So, you’re a podiatrist and you’ve put your hand up to provide foot care at an athletic event. Well done. Thanks, on behalf of both the event organisers and the participants.
Now, how are you going to prepare? Or are you just going to rock up on the day?
There are two parts to providing foot care (99% of which will be blister care) at athletic events:
Depending on the event, participant education can occur either: the day of the event (terrible idea, worse than no education); the day before the event (still a terrible idea); or hopefully a good 6 weeks before the event starts. That’s how long people need to get advice, consider the advice, conduct some trial and error before deciding on their prevention strategy for the event.
Education usually goes along the lines of:
And that’s it.
Neither are helpful in any way. If a participant is lucky, they might just land on the successful strategy they need – but it will be out of luck, not good management.
Good participant education needs to include these 4 elements:
I know the event you’re volunteering at will only provide you with a very limited array of gear. Or worse still, expect you to provide it at your own expense.
Oxfam Trailwalker Australia, who put significant organisational resources into foot care and few would argue are the gold standard, they provide plenty of gear. The volume of gear is adequate; but the range of that gear is limited. It will limit you in how much relief you can provide.
Participants present to you for treatment of their blisters. You dress them, tape them and provide a bit of pressure deflection. And watch them cringe as they don their shoes and hobble off, still in pain.
You want participants to be equipped to provide their own blister treatment if foot care isn’t immediately available. They should want that too. So, they need to be equipped to do this themselves. The aim is to avoid the situation where they feel a niggle and ignore it for 5km until you’re available. By then they’ve got a blister (that was totally avoidable). To do this, they’ll need a well-stocked blister kit that’s immediately available.
The other upside to having a great blister kit is you can get them to bring it with them when they see you. That way, you have access to a better range of products to use on their blisters.
Because we all know there’s more to excellent blister treatment than antiseptic, dressings and tape. Sure, you’ll be providing excellent blister first aid, but first aid doesn’t stop the blister-causing forces (that’s what prevention does). Show them the blister treatment equation – it speaks volumes about how to get maximum pain relief while they have to strap their shoes back on and keep going. Back this up with some examples. Use two case studies of mine if you need to (case study 1; case study 2).
This is what constitutes effective event foot care. Anything less is doing your profession a disservice, and the participant that presents to you a disservice. And if you’re an event director or organiser, please help your volunteer podiatrists provide your participants the education and treatment they require to enjoy your event to the fullest.
If there is any aspect of education or treatment that you’d like to brush up on, you have a few options:
The choice is yours. Why not engage your event director and ask them what kind of foot care service they’d like you to offer participants of their event?
Written by Rebecca Rushton BSc(Pod).
Rebecca graduated from Curtin University in 1993 and has worked in private practice in Esperance WA since 2000. Although a generalist podiatrist as the “only podiatrist in town”, Rebecca has a special interest in blister management, not least of which but for her own blister-prone feet. Her website blister-prevention.com is a wealth of information on the topic and she uses this resource to help educate athletes and outdoor enthusiasts.
Check out Rebecca’s other contributor articles: