View Full Version : Feet

Special Forces
17 July 2003, 19:40
This has been brought up before, but it never hurts to cover it again periodically for the newcomers.

Of the last SFAS class (and this is a continuing trend), almost 20% said that along with more rucking, more land nav training, more upper body workouts, more rope climbing, etc., they wished that they had prepared their feet better.

This is a significant number, and is worth addressing. I am posting it here because for some reason, newbies come here first and ignore the SFAS Forums.

Once you are infiltrated into the SFOA, most SF teams are foot mobile. There are exceptions, but regardless of whether you are parachuted, airmobiled, HALO, SCUBA, or even vehicle infiltrated, the average SF guy has to be prepared at all times to move by foot, for very long distances with heavy loads. 25 miles per day, cross country is not an unreasonable, and while the pace will vary, depending on the tactical situation, admin movements should average 4 mph or better. To do this, you and your feet have to be in shape.

Long range ruck movements are an evaluated task at SFAS, and tie into several other evaluated events. I would go as far as to say that while it is possible to complete SFAS with poorly conditioned feet, and members of this board have done it, it will significantly complicate the process. It slows you down, hurts like hell, and is likely to earn you some bad peers from your buddies when you are dragging your bad feet at the rear of the formation or are at sick call. Most other Phases of the SFQC have significant foot movement requirements as well.

You MUST walk long distances prior to arrival at SFAS in order to be successful. Studies show that arriving candidates who have not walked distances over 4 miles at the time in preparation for the selection course have almost ZERO possibility of making it. You must ruck, you must go at least 8-10 miles at least occasionally, you must learn to move out and maintain a good 13-14 minute mile pace on dirt or sand while walking, and it helps to do at least some of it cross country.

Loads in excess of 55-65 lbs are unnecessary in training and cause needless injury. At the same time, while starting rucking with light loads is okay, you do need to do some serious time under an ALICE pack with heavier loads in the 45-55 lb. range.

I am not a podiatrist, but based on my discussion with Doc earlier today, who can elaborate, and many years of experience in moving, I will offer the following for you aspiring SF wannabes.

Your feet serve to support you and your load, absorb shock, and to provide balance and forward motion.

Your feet need to be tough, yet protected, and cared for. This is achieved by rucking in well broken in, but not broken down boots, by monitoring your feet's status, and knowing how to care for them when problems arise.

Get at least two, if not three pairs of leather combat or jungle boots to train in. Break in techniques vary, but use plenty of softening agents like saddle soap and neat's foot oil. Rotate the different pairs of boots from day to day. Ensure that you do not injure your feet needlessly breaking in the new boots. Make sure that the boots are comfortable, getting the proper insoles or orthotics as required. Ideally, the boots you bring to SFAS should have between 50% and 75% of their service life remaining. People arrive every class with new boots, improperly fitted boots, and just plain worn out boots. These people are usually limping around the compound by the end of the first week, if they are still there at all.

Sizing is also critical. Try on new boots with the socks you intend to wear. Get them slightly large, as most people's feet will swell a half size or so on extended walks. I know guys who wore their boots without socks in the field. They were a rarity, and I never saw any of them move out hard and fast.

Socks are just as important. Bring new, clean, correctly sized socks, and as many pairs as are permitted. They will help absorb some of the punishment, and thin, ratty, old socks do little to assist in protecting your feet. HSLD, Goretex, sock liners, or aftermarket socks are not permitted.

As you break in your boots, you will notice painful contact points and "hot spots" forming. STOP and treat them as soon as the pain becomes noticeable. While rucking, you should plan on stopping for a break for five minutes per hour or so. Do not waste that time sitting on your rucks. Take the ruck off, take your boots off, and examine your feet. If they look good, let them air out for a minute or so, powder them, and consider changing socks. You will ruck longer, faster, and more often if you have a workout partner. Foot care is also improved by having your partner check your feet as well.

