I have had two little spots on the ball of my left foot that got barely cut open. They have been having a hard time healing, partly because they are on a part of the foot that is used a lot, I think. It could also be that that section of my sole was a bit irritated from my race on rough asphalt last month, but nothing happened to the other foot and it’s not all over my soles. Just that one, teeny basic spot.
The usual first aid treatments were tried. The spots are very small, not even a quarter inch long, narrow, and just barely deep enough to split the skin. They are right next to each other, so one bandaid with some vaseline covered them both. I did this for about a day, until they seemed to be sealing up. I waited the normal day between running, too. 48 hours later the skin felt intact and even tough again.
But when I went to run, normal little pebbles that usually never bother me seemed more tender there. The skin would get cut or split again and I would be a bit of a tender foot for the rest of the run. Not enough to put on shoes, though. This kept happening for a week.
It was not enough to make me want to, or feel I need, skip running. So, I began investigating ways to protect that area, hopefully helping it to heal more completely. Three main tactics seemed available: Duct Tape, Superglue, and Medical Grade Athletic or Strapping Tape. Here is what happened:
1. Duct Tape – I have used duct tape now and then for the occasional minor cuts or blisters on other parts of my foot. I usually use a bandaid directly over the raw area. On my toes, for instance, it has worked quite well, although at that point in my barefoot running I wasn’t running nearly the miles I am now. (In the article from two years ago, I specifically talk about using it on my toes)
Getting duct tape to stay on the ball of my foot was not working. If the spot that needed covering had been just an inch more toward the heel, I think it would have made a big difference. But it wasn’t. It was under the widest part of the ball of my foot, directly in line with the base of my big toe. That meant that wrapping duct tape straight around my foot would have to go around my toes some, too, which also meant less skin contact and more movement loosening the tape.
The first time I taped it, I did it while sitting with my foot in my lap. I didn’t wrap tightly at all, but the moment I stood up on it, it felt tight. I knew my foot would not be able to work right while running. So, I tried again, taping while actually standing on the foot. I went for a run and it stayed on for a couple of miles.
The next time, I tried altering the angles of thinner strips of tape, to criss cross them over the bandaid, but still leave my toes free. Then, I put one more wider piece of tape around the ball of my foot, trying to catch the edges of the other strips. This stayed on for almost 4 miles, but only because I was willing to stop every ¾ mile or so to pull it back into place. Just like the first time, the movement of my foot worked things loose, and pretty soon there was enough fine particles of dirt on the tape to inhibit its stickiness. I even had a couple of large pebbles get stuck in it, making it an odd version of a pebble in a shoe.
2. Superglue – I read everything I could find about superglue, trying to make sure I wouldn’t be permanently stuck to the middle of Nampa at some point. I’ve seen the commercials. Not only that, but some people mentioned it might sting when applied and be poisonous. After reading many testimonials and concerns about it, I summarize my findings as
- The cyano-whatevers supposedly evaporate as the glue dries, which is immediately.
- It has been used by many, many people for many, many years with no evidence that it is causing any problems. This includes cooks, mechanics, midwives, doctors, and, oh, my husband. A lot of people get it on their fingers some just trying to glue things together.
- There are quite a few things in life that are ‘toxic’ if used in large quantity or internally, that are quite useful in smaller amounts and/or applied externally. Concerns about toxicity are sometimes in need of perspective. Spinach apparently has toxins in it. Some people say the sun is toxic, while others say it is a good source of vitamin D. There are likely more toxins in city drinking water than what I’d be getting from an occasional smear of superglue.
Thus, my next trial run was with a thin layer of superglue on the bottom of my foot. I ran for 14 miles. I did stay on smoother asphalt than with the duct tape run, which I don’t think would have affected how the duct tape stayed on, but it might have been easier on the superglue. There was still a fair amount of loose gravel that got stepped on, though, and that part of my foot only became slightly tender, without any skin breakdown. The superglue just sort of disappeared in about a day.
3. Leukotape®P brand Strapping Tape – I read about this on another barefoot runner’s blog. She had been able to run up to 13 miles with it staying on, but there was no mention of what part of the foot it was staying on. I also read the amazon reviews when I was ordering it. It sounded like some people actually had trouble getting it off. That sounded hopeful.
When it arrived, I was scheduled for an 8 mile run, and this time I went on the rougher asphalt again. Since it was supposedly so sticky, I decided to try putting just a 1.5 by 1.5 inch square of it on the bottom of my foot, covering the trouble spot. I discovered that it would not tear with by hand, which would make it less convenient to carry any backup; but it adhered very nicely. It was much more flexible, too, fitting itself more naturally to the shape of my foot than duct tape ever would. I was running a 4 mile route twice, so I put the roll and some scissors in the car and drove to the path.
At the end of 4 miles, I stopped a moment to check it and was surprised to see the square all balled at the base of my toes! Why it stayed there is a bit of a mystery. It is also odd that I didn’t feel it come off or feel any lumps when running. I have no idea when I began running with the skin totally exposed.
I was glad to see that there was no skin breakdown, so decided to try to run more without any tape. I guess my skin was more healed this time around, because although it got a little tender toward the end of the run, the skin stayed intact. Good news, since I am hoping to run a barefoot half marathon in three and a half weeks.
My next step would be to try to wrap this strapping tape around the ball of my foot, again being careful not to constrict my foot. In fact, I will be working on a way to carry some as back up during my race, pre-cut so that I don’t have to worry about scissors. If my foot feels slightly tender, I might start out with some superglue and see how that goes, but it looks like it might all be healed by then. However, I have learned useful things for supporting my healing skin in the future.
When I did run 8 miles with the medical tape wrapped more completely around my foot, it definitely stayed on better, even though the run included quite a bit of rough asphalt. The part under my foot slid some, but held the bandaid in place to provide longer term help. By the end of 4 miles, I checked it and it looked like this –
After the full 8 miles, it had slid more, but had left a glue layer that was kind of leathery.
(It should be noted that the bottoms of my feet look smooth and supple when washed) 🙂
I did notice that some gravel tended to stick to the tape and residual glue, but most of the time that didn’t bother me. It was a little harder to flick off than it is with non-sticky feet, though. It might be a real problem is the path was mostly gravel. Still, the tape seems like a good option for longer distances or if a sore does not seem protected enough by superglue. Superglue, however, will be my first choice for these situations.