Basic Foot Care for Runners
How often do you think about your feet? As runners, we may spend more time worrying about hamstrings, glutes, quads, or any number of other things. Feet sometimes get ignored because most people don’t like looking at them. But they are kind of a big deal. They are your single point of contact with the ground. If we don’t take care of them, it won’t be long before we’re unable to run.
Even the smallest little hiccup could sideline you, and nobody wants that!
In the past, I’ve dealt with plantar fasciitis, blisters, and random weird pain on the top of my foot. I’ve experimented with several types of orthotics, different shoes with different “drops” all trying to minimize whatever pain was going on. Still, taking care of my feet is something I seem to always wait until the end to fix.
Dr. B, a podiatrist at the newly launched Foot Forum, a Minnesota Based online injury prevention forum for foot health, recently shared with me some tips for proper foot care for runners. Hopefully, you are doing these, but they are a good reminder to all of us about the importance of good foot health.
1. Start with the Right Tires
The first step to creating happy feet is to find the correct pair of shoes. Sometimes you can save a little money getting your shoes online, but there is no substitute to a proper fit. If you are new to running, it may take a few tries, but most specialty running stores have generous return policies.
If your arches hurt, you may need additional support says Dr. B. “…you might need to help support your feet in the short or long term with orthotics.” This is a situation where talking to a podiatrist is better than simply trying a few options to see what works.
Also, sometimes we spend a lot of time and money getting the perfectly fitting running shoes, but ignore what we wear every day. Especially in the summer, I am prone to walking around barefoot or in unsupported flip flops. Dr. B says this can cause even more injuries to already stressed feet. She says, “don’t ignore small lingering pains. It may be the start of tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, or even stress fractures.”
2. Blister Care
Blisters are the worst. How can something so small sideline you for so long? Finding the right socks and shoes help tremendously, but run long enough, and inevitably you will get one.
Last fall shortly after running the Twin Cities Marathon, I got a blister on my pinky toe. I rarely get blisters, so when I took my shoes off after this run, I was surprised to see a blood-soaked sock. Even then, it seemed innocent enough, but it was shocking how much pain it caused over the next week. Excruciating every time I tried to run.
Dr. B offers this advice for dealing with blisters;
If you are one of the unfortunate many, blisters happen. Taking care of them properly is the difference between a minor annoyance and a couple weeks downtime. I know it is very tempting, but try not to pop the blister. Doing so can be a source of infection. Clean well and pad around irritated spot to decrease pressure. If you must pop the blister, do so with a sterile pin or sharp blade and bandage immediately with antibiotic ointment. NEVER REMOVE THE SKIN. It helps protect the new skin underneath, and aids in keeping dirt out.
I basically did the opposite of this with my little pinky toe blister. Lesson learned.
3. Massage, Rest, Ice
Getting a professional massage is a tremendous luxury I wish all runners could experience. Working with someone who knows what a runner goes through is amazing when it comes to sore muscles and some injuries. If that isn’t an option for you, there are a plethora of self-massage tools that also work well.
Dr. B Says that
massaging your feet (especially the heel and ball) will help push the extra fluid out, and decrease tenderness. In a marathon, 26.2 miles of pounding can swell feet by upwards of a 1/2 size or more just from excess fluid. Additionally, the legs get a lot of attention as being important to massage out lactic acid, but the smaller muscles/tendons/ligaments in your feet should not be ignored either. They stretch and strain significantly during a run, and deserve a little love.
Simply getting off your feet, before and after a hard workout of especially a longer run or race. Your feet take quite a beating while you’re running. Elevating them feet shortly after completing a run, helps to drain some of the excess from your feet/legs, and speed recovery.
I have found ice baths feel amazing on my sore feet. If you can’t stand the thought of getting your whole body into a tub of ice, just try soaking your feet. Studies have shown that, “…following intense exercise with cold water immersion reduced muscle soreness over the next several days…” and “…taking an ice bath reduced the drop in performance that follows a high-intensity, long-duration effort…”
Foot care for runners is a big deal! Do you have issues with your feet? What do you do to take care of them?