NEVER ruck with wet or recently wet feet. As at least one member can attest, even well conditioned feet are vulnerable and soft after a good soaking (like swimming). Do not try to combine training activities, and carry a spare pair of boots and several pairs of socks to swap into should the ones you are wearing become soaked.

Any hot spot areas starting to redden should be closely monitored, and moleskin applied as needed. See an infantryman or medic for advice. An experienced SF Medic is probably the best source for advice. Some people also use Vaseline or deodorant on their feet to protect them. Once you have started to blister, you will be losing training time waiting for them to heal so that you can resume training. Do not let them get that bad. You do not want to learn what Tincture of Benzoin and a syringe can be used for. Start short, slow, and light, and work up to long, fast, and heavy. If you screw up, and are say, 10 miles into your 20 mile walk when you notice significant blistering, I hope you have a cell phone and a buddy with a car. You will screw up your feet for at least 2-3 weeks by walking back.

Areas that get a lot of friction and contact will start to harden and calluses will form over time. This is good. The dead material of the callus will absorb the friction and impact that would hurt the skin on your feet. Most people find that issue boots will cause calluses to form on the balls of the feet, the heel, under the toes, and on the outside of the boot, depending on the contact points of the boots on your feet.

As you walk, the boots and your feet will develop a symbiotic relationship. The boots will soften and begin to flex where required, and the contact points on your feet will toughen up. Eventually, your boots will be almost as comfortable as a pair of slippers, and your feet will be tough as nails. You will not need a pedicure, though you will need to keep your nails trimmed properly to prevent injury or damage.

In summary, thoroughly break in several pair of properly fitted new boots, get some new socks and foot care products, and condition your feet well prior to coming to SFAS. The course is difficult enough without either being the one guy (minimum) every hut has snivelling about his feet, or the one gutting it out, but dragging ass at the back of the group.

You wouldn't start a 24 day, transcontinental race with bald tires would you? Well, some of you probably would.

See you at Camp Mackall. Good luck.


17 July 2003, 20:39
Thank you for putting out this info. Before I go further I will just say that I am not a BTDT, I am only an SFAS selectee from the May class (biggest class ever I believe) who used a lot of the advice from this board (thank you everybody). I do have one question regarding socks. You mention no after market socks yet I noticed during sfas shakedown that most of the cadre allowed candidates to keep the "fox river" brand socks. Are these socks allowed in phase 2 or is it best just to utilize the issue socks?
Regards and thank you in advance from USMILGROUP-Bogota.

17 July 2003, 23:52
Those of us that are going through the 18x pipeline will have to spend around 4-5 months of OSUT, Jump School, and holdover etc. prior to arrival at Bragg. By following the 5 week prep plan and with Reaper's advice do you think showing up at Sand Hill with conditioned feet and some humpin time under you belt will change one's conditioning while at Benning? I guess my question is will you still arrive at Bragg with the properly conditioned feet and used to humping a ruck? I know that the weight, time standards, and distcance are no where near what is expected at Bragg.

18 July 2003, 09:06
Originally posted by bogota
I am only an SFAS selectee from the May class (biggest class ever I believe) .

That was a mighty broad statement.....some of us that went through selection a decade or more ago were in selection classes of 430+ of which only @ 230 finished with @ 180 getting selected. Point being if you make a statement try to make it applicable to the subject. Having been guest cadre at modern day Phase I, I have yet to see the high percentage of hamburger feet that I remember seeing when I finished selection. Most of the selectees dropped off at the SOAF now days seem to propell them selves just fine with very little podiatry problems.

While I did not have too many problems at selection as I was a former grunt, by brother who was a REP-63 (who somehow managed to go through when I did) and had unconditioned feet was a little worse off.

Bottom line is head Reapers advice, and when you get a hot spot take care of it then...spend the five minutes to take care of it. Prevention is by far the best treatment for blisters. Those five minutes will save you hours later hobbling down the road....and remember...if you take of one boot, take off the other and at least powder the ok foot.

18 July 2003, 09:08
Wow I wish the Internet was around like it is today with boards like these when I was a young trooper....

