Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The History of my Bloody Feet

I received a lot of great comments, suggestions, and questions after my mentions of how my feet bleed in marathons, so I thought I do a post about the different things I've tried to stop this problem. Here is how my feet have progressed throughout my marathon training cycles.  I focused on marathons because it is only with higher mileage that I have a problem.  When I say my feet bleed, it is my baby toes and sometimes my ring toes (not my heel or other parts of my feet).  Basically my little toes get crushed to the point of severe blood blistering which often pops during the race.

Marathon #1: Houston, 2005
I was a totally Marathon and runner newbie at this point.  I did most of my training in a pair of free Nikes that an old roommate had given me (really, what could go wrong?). To make things more interesting, my trusty Monster turned one of them into a backless shoe (she literally chewed the entire back off the shoe) less than a week from race day!  Being a young college grad, I was a bit strapped for cash and bought an off the rack pair of Adidas three days before the race at Academy Sports.  In fact, race day was the first time I ran in them.  Needless to say, my feet bleed through my shoes.  I visited the med tent at the finish and asked them to look at my feet because "I wasn't sure the next time I would be able to bend over and do it myself".  Stay classy EB.
I use to eat running shoes, but I swear I've reformed over the last 8 years.
Marathon #2: NYC, 2007
For this race, not only did I keep the Monster away from my shoes before race day (she was 'older' and more 'mature'), but I bought real running sneakers at a real running store. I stayed with the Adidas, but move up to a size 9 (from a size 8.5) thinking this might alleviate some of the trouble.  Feet still bled, but the race was tons of fun and it is one of my favorites.
This won't be on our Holiday card.
Marathon#3: Goofy Challenge, 2008
I moved up yet another size in sneakers to a 9.5 Adidas and added specialty socks with additional padding in the toes and heels to reduce (hopefully) impact related blistering.  My feet did bleed through my sneakers, but I also ran 39.3 miles in a littler over 24 hours. I did also loose some toenails (on different toes) during this experience. This was the end of my hope of being a foot model.
Ah, Disney Memories.
Marathon#4: Mercedes Marathon, 2010
I stayed with a lot of the changes I made for Goofy and ran in size 9.5 Adidas.  I attributed that bleeding to the mileage, but apparently, 26.2 was enough to induce bleeding.  It actually occurred at mile 24 ( I could feel it happen) and it bled right through my sneaker. 
I still smile while my feet bleed.
Marathon#5: 7 Bridges Marathon, 2013
During this training cycle, I went to a shoe with a wider toe box, but unfortunately it didn't work for me and gave me mild PF.  I switched to Asics (size 9.5) and was happy throughout training.  However on race day, both feet bled, but only through the sock.  I do believe my super cute Birthday socks had something to do with this, but how often do you get to run a marathon on your birthday?
It was still a great birthday!
Marathon#6: Chickmauga Marathon, 2013
I went with a thinner, dri-fit sock that I used in my whole training cycle and was still in the same pair of Asics, but still experienced bleeding around mile 16. To be honest, I think a major reason my feet bled during this one was because they were not fully healed from 7 Bridges a few weeks before.  On a positive note, they did only bled through my socks, but they looked pretty bad afterwards. I'm hopeful that I am on the right track.
It was an ugly scene under this sock.
So to recap, I've moved up 2 sizes in shoes and feel confident to say I am running in the right size.  I've tried more padded socks, but decided less padded result in bleeding less frequently.  I've tried shoes with a wider toe box, but also discovered there is such thing as too wide and a bloody foot is better than the injuries that come with too wide.

Anyone else had experience with blood blisters and bleeding feet?  Other ideas on things to try?
I am open to new ideas!


  1. So, does it ONLY happen during marathons then?

    1. Marathons and long distance relays (20-30 miles). I had no trouble during this past training cycle, but still bled during the race. I think that might be due to my feet still being raw from a marathon 3 weeks earlier though.

    2. If something only happens during races (and maybe sometimes during long runs) I would generally attribute the issue to fatigue and the resulting change of running form.

      In the later stages after some fatigue buildup you probably start to run with a lower cadence and maybe more of a shuffling gait, which can mean your feet are spending more time on the ground and you're perhaps rolling through from heel to toe more, which can cause more foot movement inside the shoe.

      How to fix this if it's the issue? Simply becoming more adapted to running at goal race pace for longer distances to reduce the fatigue that will later on in races. Keeping your cadence up and being mindful of how your form is changing and attempting to maintain it for as long as possible, can also help!

    3. That is a really good point and I think it something I should be working on anyway. Definitely need to add more finish strong workouts and focus on form. Great idea.

  2. Hmm. This is pretty interesting! I'm sorry you've had this, but it is very interesting..
    I wonder if you applied some vaseline to your feet before putting on the socks if it would still happen. That's my best tip. But I have only had black toenails and blisters that I can attribute to a downhill course and shoes a bit tight.
    Hope you find the magic recipe for anti- blisters!

    1. No, it's totally interesting. I'm over the shock factor and now it's more of a challenge than anything else. I'm going to try out bodygliding my toes next. It sounds like a good and easy option. Thanks!!

  3. Oh man, sorry about your poor toes. That sucks. Have you tried minimalist shoes? Or those shoes that don't require socks (think Adidas makes some). Many"running" socks give me blisters while the cheapo Target brands don't. Go figure. It's so hard to figure these things out. Maybe your toes are protesting: Stop! We've run enough! We want out of these shoes! P.S. I love your dog.

    1. I haven't tried minimalist shoes yet. I had a bad shoe purchase last spring and now I am totally gun shy to try something new. I think my toes are just not team players. They are quitters.

      Thanks! She is a nut.

    2. Email kyle@skorarunning.com if you want to try some SKORA shoes ;) They're built to be worn sockless, but I'm always just more comfortable in socks.

    3. A zero drop shoe might help as well (and help with some problems I had early this year). Check for an email heading your way Kyle!

  4. This sounds awful. Good luck.

    1. Thanks. It's more of a challenge now than anything. I've gotten so use to it, I actually expect it to happen.

  5. It sounds like you've gotten everything squared away with the equipment: bigger shoes (yes!), good socks, bigger toe box. So let's think about what has nothing to do with the "equipment" - the only thing I can think of is how you strike the ground/running form. If you are running with a forefoot strike, this can definitely push the toes to the end of the shoe, which would be a cause for the crushing. And/or, you could be landing on that upper-outer quadrant of the foot, putting more pressure on those little toes. Have you consulted a running coach? ATL Big Peach stores have the "Good Form Running" classes you can sign up for. Good luck with this - I almost threw up a little when I thought about bleeding feet :) And your dog looks like my girl Lexi! She (thankfully) only chews toys.

    1. I'm not a forefoot striker, oddly more of a heel striker, but I bet I roll outwards there by crushing the little ones.

      Sorry about the pics! I tried not to include the most graffic ones. I probably should have put a disclaimer at the top!

      The monster has finally moved to only toy chewing in her old age. Oh, and soccer balls. Still loves 'em.

  6. That is too bad about your toes. I'm glad you are still able to enjoy marathons regardless though.I am sure it can be kinda of frustrating to have an issue for so long and not have figured it out.

    Only thing I could suggest is perhaps moleskin, or two pairs of socks. One super thin pair and then a normal pair over them. That is what I used in the military to minimize hotspots in my boots on the long road marches.

    Good luck.


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