!!!
I have volunteered as a Podiatry Supervisor a number of time and have seen all manner of foot injuries, many of which have ended a walker’s event. Most of which are preventable. Lack of preparation, prevention and knowledge are the 3 things that cause the vast majority of withdrawals from the event, and I can tell you that it is devastating to have to pull out. You start as a team, and the thought of letting those team mates down is awful. So why risk it?
The 3 most common reasons people fail
The most common reason people withdraw is due to blisters. On the tops of the feet, on the toes, around the heels and the arch. And not just little blisters. Think, a day in heels at the Melbourne cup blisters. X 10. They are excruciating. And they can happen early in the event if you are not prepared. Bearing in mind you will take over 300,000 steps during the event, you do not want to develop a blister at the 10 km mark because your shoes don’t fit. Or you haven’t tested your socks. Or you have a hammer toe that you hadn’t considered beforehand.
There are many brands of socks on the market that claim to prevent blisters. The only way to know what works for you is to try a few different ones. The same goes with taping techniques and blisters pads like Compeed. You just have to test them out. We have tested out a number of different socks including Armaskin, Steigen and Lightfoot. The Armaskin is brilliant but it's an unusual feel under the foot and some people don't like it. Personally, I've never had a blister while wearing them though!
Lack of preparation
The second reason people end the event early is through simple lack of time on their feet during training. Yes, going for a 70km walk on a Saturday isn’t particularly convenient but you need to be working towards that distance in your training. I have run a number of marathons and I always ran at least one training run of 80% of the marathon distance. You need to get the time in your legs and on your feet. It is the only way to know how your body is going to feel in the late stages of the event. There is just under 6 weeks until the event so you should be getting pretty close to your long walk. A very old rule of thumb, and one I still use is to increase your training load (so distance) by 10% a week assuming you have no injuries. I would most certainly recommend you have walked 70km at least once during your training, preferably on the trail itself.
Lack of knowledge
Some questions to ask yourself:
- have I tested my gear over 40km?
- if you developed a blister early on, would you know how to deal with it?
- what’s the best way to tape your feet to prevent rubbing and blisters?
- do I know what to carry in my pack to treat any blisters?
- do your shoes fit? Length, width and depth.
- do you need a more supportive shoe than you normally wear, just because of the length of time you'll be on your feet? I know normally wear a LunarGlide. For the concrete parks of the course I will wear a pair of Brooks Adrenaline. I would never wear something with this much support day to day.
- what type of shoes should you wear?
- have a decided if I will wear runners or trail shoes, or a combination. If so, when will you change?
- do you need different socks for different shoes? My trail shoes come up my ankle much higher so I need
longer socks. You don't want to find that out at 30km and not those in your pack
This is all crucial information but often overlooked during the training period.
So how do you make sure you are not one of the people making these mistakes? That my friend is the easiest part of your Oxfam journey.
You make an appointment with our podiatrists.
In an ideal world we recommend:
1. Biomechanical assessment and general treatment appointment
If you want to have this done, it needs to be done now. It is to late a fortnight out. We will check your feet and leg joints for ranges of motion and alignment to assess any potential biomechanical issues that may predispose you to injuries or blisters during training or during the event. Advise on footwear and sock choices, as well as taping techniques. All of this needs to be tested during training. It is a rookie mistake to try something untested on the day of the event (trust me, I wore 2 pairs of socks in a marathon once untested and lost 6 toenails) Advise on what to do in the event of a ‘hot spot’ or blister developing. Advise on what to carry in your pack. Complete a general treatment, removing callous and corns and properly cutting your nails
2. General treatment appointment – 1 week before the event (30 mins)Complete a general treatment, removing callous and corns and properly cutting your nails so your feet are in tip top shape for the event. We recommend doing this a week prior.
3. Taping appointment – 1 day before the event (30 mins)This is so you avoid having to line up at the start of the event at the taping booths and it is done in the way best suited to you. Think low stress.
As a practitioner having been involved in this event over many years, it is incredibly satisfying to have clients complete the event unscathed. It is such an enormous achievement and we are privileged to be a part of the journey. Please take the time to be assessed and advised properly to give yourself the best shot at a successful event.