Our feet have to put up with a lot! It’s amazing when you think about it, that these two relatively small body parts are the thing that keeps us upright, that support us, allow us to move about and that carry the weight of our entire body. It’s no wonder so many of us are concerned about getting our feet out in public during the summer months.
As a runner, the need to look after your feet is even greater, because the impact and pressure being forced upon them is so much more than when you’re walking. Plus if your feet aren’t in good nick, how on earth can you expect them to get you from A to B safely and pain free. Each type of running carries its own risk, but trail running and long distance running are particularly bad, for a variety of different reasons that you’ll discover as you read on.
For me personally, I know for a fact that my feet are one of the very last things I think about when I’m running. Instead, I’m thinking about how much my legs ache, whether my posture is good, I’m concentrating on pumping my arms and I’m trying to convince myself to keep going. And if I do spare a thought to my poor old feet, it’s usually only in terms of not tripping up, or avoiding stepping in puddles or cowpats!
One thing that helps is the knowledge that I’m wearing a decent pair of well-fitting trainers, and this has perhaps given me a bit of an excuse to not think about it. Having had a biomechanical assessment to analyse my gait, I’m confident that my trainers are supporting my feet as much as they possibly can.
Which brings me on to the very first foot friendly thing you should be thinking about as a runner…
Everyone has different feet and so finding the right running shoe for you isn’t as simple as choosing the one you like the colour of the most. You might have a high arch or your feet might be particularly narrow or wider than average. If you buy a shoe that doesn’t accommodate these factors, you’re soon going to know about it! Badly fitting trainers can cause problems such as blisters, burning, bunions, black toenails, bruising and even numbness. Most specialist running shops offer a professional fitting service to make sure you end up with a shoe suitable to both your feet and your running style.
And don’t think that once you’ve bought a fantastic pair of new trainers that you can keep on running in them until they’re falling to pieces. The average running shoe should last you for no more than 300-500 miles, after which they start to lose support and grip. And if you’re tall, a bit weighty, heavy footed, or even all three, then they’re going to need replacing even earlier than that.
It’s also essential to look after your trainers, in order for them to stay in a decent condition and therefore provide your feet with optimum support and comfort. Shoes can shrink over time, particularly if they’re getting wet and muddy on a regular basis. If they do get wet it’s important to let them dry out naturally.
I know how tempting it is to put them out in the sun to dry off, or to pop them on top of the boiler or next to a radiator, especially if you know you’re going to need them again soon. However, this seriously is the worse thing you can do as it will make them shrink, which will not only make them less comfortable and more likely to cause blisters, but is also likely to cause damage to the material therefore reducing the lifespan of your shoes.
You might think it doesn’t really matter what socks you wear when you run, but trust me it does. I have two different types of sock that I wear when I run and it’s only now that the weather is starting to warm up that I’m noticing a difference between the two. One make of socks is aimed specifically at runners; they’re absorbent, they’re cushioned, they’re supportive, hell they even tell you which one is left and right! On the flipside, the other make are the ones I’ve swapped over to because it’s got hot and I’m wearing 3/4 length leggings so don’t want the socks to be so on show; they’re shorter, made of thin mesh like material and offer zero support. Since swapping to those socks, and let’s face it I’ve done it mainly out of vanity reasons, it’s backfired on me because I’ve got more blisters and the skin on my feet has started to peel off.
Socks need to tick three boxes, they need to:
- Absorb sweat and puddles – ALL trainers leak!
- Allow your feet to breathe.
- Be lightweight, yet supportive.
Most socks are fairly inexpensive, so my advice to you is to buy a few different pairs and experiment with them until you find the perfect pair.
My high heel wearing days are pretty much a thing of the past now thank goodness, but if you’re someone who regularly wears high heels to work, or on an evening out then you have a much higher risk of causing injury to your feet. There’s no getting away from the fact that impractical shoes, such as high heels, force your feet into a position that they wouldn’t naturally fall into. And after prolonged periods of time in this position, it’s not just your feet that will suffer, extra pressure will be placed upon your ankles, calves and your knee joints too, which is all really bad news for runners.
If you can’t bear to be parted from your favourite heels however, consider making them as comfortable as you possibly can. Try sticking to styles with slightly thicker soles to reduce impact, or ones with extra cushioning inside, or perhaps buy some invisible gel pads that sit inside the shoe and help support the arches of your feet.
Even if you have the right trainers, the right socks and you’re careful in your day-to-day footwear choices, the chances are you will still experience some foot problems from time to time.