I had the most trouble with my feet while in Basic. After our twenty mile road march and walking through Harmony Church three times thinking we where done each time, I had the worse blister ever in my 8 years in and learned early about Army mind games.LOL. But after be a gunner for two years and getting great advice about foot care and mind over pain from guys like The Reaper I was a rucking mad man that enjoyed night time walks through the woods...it was peaceful.

18 July 2003, 15:08
A technique I used to great effect for socks was using the wool issue socks AND the black nylon issue socks for the dress greens.

In addition to what Reaper said, I powdered my feet up and put on the nylon socks. Then I powdered my feet again and put on the issue wool socks. I used either the medicated foot powder issued by the Army or Gold Bond Medicated foot powder. Athlete's foot is not funny during selection.

The nylon socks allow the foot to slide slightly without building up a hot spot/blister. Dry, powdered feet and well-fitted boots help more; but the nylon is an insurance policy.

I also used Sorbothane heavy duty inserts in my boots. Sorbothane is a flubber-looking material that can absorb up to 70% of the shock transmitted from the feet to the knees.

If you use the Sorbothane inserts, keep in mind you may have to INCREASE your boot size by 1/2 to one whole size.

I don't know if they allow orthotic inserts any more, the other items I mentioned should be good to go.

BTW, 25 miles per day rucking with a 50 pound rucking is on the low end of what you could see in your career. My personal 'best' was 42 miles, 18 hours, and a 65 pound ruck plus weapon and LBE. No blisters or hot spots either.

18 July 2003, 15:23
At rick i used for selection was 100 mph tape. wrap it around your foot where you get hotspots, dont wrap it all the way around because as your feet swell it will cut off circulation. Just put a strip of tape on then your socks. Worked for me.

18 July 2003, 19:04
The duct tape/100 mph tape is a good trick; ultra-marathoners do that one often...

Quick question about ingrowns...how do you treat them? Reaper375 said not to yank them out, but I was shown by a nurse when I was younger to do the following:

1) Soak the ingrown nail until it becomes a little pliable

2) Run either a file or other flat instrument along the ingrown side of the nail, all the way toward the back of the nail, under the cuticle.

3)Bend the ingrown nail over itself from the side.

4) Take a tweezers, and FROM THE VERY BACK of the nail, pull forward so the the part of the nail growing sideways is pulled out.

5) It will bleed, and you very well may see stars in the process, but by the next morning it is 100%

Is this the proper way, or is there a better technique?

Sneaky SF Dude
18 July 2003, 19:18
Look guys. These are all what I call tricks. I've treated the aftermaths of all of them except for the black under wool socks, which I don't have a problem with. The Reaper posted what you need to do. You start putting 100 mile an hour tape on your dogs, please, pleeeease call me so I can come show what The Reaper is talking about with the benzoin and needles. And I get to pull the tape off. I'm a firm believer in medics treating silliness through pain so you don't do it again. Read the original post, do what it says, and have a nice ruck march.

18 July 2003, 23:11
No SOCNet discussion of Foot care can exclude:

Magician's guide to footcare and using the "F" word in medical litterature (http://www.socnetcentral.com/vb/showthread.php?s=&threadid=21151)

Hope he's safe and doing well where ever he is.


Special Forces
19 July 2003, 00:13
FYI, Gents, courtesy of Dan, excerpted for the relevant portion:

USAREC Pam 601-25

SFAS packing list

1. Following are required items to be brought to the SFAS Course. There are no exceptions and no substitutions.

6 pair socks, wool Army issue (green or black)
1 pair running shoes (no black running shoes)
2 pair socks, white cotton
2 pair boots, Army issue combat or jungle only
1 pair shower shoes
1 each shoe shine kit

2. Following items are commonly brought to the SFAS Course and are authorized for use by candidates attending the SFAS Course. Any item that is not listed below will be confiscated by SFAS cadre and not returned.

Boot insoles and laces
Foot powder

3. Following items are unauthorized for use at the SFAS Course. SFAS cadre will confiscate these items.

Nylon, class A, polypro or gortex socks
Tincture benzoine
Black running shoes

There it is in black and white for you. I didn't write the list, I don't change it, I don't care if you like it or not.

