Book Review, “Fixing Your Feet”

“Fixing Your Feet, 5th Ed.”
by John Vonhof

I bought this book because I read how it was a pretty good guide to preventing and treating foot problems associated with rucking. However, the book is mostly directed at adventure racers and at least 90% of the examples are from that population. At first inspection, the book appears to be chock full of information; it’s almost overwhelming. Yet each section by itself is pretty underwhelming.

While there are some pictures, the book would benefit for a more expansive collection of diagrams or pictures. Instead of telling me, in a very confusing way, how to tape an ankle, show the step-by-step procedure in doing so. I noticed this irritation in several chapters. I’m no expert in writing “how to” books, but there is a vast majority of people (especially in today’s society) that are visual learners. At the very least, explanatory diagrams and pictures will reinforce what the text has already said.

Another reason I got this book was because it advertised the fact that it included information relevant to soldiers, a population that I have been working with a lot in the past 18 months. There weren’t any relevant and specific references to soldiers, and the information presented is often contradictory with what most soldiers practice and implement. Sure, lancing a bad blister is going to be the same wherever you go, but a high speed, ruck carrying shooter is going to develop his feet differently than an ultra marathoner. For example, I don’t know of any soldier that ever put a premium on keeping his feet “soft and supple”, going so far as to place the feet in ziploc bags with lotion or wearing socks over lotioned feet over night. There was another example of some guys beginning a hike with 50 pound packs on. Once they got to 20 miles, they were so broken that it took them several days to hobble back to the starting point. This is a stark contrast to soldiers who walk that distance in a day with much heavier loads (and get up to do it again the next day). I guess I wouldn’t get along with adventure racers.

The injury chapters are sprinkled with some gems, but overall the rehabilitation recommendations are weak. That might be something I notice more because of my background, but I was still disappointed. A lot of the structural problems that runners face could be reduced in severity by strengthening the feet and appropriately doing mobility work. This book, by the way, is void of any special mobility work like soft tissue (other than using a tennis ball on the arch) or joint approximation (though it does recommend the standard achilles stretch that has been around since 1920 or so). Oh, and I definitely vomited in the foot anatomy chapter when there weren’t any pictures of the muscles after the author spent the time to list them out.

Despite my misgivings, this book does provide some good information (though it’s not exactly monumental). The most important concept is that friction, heat, and moisture usually cause foot problems in races, hikes, or movements, so your equipment and preparation should account for these things. The tri-fecta of prevention are socks, powders, and lubricants. Other things like foot antiperspirants, sock changes, skin adherents/taping, and nutrition are mentioned, but they won’t be worth much if the basics aren’t properly controlled. I learned some other things, like how to properly fit for shoes, how to tape the feet, what gaiters are, and how to care for hot spots and blisters. Again, none of this information was monumental, but it was all in one source.

My friends make fun of me because I’m an elitist about things; I am. I don’t want to drink shitty coffee, beer, or wine, and I expect the best out of people and things, especially when they are labeled as the best. “Fixing Your Feet” is the best out there, it just left me wanting more given that it didn’t provide any extraordinary information and wasn’t relevant to the population I was interested in. Nevertheless, it’s a comprehensive source for foot care, and a beginner will be able to pick the book up and learn most of what they need to know.

I give it 3.5 stars.

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