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Preparation for Marathon des Sables

Discussion in 'Biomechanics, Sports and Foot orthoses' started by Euan McGivern, Dec 15, 2013.

  1. Euan McGivern

    Euan McGivern Active Member

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    I was wondering if anyone has experience with racers preparing their feet for the MDS.

    A friend who has entered the race has contacted me for advice, the race organisers recommend a process of "tanning" the skin to make it "durable yet supple" including the use of a variety of medicaments which are either astringents or emollients.

    I can see the logic in preparing for the extremes of heat and friction but as this is something I don't have great experience in I would appeal to the collective for advice.

    I have been frank with my friend about my lack of experience and would be happy to refer on if anyone could suggest someone with relevant experience. We are in Glasgow, UK.

    Many Thanks
  2. Asher

    Asher Well-Known Member

    Hi Euan,

    You're right, astringents are used by a lot of ultrarunners. They are said to toughen the skin. I’m not sure what that actually means though. Read (1990) An Introduction To Therapeutics For Chiropodists says “The use of astringents in the treatment of skin conditions due to hyperhidrosis has empirically proved to be successful. Their mode of action is not precisely known.”

    Do they reduce the amount of sweat secreted? Read suggests this is unlikely.
    Do they increase the resistance of the skin to trauma? Read writes “In the writers opinion, it is more likely they act upon the skin cells to make them more resistant to the action of the sweat. An example of this is provided by formalin which, it is suggested, acts by preventing maceration of the skin rather than reducing the amount of sweat secreted.”

    I’m still not clear on how this works. And I don’t know of any research that has investigated astringents as a blister prevention method. I'm sure they dry the skin and this has an effect lowering the coefficient of friction. But I doubt the effect of this is long-lasting. There are numerous astringent preparations from Compound Benzoin Tincture, alcohol, salt water to black tea and many many more. John Vonhof (author of Fixing Your Feet) could be considered fairly expert in ultrarunning in extreme conditions, both as a competitor and as medical support.

    Emollients / lubricants can reduce the coefficient of friction (COF) and we know the COF is lower when the skin is either very dry or very wet and higher when the skin is ‘moist’ (Naylor, 1955; Sulzberger et al, 1966; Nacht et al, 1981). The greasier the preparation, the more it reduces COF. However, over time, a ‘moist’ condition results and friction increases to baseline measures (after 1 hour) and above baseline after 3 hours (Nacht, 1981). So it's questionable how helpful these would be in an event such as the Marathon des Sables.

    Rebecca Rushton
  3. bralph

    bralph Welcome New Poster


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