The entire list is found in the .pdf attachment Dan provided in the "Important!!" post at the top of the page.

Good luck.


19 July 2003, 04:47
Even though this thread is about getting your feet in shape for ruck marches I didn't think it would hurt to toss in a word or two about running shoes. They should be replaced every 350 to 500 miles even if they don't look like they have highly visible signs of wear.

You can tell quite a bit about your feet and where you might run into trouble by looking at your old shoes. If most of your wear is in the forefront you are probably hitting the ground with the ball of your foot first rather than a heel toe (sprinters tend to wear their shoes out in this pattern) but if there's excessive wear at the front you could be one of those guys who ends up with a stress fracture.

A shoe that tilts to the outside sometimes indicates a high arch. If your shoes wear in that direction you might want to figure a way to compensate for the aching knees and lower back pain it could cause you.


19 July 2003, 08:12
I worked at Camp Mackall and treated SFAS candidates for a variety of ailments. I could spot the rookies from the Pro's in regards to foot care very easily.

Learn well in advance before you go to SFAS what you can bring. Do not use prohibited items during your train-up. You will be handicapping yourself. As stated before it could get you thrown out. The prohibited item list is to ensure a level playing field for all candidates at SFAS and to avoid injuries.

Learn well in advance what works for your feet. Learn all you can about your feet's reaction to rucking. Did I say learn all you can about your feet's reaction to rucking enough? Big hint there.

Get out there and practice carrying a ruck and see what works for you. I would start my train-up six months out at least. Don't wait until a month or two out. It's your future. Be the one who gets selected. Did I say get out, practice land nav, ruck and get used to being by yourself enough? Bigger hint here.

Part of what they assess is your ability to be a self starter. That's why we don't do research for posters here on Socnet. You must have the drive to figure situations out for yourselves after we've given you the necessary information. It's here on the board and various web sites for the most part. Read more, post less. Get out and do PT. Lots of it. The internet is open 24/7 and will be here when you get back. You can drink your protein shake in front of the computer while you read and fine tune your program.

Use the pre-game jitters as energy for PT. Listen to your body's aches and pains. The body will communicate to you if you'll listen. Get used to the pain, it lets you know you've done some hard PT and that you're still alive. Look up over training on the internet and spot it's signs and symptoms. Back off accordingly.

There's really no big mystery on how to conduct a train up. With the internet web sites and previous SFAS candidates words of advice most alert and motivated men should have an excellent idea what to expect months before they arrive at Camp Mackall.

The ball's in your court.

Good luck!

30 July 2003, 13:44
There is nothing but good advice on this post. I would copy and distribute it to all of our candidates, but like the man said, you gotta be a self-starter. The only thing I would add is that during SFAS you can never really have your feet elevated too much. I put my duffel bag under my mattress and slept with them elevated. Every moment of rest that we had would find me with my feet elevated. Every little bit helps to keep that swelling down. I was lucky when I went. I was a 91B and had a small first aid kit. The cadre let me keep it minus any medications. I used that every day to keep my feet and the feet of my hut mates in shape. It got to the point where I used all my supplies in the first few days and had to designate 3 or 4 guys a day to go to sick call and stock up on band-aids and moleskin so I could keep running my in-hut sick call every day. NOTHING was more important to us at that time than taking care of our feet. I even had to use the Benzoin trick on a guy once. (He threw me across the room but thanked me soon after.) These techniques work. Learn then, know them, live them. Pass them on.

8 September 2003, 10:25
Guys have you really looked at you feet rel good?? A cup of vinegar and a pan of hot water,then soak your feet till the water cools. Dry and rub in a good lotion.


12 September 2003, 10:59
I've got pretty old feet (Doc, I think I went through SFAS when you did) and pretty rough but they got banged up pretty bad on a ruck the other day (with one of the TAC's. Dude can ruck...). What's the best care you can take of open blisters so that you're ready to go out the next day, week, etc.? I've heard everything from Epsom salt to just moleskin, but I want to toughen my feet up more betterer.


