Let’s start with some background…
I have been struggling with my feet in ultras since my first 100 miler at Glasshouse in 2007. I have a supinating gait and land on my toes, making my entire forefoot prone to black toenails, blood blisters and hot spots. As a result, nearly 15 years on since my first ultra, I have no toenails that grow normally and have been trying to find the holy grail of undamaged post-ultra-feet.
Thus far, I have:
- Worn toe-socks with mixed success
- Played around with different levels of cushioning and drop heights of shoes – over 15 brands and various styles
- Advised by and been treated by podiatrists
- Tried orthotics with zero success
- Taped all potential hot spots
- Had custom toe dividers moulded
None of this has ever prevented the terrible blisters and sore feet I end up with (or even worse, stopped me from finishing an event).
So, when I removed my shoes and socks at the end of the Brisbane Trail Ultra 100 miles, I could not believe my eyes! No blisters, no hot spots, no swelling. After 35 hrs 38 mins AND a full day at work the day before (midnight start) meant that I was actually on my feet for 54 hours.
What was different this time???
- Topo Ultraventure 2
- Bridgedale Trail Run Lightweight T2 Merino Sport
These paired with well-lubricated feet were the epitome of comfort on some of the most challenging trails south-east Queensland can throw at you.
Topo Athletic is the result of years of frustration in trying to reach the pinnacle of running excellence whilst remaining injury free. Tony Post (hence the name) had a rocky running career and before starting his own shoe manufacturing company, spent close to 30 years learning everything he could from working in the industry. His desire to design a shoe with natural feel, allowing you to run as freely as possible with as much support to ensure you stay injury-free has resulted in a range that has one thing in mind – to help you move better.
Ultraventure 2, like all of the Topo range have a roomy toe box, a highly secure midfoot and heel and low (5mm) heel to toe drop. It’s highly cushioned, which for a very technical 100 miler, is absolutely necessary (as far as I am concerned) with some support (light) and moderate pliability meaning that it is not over-aggressive in correcting your footfall but provides that reassurance that you’re not going to roll your ankle with every misstep.
At 295 grams, it is not the lightest shoe, but the balance of the weight with what they describe as a “plush ride” underfoot means that you really don’t feel it. The stickiness of Vibram gave my confidence a boost on even the most technical descents (and there were plenty!) even when my poor quads were failing. A breathable mesh meant my feet were never hot and dried out super-quickly after the creek crossings. My heels were secured and cupped gently yet firmly with the added heel-lock that I like to apply to ensure my feet don’t slip. Yet my toes had all the room they needed to spread out. I might add here that not once in the entire event did I re-do/tighten or adjust my laces!
Bridgedale is a brand that I had not heard of before starting with TerraTribe. I wish I had. This British manufacturer has a keen eye for the most minute of detail. They have been knitting socks since the 1980’s. Their wool is guaranteed to be from cruelty-free farming practices. Their motto is “Little Things Matter”. I couldn’t agree more. How often do we forget about the socks we should be wearing on a run and how much better is it when you have a great fitting sock that allows your foot to breathe and stays put?!
I was wearing the Trail Run Lightweight T2 Merino Sport. A blend of 18% Merino wool, 18% Polypropylene, 62% Nylon and 2% Lycra®. From the top, they never felt tight around the ankles, but they never slipped; the heel, with its micro-cushioning, protected me; mild arch support provided some nice reinforcement, and my toes were never restricted. The seams are on the outside of the sock, so my foot didn’t feel anything by comfort. I thought that the wool content may have meant that the water from the creek crossings would be hard to shift, but together with my well-ventilated shoes, my feet dried out quickly.This combination IS my Holy Grail – I cannot endorse these amazing products more.