From the UTMB to the Diagonal des Fous and all the ultra trails that now criss-cross our mountains, there is one thing in common: it is crucial to take care of your feet. Indeed, your success lies in the preparation and protection of your feet. An infected blister, a badly cut toenail or an unfortunate sprain and your dream to reach the finish line vanishes. One figure is key: on the UTMB, 70% of the dropouts are caused by foot-related problems or injuries.
Marie Maligorne, head of our podiatry sport centenr, and Marion Delespierre, a sports doctor and high-level ultra-trailer, have several years of experience as medical referees on the legendary Mont-Blanc loop. Here are their expert tips to prepare and protect your feet before and during the race.
These tips are obviously applicable to all ultra-trails that you will participate in.
"An ultra-trail is plunging into the unknown. For most, running 30 to 40 hours in a row is a first. So it's impossible to predict how our bodies will react. However, it is possible to reduce the level of uncertainty by preparing properly! " explains Marie Maligorne.
• A foot ready to succeed on the UTMB needs to be both robust and hydrated. In this vein, Marie Maligorne recommends a small routine to begin at least a week before the D-Day: "Alternate nights between tanning with lemon juice to strengthen the skin and the next day applying a moisturiser to restore flexibility. This is the best way to prevent blisters. "
We believe this is the perfect moisuriser for this.
• While blisters are one major risk, Marion Delespierre points out another one, that is just as much of a danger: "I cannot count the number of nail infections I have treated.They are often due to badly cut toe nails. You need to be very vigilant. A pre-race pedicure allows you set out with confidence in this respect... "
• The footwear to an ultra-trailer is what the car is to the Formula 1 driver: the key piece of equipment. It is therefore necessary that the choice of footwear is made applying perfect logic:
- Choose the benefits of comfort, resistance and cushioning over dynamism and lightness in view of long period of effort that you will face.
- Avoid high "drops". Why? "Because they tend to promote heel attacks that are much more traumatic owing to the shock waves that they cause through the whole body," says Delespierre. She continues: "A drop of between 4 and 6mm is ideal to maintain a mid-foot stride pattern as much as possible over the course of the kilometres. But beware, if everything has gone well so far in your trainers, don't change anything! »
• "The first interface between the body and our footwear is the insole. Consequently, the sole must be one of your primary concerns. It must be perfectly adapted to our style, our stride and our morphology," explains Marie Maligorne.
• The golden rule on the day of an Ultra: nothing new. Our two experts with a single voice say: "You must have tested and proven your equipment in advance, whether it's your footwear, your socks or your soles, in order to be totally confident at the start and avoid unpleasant surprises." A concrete example? "Your shoes must have at least 300 km on the clock."
• Finally, last tip, applicable just a few minutes before the gun: the lacing. Often neglected but oh so important! A ritual, almost an art. The winner of the 2019 Maxi-Race says: "Two fundamental principles: first, uniformly lace the toes to the top of the kick to avoid constriction on the upper part; and, do not overtighten your laces or you risk causing tenosynovitis, i.e. an inflammation of the tendon extensors that raise the foot when climbing."
Just as in Formula 1 pit stops to change tyres, while your speed might be slightly less than a racing car, you must take advantage of refuelling stops to change shoes and socks. "Not with every refuelling stop of course but once or twice during the race," clarifies our podologist. "As the kilometres go by, the footwear gets tired, just like the runner. It loses its capacity for comfort and cushioning. Sweating is also bad. Humidity is your foot's worst enemy."
For this change of shoes to be beneficial, some precautions are necessary:
• The second pair must be also be familiar to you. This implies a model and level of prior use identical to the first.
• If the race conditions are very wet and you want to change regularly, we have designed shoe driers that will help your support to quickly remove moisture between two refuelling stops.
• Apply anti-friction cream with each change.
• Going through a UTMB without a foot problem is a dream that very few runners achieve. You must know how to deal with and treat the problem immediately before it jeopardises your race. Marion Delespierre confirms: "Better to lose a few minutes to repair than to resign two hours later..."
- " Piercing subungual haematomas (bleeding under the nail) is certainly one of the things I've most performed in the assistance areas. It is very quick and once the hematoma is punctured, it is possible to continue. However, I strongly advise you let the medical teams present along the route take care of this..." testifies the doctor.
- The pain caused by blisters can be removed quite easily by the runner themselves by carrying some silicone dressings offered in our protection kit in their bag. Just a few extra grams to carry around that can prove very valuable
Following these tips, before and after the race, is the best way of setting off on the right foot for the UTMB, the Diagonale des Fous or your next ultra- trail.