Before the Avon Walk become a distant memory for me, I wanted to write about some tips for keeping your feet healthy should you choose to do a long distance walk. I see that many people are hitting my blog by using search terms such as “shoes for avon walk” and “avon walk blister care.” Therefore, I thought I would share some things that worked for me.
Finding the right shoes is crucial. After I finished the Avon Walk, two crew members came up to talk to me. They said they were thinking about doing the walk next year and asked “What brand of shoe is good?” Their question is what gave me the initial idea to write this blog post with some foot care tips because the bottom line is that there is no “good brand” of shoe. What worked for me might cause pain for someone else. The trick is finding what works for your personal foot anatomy and gait pattern, and that can only be done at a running store. A trained professional at a running store will look at the wear patterns on your current shoes and be able to tell a lot about your gait pattern. They will watch you walk across the floor in stocking feet to see which way your ankle rolls. They will look to see if you have a narrow or a wide foot, a high or low arch, if you pronate or supinate when you walk, etc. Then they can make a recommendation of the right shoe for YOU! And just the shoe that is right for you might be totally wrong for your walking partners. It’s a very individual thing, and this is why I think it’s very risky to just say something like “New Balance is a good brand, so I am just going to get these $40 New Balance shoes from JC Penney.” Within the New Balance line, there are shoes with all kinds of special technology in them so just make sure you are getting something that works for your own personal gait pattern. If you live anywhere near Evanston, I found the folks at Murphy’s Fit to be very helpful in guiding me to the proper shoes.
As far as socks, avoid 100% cotton. You want to look for something that wicks sweat away from your feet. There are several different types of wicking socks, and I recommend that you get 2 or 3 different styles to start with. Then when you see what you like, you can buy a bunch of pairs. Someone at Sports Authority recommended Thorlos to me, but when I wore them on my first longer walk I found them to be too thick and warm. Next I tried Feetures. I ended up really liking Feetures and bought several pairs. I received a pair of Reebok wicking socks as part of the Avon Walk fundraising, and those were great socks as well. For the Avon Walk, I ended up wearing both the Feetures and the Reebok socks. I changed my socks every 8 miles, which also really helped. At the rest stop medical care stations, I heard some of the medical professionals advising people to use two pairs of socks and layer baby powder in between. Since I got that advice on walk day and never trained in two pairs of socks, I was afraid to try it. But now that I am telling you in advance, you can try two socks with a powdered buffer and report back how it worked!
As you train, you will feel hot spots on your feet in your blister-prone areas. If this happens, I highly recommend rubbing those areas with a friction stick before you put your socks on. I like Band Aid brand Friction Block. I could feel a big difference right away in how my foot would glide with each step.
I personally have two blister prone toes on each foot, simply due to the anatomy of my foot. I often get blisters on those toes just from walking around on vacation or from working out, so I knew I needed some preventative medicine on those toes for the Avon Walk. Band Aid makes a special blister care bandage, but I must tell you that the Target generic version is much better for the method I used it. Both lines of blister care bandages are unlike traditional Band Aids because they are rubbery and thick. The Band Aid brand version has a little pad in the center like a traditional bandage but the Target version does not. So the Target version is almost like a thick rubbery tape. I would actually tape my blister-prone toes with that “tape” and then the pressure normally put onto my toes would be put onto that tape instead. This method worked like a charm!
As passed the medical stations along the route and I saw some people getting their feet worked on, I realized how lucky I was to have spend so much time finding the right socks, shoes, and blister management. Talking to some people on the route I would hear things like “The first year I did the Avon Walk I lost two toenails!” (eew) and “Last year after the Avon Walk it took 4 months for my feet to get back to normal.” My feet did great at the Avon Walk. I had two minor blisters on the blister prone toes mentioned above. I took care of them as advised in the foot care literature Avon provided, and the day after the walk my feet were as good as new.
I hope that these tips will help some future Avon walkers!