Get Your Shoes & Feet Ready For MDS 2019!

With only a few weeks to go to Marathon des Sables, it’s time to get your shoes and feet ready for the task ahead. The risk of blisters, infection and other complications are particularly higher than usual due to the extreme environment you’ll be running in.

By now, hopefully you will have chosen your shoes. If you haven’t, then check out our previous blog post that offers some tips for shoe types, sizing, and fit.

You can run in MDS in road or trail shoes, but there are a few considerations you may want to take into account:

  • Shoes with air channels or holes in the soles such as ON Cloud are not suitable as sand will get into the channels and the outer sole “bubbles” is highly likely to rip and tear.
  • Shoes with an inner “sock lining” are more difficult to stitch velcro or gaiters on. Although the logic might tell you that sand won’t get in as easily, the opposite can in fact be true and sand can get trapped between the mesh outer and the sock liner.
  • Shoes with low profile and open mesh or knitted upper means the gaiters will have very little clearance to the ground which increases the risk of them tearing. Limited toe protection on this kind of shoe may also mean a rather unpleasant experience unless you are very good at lifting your feet and avoiding kicking rocks.

Elisabet has ran her last three MDS in HOKA which in her words worked very well. The combination of light weight, generous cushioning and high ground clearance for the gaiters is ideal. No matter your choice, once you have your shoes, here is a check list of things to consider:

The condition of your shoes

Running shoes should not need “breaking in”. They should be comfortable as soon as you put them on. For MDS you need a fresh pair. Don’t use the shoes you have done all your training in. Buy a new pair of the same model instead.


Gaiters are pretty much a must in MDS. Whilst there are long sections of the race where gaiters are not necessary, every day you’ll be presented with sections of sand, and as you can imagine it gets everywhere! Sand in your shoes is not good for your feet thus you need to avoid it at all costs.  You can view all our recommended gaiters here.

Velcro & Gaiter Fitting

The majority of gaiters are fitted on the shoe with velcro. The velcro loop is on the gaiter and a corresponding strip of velcro hook should be fitted to your shoe to fix the gaiter. Our advice is to get the velcro stiched to your shoes.

Only use a reputable cobbler with experience and understanding for what you are about to embark on, other wise the velcro may not be fitted in the correct position. We recommend Kevin at Alex’ Shoe Repairs in London. He welcomes both international and UK customers and offers a postal service. You can also use myRaceKit’s velcro service which is delivered in partnership with Alex’ Shoe Repairs and is particularly convenient for those placing orders for shoes or other gear at the same time.

Once the velcro is fitted to the shoe, it is possible that the toe box may have shrunk slightly, particularly if the upper is very soft. Stuff your shoes with newspaper or walk around in them at home with double socks to expand the toe box and soften the velcro.


Your Feet

Other ways of ensuring the health of your feet during the race include:

  • Make sure your feet are in good condition before the race. Use a good foot cream to condition the skin, see a podiatrist, cut your toe nails as short as you possibly can, and file down any hard areas of skin.
  • Use good quality socks. We all have different preferences but Injinji Toe socks or X-socks are good examples of quality socks.
  • Reduce friction during the race itself to reduce the risk of blisters. This can be done in various ways with double socks, anti-chafing products, or ENGO patches for specific problem spots. Elisabet also uses an anti-chafing product called Gurney Goo in the morning and evening and it keeps my feet in good condition. The benefit is that is also has antiseptic properties thanks to the tea tree oil it contains.
  • Know how to treat blisters and be prepared should they happen. Whilst you get good help from Doc Trotters in MDS, having the knowledge (and some basic supplies) to be self sufficient can be a big advantage. We have gathered all of Elisabet’s essential supplies to create the ultimate footcare kit.
  • If your gaiters rip (which is likely) it can be useful to have a small sewing kit to hand. Hypafix tape also works wonderful for patching up small tears as it sticks well to many fabrics.

As always if you need any further assistance than please feel free to contact our team.

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