We read many different articles about foot issues that distance runners face and how to treat them, but this article has a different focus. We want to take a look at how to prevent these issues to the best of our ability to avoid needing to treat them at all.
In this article, we are going to cover:
- How to choose the correct foot gear
- How to prevent blisters, hot spots and athlete’s foot
- How to keep your feet pedicure-healthy
- How to help prevent plantar fasciitis
#1 Choose Your Gear Carefully
The first step in preventing uncomfortable lumps and bumps from appearing on your feet while you’re running is choosing the right gear. Running sneakers and socks are vital pieces of equipment. Technology today has produced some pretty awesome products for us to choose from to help take care of our cherished feet.
Here are some tips and tricks to choose gear that will work for you.
As there are countless brands and models on the market today, buying running sneakers can be an overwhelming task if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
Rule number one is comfort.
Your running sneakers have to be very comfortable so you don’t feel any rubbing or friction against your foot, ankle or toes when you have them on.
In most stores, you can find helpful, well-informed staff who can help determine the type of shoe you will need and lead you in the right direction. If you pronate or supinate, you have different sneaker options that can assist with the support and comfort for your specific feet.
Be sure your sneaker is snug enough around your heel and instep, so they don’t go wobbling around, causing unwanted friction, which could lead to hot spots, and further on, blisters. Do, however, leave space in the toe box.
Especially in downhill running, your feet will tend to slide forward and hit the toe box if you don’t have a sufficient amount of room. I leave about two fingers’-width of space upfront; enough room where I can wiggle my toes around while standing.
This space will ensure your toes won’t hit the front of the sneaker in turn avoiding bruised toenails which generally end up lifting up and falling off. If you’ve ever experienced it before, you know that toenails can take months and months to grow back, and if there is any root damage, they may not ever be the same again.To avoid these issues at all costs, put a lot of time and care into choosing the right running sneakers.
Now, let’s take a look at the counterpart to the perfect sneaker, the socks!
There are several brands of anti-blister socks that have come out and do genuinely work. Try to avoid regular old cotton socks, and go for at least a couple of pairs of moisture-wicking ones. Be sure to use them on your long runs and more intense workouts.
Running-specific socks, paired with an anti-chafe or diaper cream around your toes and feet for a long run, are a sure-fire way to keep your feet safe. I prefer diaper cream as it doesn’t rub off as easily, resulting in longer-lasting protection.
This duo will stop hot spots and blisters in their tracks!
Now that you have the perfect gear let’s check out prevention while running.
#2 Shake It Out
While running on rough terrain, sand, gravel, dirt, river beds, just about anything can make its way into your shoe or sock. I know, I know, you have a great run, flying along the trails, and that pesky little rock in your shoe is not worth stopping for, right?
If you feel anything rubbing against your foot, stop right away and spare 30 seconds to take off your shoe and shake it out. You’ll be happy you did as you just avoided a hot spot, or even worse, a blister that could have hindered the rest of your run or even kept you off your feet for days.
It’s worth the stop.
#3 Use Gaiters
If you don’t want to have to worry about objects sneaking their way into your socks and sneakers at all, you can try using gaiters. These protectors close around your ankle and attach to your sneakers using velcro or hooks; some running sneakers even come with this feature now.
Gaiters may not make the best fashion statement, but you won’t have to worry about stopping to clean out your shoes at all; the choice is yours!
#4 Keep Your Feet in Tip-Top Shape
Keeping our feet “sandal-ready” is more of an effort for runners than it is for non-runners, as our feet get a lot of wear and tear. If you can swing it, getting a monthly pedicure would be ideal. The nail technician will keep your feet and nails in excellent condition and take care of issues such as ingrown toenails and thick calluses.
If you prefer to do it yourself, you will need the following tools:
- Toenail clippers
- Nail file
- Callus foot file or pumice stone
- Foot moisturizer
- Baby powder
Keep your nails comfortably short, and avoid any uneven, sharp edges by filing them down. This will prevent them from rubbing uncomfortably against your sneakers, resulting in them falling off or cutting into your other toes.
Apply lotion before you go to bed every night to keep your feet properly moisturized. This will keep your skin from cracking and peeling.
Even though keeping your feet moisturized is important, keeping them fresh and dry throughout the rest of the day is equally important.
Immediately following your run, change out of your wet socks and sneakers and throw on a pair of sandals to let them dry out.
Before putting on your shoes for the remainder of your day, sprinkle baby powder on them. This is especially important for those who tend to sweat a lot.
There is a clear difference between keeping our feet moisturized and lubricated while running and constantly wet. Keeping them fresh and dry will prevent issues such as fungus or athlete’s foot.
File Down Calluses
Even though we need some padding as distance runners, we want to keep calluses under control, so they don’t become too thick. It’s excruciating when a callus cracks open during a run, which can keep you off your feet for a while until it heals. There is also a possibility it can lead to infection.
So file calluses down every couple of weeks to maintain a slight cushioning to protect your feet while not allowing them to become too thick.
#5 Workout Those Feet
Another foot care priority is avoiding plantar fasciitis, heel and arch pain due to the inflammation of the plantar fascia. It’s a widespread condition among runners and causes a lot of discomfort and pain. If those first few steps in the morning as you get out of bed are tough to take, you may be experiencing the beginnings of this problem.
Here are some general pointers to help decrease your chances of getting plantar fasciitis:
- Warm-up and cool down properly before and after every workout with dynamic stretches and activation.
- Check your running form and technique and work on any improvements you may need to make.
- Work on your running cadence, trying to get it up to 180 steps per minute.
- Increase your training load gradually.
The following are plantar fasciitis prevention exercises you can do at home:
Towel Scrunch Exercise
- Place a towel on the floor in front of you as you are seated in a chair.
- Grab the towel with your toes and scrunch the towel toward you.
- When you have brought it all the way in, use your toes to push the towel back away from you.
- Do this a few times with each foot.
Resistance Band Calf Stretch
We want to keep our calves as loose as possible as tight calves are one of the leading causes of plantar fasciitis. Therefore, any calf stretches will do, but here is one you can try:
- Sit on the floor and extend your legs straight out in front of you.
- Place a resistance band (or towel) around your feet.
- Hold both sides of the resistance band with your hands.
- Pull your toes toward you gently.
Note: You can do this exercise on both legs together or one at a time.
Along with calf stretches, calf-strengthening exercises will also be of great benefit.
As runners, we are used to having some discomfort every now and then, or sometimes even more than we should allow. This makes us a bit stubborn when needing to seek assistance. Avoiding problems that could turn into weeks or months on the sidelines can often be achieved by prevention!
If, however, something does come up, don’t wait until it’s too late to take care of it. If you see any discoloration or change in texture in your toenails, be sure and see a podiatrist right away.
Tending to the issue sooner rather than later can help avoid discomfort and months of treatment. Take care of those feet!