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January 2, 2014 Comments (11) Journey To A First Ultra, Training

Foot Taping

A lot of people wonder about the best blister treatment/prevention techniques. It’s a common discussion I hear between newer and veteran runners alike. I have found that prevention is the best defense.

During the course of helping a friend solve her severe blister problems for even short trail runs, we discovered pre- taping. It’s been pretty revolutionary for me and has become a staple pre-race ritual; I hope this helps some of you too.

Pickled Feet

This near-maceration is one of the reasons we named our race directing company Pickled Feet Ultra Running.

Pre-taping is certainly a distinct improvement over this ‘no-taping’ outcome from the BigHorn 100 in which my feet were wet the entire race. I did change shoes and socks twice, and did not pre-tape. You can’t really see it in these pictures, but the entire back of my heel is composed of a blister under a callous, which is hands-down one of the most painful things I have endured, ever.
Ubiquitous post-race feet photos.

The foot taping which I am going to illustrate for you here was mostly derived from “Fixing your Feet” by John Vonhof. I have used this method for my last three mountain 100 milers and completed them all with zero mid-race shoe changes and nothing more than a hint of hot spots at the very end.

1. Do your best to file down or shave off callouses and pedicure your feet all nice and smooth. Blistered callouses are NOT FUN. Do this a week or two before your target race in case you get too zealous and file the skin a little close. You want the callouses gone, but you don’t want the skin to be weak or torn.Do the rest of the steps the NIGHT BEFORE your race so you aren’t hurried; plus I think it gives your masterpiece time to “cure” and really meld together.
FT1 2. Wipe your feet with alcohol to get them really clean and remove oils.
FT2FT3 3. Swab the spots you intend to tape with Tincture of Benzoin. In my area, I can only find this at a real old-time drug store. The Tincture helps the tape stick. Let it dry for a minute to get nice and tacky.
FT4FT5 4. Now for the actual taping. There are numerous types of tape and lots of other sources which will expound on pros and cons of the different tapes. This post is not a comprehensive explanation of all the options, just an illustration of what I have found in my own experience.I use Elastikon tape, as it’s relatively cheap and available to me locally. Like the Tincture of Benzoin, I can only find this at my local non-chain drugstore.Cut the tape to fit the spots you want to cover. I cover the entire heel area and wrap some of my toes; you might want to cover the balls of your feet or arches or wherever you are prone to blisters.
FT6FT7FT8 5. Tape over all the spots that you swabbed with the Tincture of Benzoin. Make sure to get the tape all smooth with no wrinkles or overlaps. Stretch it a little bit as you apply it to get a secure adhesion.
FT9 6. This is what my pre-taping looked like this particular time. You could do more full coverage, but I have found that this more “spot treatment” works as well; the tape stays in place as long as you have a larger coverage of Tincture of Benzoin than tape. Make sure all the edges are adhered. If they are not, take off the tape, apply more Benzoin, let it dry a bit more, and re-apply a new piece of tape. You can also apply more Benzoin around the edges of the tape if you are having trouble getting it to stick.
FT10FT11 7. This is my favorite part. (Note: I have no financial interest in Thorlo socks; I bought this pair at my local Sports Authority.) Brand new Thorlo Experia socks are not REQUIRED, but I’m developing a healthy superstition that nearly requires wearing a brand new pair of socks before every 100 miler I start.Carefully put on your nice fresh snug socks over your taping masterpiece and go to bed. The tape will be nicely adhered in the morning and should remain that way through your entire run or race.
FT12_after 8. Post-race foot awesomeness. Sorry for the bad cell phone pic – I’m just happy I remembered to take a picture!

11 Responses to Foot Taping

  1. Jeff says:

    Emily, great write-up. I too had trouble finding tincture of benzoin in Boise, but I eventually found something online that works much better (in my opinion) than the bottle/swab method you’re using here: SkinTac wipes. Once you try these, you’ll never go back to painting your feet; at least I didn’t. They are individually wrapped, like alcohol prep pads, so are easy to apply and easy to transport. They also stick better. In addition, one thing you don’t do here that has worked for me is to apply some baby powder to my feet before I put my socks on, just so my tape (or foot) doesn’t stick to my sock.

    • UltraEm says:

      Hey Jeff – that’s a great resource. Thanks for sharing! I guess I just like hitting up Pennywise Drugstore in Caldwell for posterity. 🙂 The baby powder is a good suggestion too, and I think I remember that we did actually do baby powder when I was helping the friend I refer to…Thanks!

  2. […] Foot taping 101. I’ve never had to do this, thankfully. […]

  3. Christine says:

    Tincture of Benzoin is a staple in most first aid kits. It usually comes in the single dose vials that you squeeze to break and then apply through the cotton swab at the end. I’ve never had to look hard to find them… so couldn’t say for sure where I get it from. Great idea to use that with the tape job. Never thought of that before!

    • UltraEm says:

      Thanks for the comment, Christine! I didn’t know it was a first aid thing until AFTER I started using it for feet. You know, maybe if looking for it in a different form, not the bottle, you would find those vials in more places. Another source for this stuff is online through Zombie Runner. They have a foot care page.

  4. I learned about foot taping in a stage race (Grand to Grand Ultra 2012) and it saved my toes. I had taken Tincture of Benzoin and Elastikon tape w/ me (they’re available through’s site). However, I found I didn’t need to use the tincture of benzoin (which is really messy!) Instead, the med personnel turned me on to a better tape: Leukotape. It was plenty sticky and held great. I made a “toe cap” taping each toe. So I suggest trying Leukotape (available online thru amazon and other sites). good luck!

  5. Jeremy says:

    Oh my, Em…pre-taping???

    Most people approach the issue of blistering with their eye off the ball. They think one of these things is the culprit:
    1. Their shoes don’t fit.
    2. They need more callouses.
    3. It was caused by sweat or wet feet.
    4. Too much or not enough sock cushioning.

    Here is what actually causes blisters:
    1. Improper running form. A tuned up runner in race mode should be bouncy and light on the feet. Only when form gets sloppy and we slam our feet around does blistering occur.
    2. Breaking on the downhills and generating shearing forces inside the shoe. Pretty much the same as #1 above.
    3. Too many callouses. Get rid of them by religious daily pumice stone sanding and application of hydrating lotions- with bags on your feet overnight if necessary. This is much easier to accomplish in the off-season before any race buildup has begun.

    • Jeremy says:

      Oh yeah, one more real cause of blistering:

      4. Racing at a pace faster than you train. This causes form to break down and inevitably causes blistering. Plus, the forces are higher on the skin in the feet than you have prepared them for. A great reason to routinely train much faster than race pace. Easy for the 50-100 milers. Speedwork points out all the weaknesses in our game, even blisters.

  6. […] So I set out to search for a way to tape my feet as I have never done it before.  I found this and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to tape feet or endure the torture of […]

  7. […] So I set out to search for a way to tape my feet as I have never done it before.  I found this and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to tape feet or endure the torture of […]

  8. […] the forecast, and taped up our feet to prevent blisters (an amazing system that truly works – see my blog here for […]

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