17 September 2003, 23:34
It appears that in the USAREC Pamphlet 601-25 the SFAS checklist lists "6 pair socks, wool Army issue (green or black).
The Army website:http://www.goarmy.com/job/branch/sorc/sf/specforc.htm lists the SFAS packlist with "6 pair socks, (green or black) (Army or Civilian). I know the USAREC Pamphlet is dated 2001 so would the packlist on the website be the most current? For some using a high quality civilian sock can make a huge difference on the feet. Any comments would be appreciated. Thanks.

19 September 2003, 10:37
Add Silvadine cream to that list of great things for your feet. Apply at the first signs of skin breakdown(redness that will not rub out) and or after a blister opens.

It's common use is on burns or skin grafts as an antibiotic, but it also does a great job toughening up skin and hastening new skin growth. Your going to have to ask your Dr. for an Rx. for it. As long as you tell him/her what your using it for, they shouldn't have a problem.


19 September 2003, 13:57
Marched around 25miles between 15 hours this past week. Changed socks once during it.

Wore softer socks under a pair of heavier socks. Had some small hotstops under each feet but did not hinder my movement significantly.

I now know more about how my feet react on longer distances (this was the longest ive done straight)

1 April 2004, 22:17
I tell you what, feets are important! I had the misfortune of going on a peremiter run on Camp Essayons with my shoes tied too tight on Monday morning. I ended up with blisters ALL along the arches of both feet. That wasn't too bad though, Wed. morning we went on a town and country run through downtown Uijongbu, the fish market, and shit creek. On the way back I noticed that my feet were in an exponentially increasing state of OUCH. By the time we got back to stretch out and cool down I had blood soaking through my shoe (right) and running to the pavement.

1SG damn near kicked my ass and made me go straight to the TMC to get hooked up, that little vile of brown stuff works wonders, but it will wake you the fuck up! :eek: Proper foot care is important to ALL soldeirs, you don't want to be the poor bastard limping out of the TMC with watery eyes because you were a bone head.

Good post Reaper.

5 April 2004, 00:59
Originally posted by Sneaky SF Dude
...1st so he can get some Bahts and cheap cologne. .
I still don't resemble that comment, you Sneaky bastard!:D

My comments on foot wear and tear: and most of this is listen or don't listen info, meaning I personally don't see it as doctrine, nor should anyone:

1. I had a drill in basic, former 5th group guy, very squared away, who when asked what makes one a good infantryman he replied "good feet and a lot of heart." Words to live by gentlemen.

2. I had bad feet for about a year, they would get rubbed raw and totally fucked up by every movement I did as a legfighter, they never seemes to adapt. Then in Ranger school I developed trench foot in Florida, to compound everything. The fucked up part is, since getting trench foot, I have never had a problem with my feet that wasn't due to overuse, as per the next story. (In no way do I condone getting trench foot as a cure for weak feet, it just worked for me for some reason, or just hasn't happened since).

3. In selection, due to the sand, I started to have some serious foot problems, one grain of sand will burn your feet alive and make you wish you were somewhere...anywhere else. I went to the doc there, great guy for all who know him, and what ever it was he gave me I took it and will never regret it. The moral: no matter how hard you think you are or want to be: swallow your archaic views of medicine (like mine) and ask for treatment, don't be a dumb ass, medics are there for a reason, and it isn't always to do some sort of recert that gives them free TDY (OK that was a cheap shot, but you fuckers get all sorts of good deals:D ).

