Our sports medicine podiatrists offer the following tips to distance runners for caring for your feet.
- Find the right fit for you. From traditional thick-heeled running shoes to minimalist, lightweight, toe-shoes, there is a fiery debate among runners about the best gear for your feet. Some don't wear anything at all to pad their stride. But most suggest shoes of some sort and stress the importance of proper fit. Make sure yours fit securely so there's no rubbing, which can cause blisters and calluses. You don't want them too tight, though, either. Allow for comfort; with room in the toe box so you can wiggle your toes, arches that line up with yours, and laces and a shoe collar that donât dig in. For the best fit, take your time trying on different pairs with socks, inserts, or orthotics you plan to wear on race day.
- Break in new shoes before race day. Buy new kicks if you like, but avoid the day of your official run as their coming-out party. Break in those lightning-bright shoes well before your official run, or face the possibility of run-stopping blisters.
- Don't sock it to your feet. Those sneaky, white, low-cut stockings might stink after a long run, but they shouldn't suck during it. Don't wear socks that bunch while you trot, and try on different thicknesses to find the right fit. Think about race day weather, too, as those extra-thick foot hoods could quickly turn soppy wet on a summertime scamper. (Blisters again?) Consider, too, alternatives to cotton, such as acrylic socks to reduce the amount of moisture your feet slip and slide in during your run.
- Pamper your puppies. A pedicure might seem too soft for some hard-core endurance athletes. But trimming nails short, filing down calluses, and massaging tired feet can go a long way to reducing pain, preventing future toenail problems, and logging more pain-free, or pain-reduced, miles down the road.
- Prevent blisters. Like shoe choice, runners differ on their approaches to blister prevention, but a skin lubricant or, conversely, a dry powder applied to the foot before running may help keep these annoying pain bubbles from appearing or reduce their number during a race. You may also tape sensitive areas ahead of time. Use isopropyl alcohol to cleanse the affected area, administer a skin-adherent spray according to directions, then moleskin or an adhesive pad, then tape. Pit stop? Poke holes in blisters when they develop to let drain. Leave tape in place to allow the skin to toughen.
Race completed? Congrats! But Don't Stop Just Yet
It sound may sound cruel after a long run, but for your body and sole's sake, you should keep moving after the race. Walk briefly while you snack and rehydrate, and make haste to remove wet socks and put on dry ones, which will cool off your feet. Then treat blisters using rubbing alcohol to disinfect, and take a load off. If you had to drag one of your feet across the finish line, or face another lingering ambulatory injury, set an appointment with your podiatrist to have your foot—or by extension, ankle or leg—checked out. Follow doctor's orders to recoup, reload and race on.