RunnerGirl’s Quick Tips for Outdoor Adventures, Summer ’08 Edition

With the heat wave ushering in the summer ’08 season, Sam McManis has a timely article on staying hydrated.*

Being an avid ultramarathoner on the trails, I have a lot of experience with two issues that can easily ruin a perfectly awesome day: blisters and poison oak. Here are some of my tips for making your outdoor adventures more comfortable, whether you’re a trail veteran or considering making your debut out on one of our region’s many recreational treasures.

Poison Oak Prevention

If you’re on a real trail (nothing that’s graded or is anywhere near pavement), poison oak is virtually unavoidable. I’m severely allergic to the stuff, complete with past face-swelling, cortisone shot and Prednisone necessitating episodes, but ever since I started carefully following these steps, I have had nary a patch of it.

1. Use a topical pre-treatment, such as Ivy Block or these wipes before you head out. I prefer the wipes, but they do take a couple of days to ship. Ivy Block is found in most drugstores.

2. When you get back to your vehicle, use some post-wipes. I like these and these. The earlier you clean yourself up, the better, but if you’re out there for hours upon hours (some of my runs can last 10-16 hours), the next several steps need to be performed diligently.

3. If you’re near a water source, spray yourself and your gear down with Simple Green — yes, the household cleaner — then rinse it off. Be sure to bring a towel and washcloth with you.

4. When you get home, or to wherever you can take a shower, spray yourself down with the Simple Green again. Spray down and wipe off anything you’ve touched or have come in contact with — door handle of the car, steering wheel, car seat, etc. Spray down your gear and either hose it off or throw it into the washing machine.

5. Rinse the Simple Green off of you.

6. Scrub yourself with Technu while in the shower. Follow the directions on the tube.

If you do manage to contract poison oak, do not waste your time or money on any of the over-the-counter scrubs or sprays. I’ve tried them all. Instead, buy Oral Ivy and put several drops of it into water and drink it several times per day. The itch will subside. Note that Oral Ivy does contain alcohol, not enough to get you drunk, but enough so it’s on your breath. Take caution when using this before driving or going to work.

NOTE: Any of the poison oak remedies can be expensed out on your Flexible Spending Account, so save your receipts.

Blister Prevention

Are you prone to blisters in specific areas? Do your moleskin or bandages fall off easily? Do your shoes rub your feet wrong?

Most people think that you get blisters from having wet feet move around in your shoes. This is not true. Blisters are usually caused by ill-fitting socks or shoes, or from having dirt or grit in your shoes. To prevent dirt or grit, consider using gaiters — I like these, as they’re the easiest to use.

Everyone’s feet are different, so what works for me may not work for you. It’s a matter of trial and error, but many people aren’t aware of the variety of products available, or they might not know how to use them in combinations with each other.

1. Start with this kit, or assemble your own by purchasing elasticon tape (brown, stretchy, and sticky), paper tape, tincture of benzoin, powder, and alcohols swabs — the brown tape and benzoin are hard to find.)

2. Your feet should be clean with no lotion or anything on them.

3. Use an alcohol swab on the area you’ll be taping.

4. Dab on the tincture of benzoin on the area you’ll be taping and let it dry. This is the most important step, as the benzoin will keep the tape stuck to your feet.

5. Cut a strip of the elasticon tape that’s longer than the area you’ll be covering.

6. Press it firmly onto your skin, careful not to have any wrinkles.

7. Trim any excess with scissors.

8. Coat the edges of the tape with more tincture of benzoin.

9. Cover the edges with the paper tape.

10. Powder your feet.

11. I wear the wool Injiji toe socks — the long ones, then put on a pair of trail socks over those. I buy my road running shoes 1/2 to a full size bigger than my dress shoes, and my trail shoes are a good 1 1/2-2 sizes bigger to accommodate the socks, plus the fact that your feet swell during strenuous activity, and if you’re doing lots of downhill work, your toes will thank you for the extra room.

12. Some people put bag balm all over their feet post-powder and pre-sock, but I haven’t tried that yet.

13. If there’s a spot in your shoe or boot that always rubs the wrong way, try using one of these on that spot.

Treating a Blister

1. Clean the area.

2. Apply one of these to the area — yes, the burn pads work great.

3. Put one of these over that.

4. Next, you’ll be taping OVER all of this, so follow steps 4-11 as noted above.

Blister Fix in a Pinch

If time is of the essence, dab some canker sore treatment (if available) on the blistered area to numb it, place a piece of duct tape shiny-side-to blister, then hold that in place to your foot with a larger piece of duct tape.

I’m not kidding.

The duct tape bandage got me through the final 20 miles of a 100K run in the Marin Headlands two years ago. The duct tape will likely rip off a layer or two of the surrounding area of skin, but when your primary concern is the blister, you can deal with having the other part heal up after your event.

A Word About Toenails

If you’re pretty active, don’t get too attached (physically or emotionally) to your toenails. You will likely lose a few. I’m usually missing quite a few myself (currently, four), but nail polish covers the area where the nail should be just fine. If you find that you’re about to lose a toenail, DO NOT RIP IT OFF. Tape it down, and let it come off naturally.

Note: RunnerGirl has no official affiliation with any of the products or retailers promoted above. She is, however, a proud member of the Brooks I.D. Team, so please make your next shoe purchase from Brooks.

*One thing that he doesn’t mention is the option of taking electrolyte and potassium supplements if you’re sweating a lot. Check these out if you spend a lot of time being active in the heat. I find that they’re great for getting rid of the sloshing feeling in my stomach if I’m drinking a lot of fluids. Check with your personal physician before taking any kind of supplements or OTC medication.

3 thoughts on “RunnerGirl’s Quick Tips for Outdoor Adventures, Summer ’08 Edition”

  1. I am in the middle of an attempted toe-nail renaissance. The problem is that for years I’ve only gotten quick and easy chop-shop jobs in Sacramento. I have no go-to stylist or pedicurist and now need to find someone who’ll do a good job with mens’ toenails.

    And at an affordable price- I can’t spend more than what my wife spends (about $20 a week) or else marital discourse will ensue. In other words, free but scraggly nails is ok. For disclosure, I’ve only got 8 toes, so I think I should get a discount of at least 10% off.

    So any suggestions of people/places to go who can do something fun and stylish? I don’t think my last nailcutter understood anything but “Number 4 on the sides and top.”


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