4. As for conditioning your feet: I have a buddy from Ranger school who I ran into in selection, this guy was a freaking super stud. We did selection in heat cat 5, and this fucker ran almost every event, including the rucks. He is one of those dudes you just have to ask how the fuck they do it. So I asked him about his feet, his reply was that in garrison he would wear jungle boots with no socks to condition his feet. Keep in mind he was known for bullshit, but it did add up on this one. That son of a bitch was 5'6", 155 lbs and hard as fucking woodpecker lips frozen cold, and he would finish a ruck or run and take off his shoes and his feet were immaculate, not a smidgen of wear or tear, even after the 27 miler. Take that for what it's worth, it may work for some and may not for others, personally my boots would wreak (hot weather, sweaty feet) after a week of trying preparation like that, but he was stationed in colder climates than me.

5. There is no 5, just sleep, and peace....:p

Editted: My buddy from #4 wore socks in selsction, he just conditioned his feet by not wearing socks in garrison...once again, a technique that worked for one guy, may not be for everyone...

5 April 2004, 11:54
I tend to get inflamation on the top of my arches. It's always just in one spot, and it never hurts during a ruck march or a run, but afterwards my arch will hurt like hell. Certain excercises (ski jumper, cross country skier) really aggrivate the condition. I've heard different things from different docs, one said it's a "stress fracture," one said it may be due to high arches and another said it was a certain type of inflamation.

Any suggestions on how to prevent this?

5 April 2004, 12:48
I would venture to say if it was a stress fracture there would be pain and edema wile rucking and running and not just present afterwards.

Have you tried wrapping it with Seran wrap? Are there any blisters on the affected area or do you get hot spots there?

More information needed.

Post this problem in the Medical Forum. It will get more attention there and will also keep this thread on target.

5 April 2004, 14:04
Originally posted by MPK
I tend to get inflamation on the top of my arches. It's always just in one spot, and it never hurts during a ruck march or a run, but afterwards my arch will hurt like hell. Certain excercises (ski jumper, cross country skier) really aggrivate the condition. I've heard different things from different docs, one said it's a "stress fracture," one said it may be due to high arches and another said it was a certain type of inflamation.

Any suggestions on how to prevent this?

Try some footwear with better arch support, and a better fit at the ball of your foot. One of two things is happening, either your feet are being flexed up/down at the center, or are being twisted of camber from the right or left, or from the center.

It might feel like your shoes/boots fit correctly, but it only takes a very small deviation in the way your foot sits inside the shoe to cause pain under PT Conditions. You might even have too much support on one side or have too much pressure onthe top of one side of your foot.

A good test is to grab both sides of your foot when it is inflamed and gently twist it fore and aft. You're not trying to rotate your ankle, you're just trying to counterflex the platform of your foot. If it hurts (hurts like "Ow fuck!" not like "Wow, I'm sore") then you probably have a stress fracture. If it feels really really good to twist it a bit, or if it cracks like a knuckle, then you've got a footware problem.

Get yourself some good inserts (not those cheap gel things) and take the time to trim them right.

My problem was that I had callouses towards the center of the ball of my foot that were inline with my middle toes. Whenever I stood for a long time, my big and little toes were on a lower base than the other 3, so I would always hurt. Rather than cut the callouses, I trimmed the inserts in my shoes and boots with sandpaper to lower the center and my problem went away.

9 April 2004, 16:49
I have read over this thread and I have a relatively basic question. Should I pop the blisters as they come in and drain them...or should I keep the area clean and let them dry out?

I remember getting both pieces of advice before, but I have never had the chance to ask any of you more experienced folks.
Thanks in advance.

9 April 2004, 18:47
Originally posted by Gallo_blanco
I have read over this thread and I have a relatively basic question. Should I pop the blisters as they come in and drain them...or should I keep the area clean and let them dry out?

I remember getting both pieces of advice before, but I have never had the chance to ask any of you more experienced folks.
Thanks in advance.

There are other more indepth discussions on here with regard to this subject.

The short answer is drain them.

4 July 2006, 09:41
I don't know about the rest of this, as I've never done anything more difficult than boot camp and VBSS training. One thing I do know is that the duct tape works incredibly well. I'm a recreational runner. When training for a marathon, a friend of mine told me to use duct tape for hot spots...That was 7 years ago, and no matter what little gadgets they come out with at the sporting-goods store, I still use my duct tape. It works wonders.