Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Foot Love: the quest to prevent blisters in ski boots and fix problem areas

Taping up prior to a day of skiing

I love my feet, they do many things for me.

I cram them in tight rock shoes, I pound them in stiff boots over miles of trail, I bash them on runs over pavement and dirt.  My feet are wonderful, they always toughen up and carry on with grace...that is until I took up backcountry skiing a couple winters ago.

You may see the photo below and think, "Why is this crazy person showing me a photo of her foot?"  However, it is one of the most exciting photos I have seen in years.  The most exciting thing about the photo is an absence of torn flesh and blisters.

Peeling tape off after an 8 hour day of skiing

My feet and my ski boots did not get along.  On good days I would only get a blister about the size of a quarter on the inside of my heels (both feet), on most days the boots would wear right through the skin.  Ryan and I went skiing almost every winter weekend the past two years, and so that meant that I wore crocs for most of the winter to prevent aggravating my heels.

I tried many things and learned many things in my quest to prevent blisters and other atrocities:

1) If you have a recurring foot issue, a new pair of ski boots may not fix the problem.  I started out with a pair of Scarpa Divas - recommended by a guide friend of mine.  Great boots for fun downhill, even in Cascade concrete snow.  However, the boots were not kind to my heels.  My very sweet husband gave me a pair of Dynafit Zzeros for Christmas last year, hoping that the lower volume boot would solve the problem of my heels slipping on each step and causing problems.  Also great boots, the softer PU shell material took awhile to get used to, but are better and lighter for skinning and I also enjoy the downhill.  My heel problems persisted in the Zzeros.

2) Work with a ski boot expert who will take the time to figure out your specific issue.  I give a big shout out to the ski boot experts at the Trailhead in Missoula for working with me to solve my ski boot problem.  They are the third shop I worked with, and the only one to really take the time to understand what was going on with my feet.

My Dynafit boot with (now smudged) marks where the shell was punched out

I went in to the Trailhead in mid-October, wondering if I would ever be able to ski without pain, or if I would need to shell out $700+ for another new pair of boots only to find that they didn't quite work.  Dave told me that fixing my current boots and liners was a better bet for pain-free skiing than a new pair, and he worked with me over the course of three visits to tweak my boot shells and liners until they fit right.  It was a surprisingly economical process.

The boot shells were pushed out at the location of my problem spot, heel lifters added to reduce heel slippage, and my liners remolded.  When my liners were remolded, they added foam stickers to my heels at the problem location - a big oval that covered the hot spot and just above the hot spot.  It turns out that my hot spot was caused by my heel rubbing against a narrow ridge formed by my achilles and ankle bone when my liner was molded originally.  Pushing out the shell created more space in this area, and remolding with the foam buffered out most of the ridge.

3) Leukotape and the right socks are an almost magical combination.  I can't say enough good things about Leukotape, it's amazingly sticky and durable cloth tape. Tape up your hot spot with leukotape and it will stay in place all day long, and last unfazed through your hot shower (unless you peel it off first.)  It sticks much longer than even duct tape, and there are no hard edges to create more hot spots.  Leukotape plus Lorpen trilayer primaloft ski socks gave my heels enough extra padding to keep the blisters, etc. at bay for an extra couple hours.  Those hours were worth gold to me.  Ryan swears by Hydropel for the hot spot on the arch of his foot, it reduces the friction without adding bulk.

Leukotape, with cat for scale

Now that my ski boot shells and liners are modified to mostly eliminate the hot spot, I still use the Leukotape and Lorpen socks to protect those areas as they toughen up.  My feet came back in beautiful condition from our ski trip this weekend.

If you are struggling with ski boots that don't agree with your feet, Lisa Dawson at the Wild Snow blog wrote a great post titled Cinderella Ski Boot Fit about going to a custom boot fitter in Boulder.


Unknown said...
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Shtunkie said...

This sounds just like my issue. Blisters on the inside of both heels. I have Scarpa T4's. I have tried foam on the outside of my liners to hug my heel, but it only helped on my right foot warding off a blister for a few more miles than my left. I know I pronation which is most likely adding to my issue.

Edmond G. Belanger said...

I know it's still summer, but you know fall is around the corner when those back-to-school commercials are posted everywhere. And for those faddy guys, it's high time to shift their gears to fall. I find a website for the Best Toe Guards For Work Boots. If you want you can visit this site.

Unknown said...

leukotape P over a curad gel bandage keeps me skiing when i have a blister.
leukotape P over a potential blister area keeps me from getting blisters.
the solution is no minimize rubbing, usually with a tighter fit.
problem is when you have a narrow heel compared to the front of your foot.
also - my feet are two different whole sizes., one foot is always either too loose or too tight.
i think they should sell shoes or boots not as a pair but as single right or left.
how hard could that be?

Unknown said...

I hate blisters - they hurt a lot. Mostly, when I have new shoes and forget to wear socks, it doesn't take long for a blister to heal. Lessons learned, I always wear socks and I make sure that my foot gear is not tight nor should it be loose either. One of the things that I put on my blisters - pure aloe vera or tea tree essential oil, among others. If you need more information regarding this topic, click on the link http://myoutdoorslife.com/basics/how-to-care-for-a-blister.html

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