Does any of this lot sound familiar?
This is something I, as I’m sure many of you, have experience of, because let’s face it unless you have the time or the money to go for a regular pedicure, footcare is way, way down the list of priorities. And yes of course you can do stuff at home, but jeez I’d much rather be doing a million different other things than be sat around buffing my feet of an evening!
That being said, there’s many a benefit to be had from perfectly pedicured for feet, and it’s not just for aesthetic purposes. Runners are prone to dry skin and it can often leave feet feeling sore, painful and if the skin becomes too hard, it can also start to crack which is even more painful. The solution is to moisturise. Even if it’s only once a week, have a go at rubbing any areas of dry skin with either a pumice stone or a battery operated hard skin remover (you can read my review of one here if you’d like more details!), whack on a good quality foot cream, then put on some cotton socks and leave on overnight to completely rehydrate and replenish your delicate little trotters.
Did you know that it’s actually moisture that makes our feet dry out? We have over 125,000 sweat glands in each foot and they have the ability to produce over 100g of moisture every day. And it’s this festering sweat that starts to basically rot our feet, making skin become thick, dry and cracked. Regularly applying footcream will help keep the skin soft and supple, however you must also remember to clean and dry your feet thoroughly after each run, and never I repeat NEVER wear trainers or socks that are still wet from a previous run…just think of all that bacteria!
Bad Toe Nails
Unless they’ve got polish on them, toenails aren’t exactly the nicest looking things in the world are they? Mine certainly aren’t and they’ve definitely got worse since I’ve started running. It’s a good idea to keep toenails cut short, as long uneven nails can catch on socks and then tear off. Sometimes long nails can also rub against the side of the shoe, causing bruising underneath the nail bed and you may notice your nail turn black, or worse it may even fall off! Many a long distance runner has had to sacrifice the odd toenail or two post race.
If you can’t afford to keep paying for regular professional pedicures, you can of course set up your own foot beauty routine at home. One key thing to remember is to always cut nails straight across, so as to avoid the risk of ingrown toenails, and any rough edges should be filed with a coarse emery board.
Shorter toenails will also lower the likelihood of contracting a fungal nail disease, and you must always remember to dry your feet thoroughly after a shower or bath, paying particular attention to the skin between your toes.
If your toenail is bruised there’s nothing to worry about, but it could be a sign that your trainers aren’t fitting quite correctly and it’s worth getting them looked at by a professional.
Blisters are caused by friction, so if your shoes or socks are too tight, if your feet are hot, sweaty and/or damp it is highly likely you’ll get one. It is one of the most common foot problems among runners and unless treated properly, they can become infected. As much as you might be tempted, you should never pop or pierce a blister. The fluid within the blister is there to protect the layers of skin beneath, kind of a like an airbag, if you break this sack you are likely to cause infection. Instead, give the blister time to heal and if it continues to rub and cause pain when you run, invest in some blister plasters that will help cushion the affected area.
This fungal foot infection is rife in the world of running, because it absolutely loves moisture. Sweat, waterlogged trainers, damp socks, or even clean feet that haven’t been dried properly are the perfect ingredients for the fungus that contributes to athlete’s foot. If your feet are itchy and red on the toes and soles of the feet, then that sounds as though you have athlete’s foot, so it’s time to get yourself to the pharmacist to buy some anti-fungal ointment.
As the old saying goes, ‘prevention is better than cure’, and this is true for athlete’s foot. Always make sure your feet are dry, and if you need a bit of extra help you could try sprinkling talcum powder on them after you shower. Another top tip is to spray antiperspirant on your feet before donning your trainers.
This is a common foot condition and many runners suffer from it. Like most other foot problems, plantar fasciitis can occur because of badly fitting shoes, but is also exacerbated by too much strain on the foot, for example running too far, too fast or too frequently. The plantar fascia is a tendon that runs lengthwise across the sole of the foot, the part that joins the heel to the toes. If you strain this tendon, it becomes swollen, irritated and extremely painful, to the point where you will be unable to run on it.
The first thing you need to do is think about your footwear and consider changing trainers for ones with more support and cushioning. Exercises, such as rolling a tennis ball across the sole of your foot or walking through water should help to ease the pain and strengthen the tendon.
If the pain continues you should see your GP, who may refer you to a specialist podiatrist, who will be able to guide you through certain exercises to help strengthen up the foot again and get you back out there and running asap!
Do you have bad feet? Has running made them worse?
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