If you’re a runner you need to take care of your feet but they can often be overlooked and ignored.
Feet absorb the most impact whilst running, therefore it’s essential that they are cared for to make running comfortable because the last thing you want is a pleasant run to turn into a miserable experience.
Running, especially trail and ultra running can disagree with our feet, causing them to peel, ache, blister, crack, itch and smell – so why do so few runners give their feet the attention they actually need to prevent these things?
Before a run, we always remember to stretch the necessary muscles but we always seem to forget about the feet which work the harder than any other body part.
If you’re a runner who neglects their feet then it’s time to act now! Caring for them can increase your running productivity and can also prevent foot anomalies which lead to pain or worse, an injury in the knees, shins, lower back or hips.
Isn’t is time you gave your feet the care and attention they deserve?
Find the best fit for your feet
Shoes with a poor fit can cause a variety of problems, so unless you want numbing, burning or blistering on your feet, make sure you get a comfortable pair of shoes that are suited for your running style.
Shoes that aren’t long enough for your feet can turn your toenails black, shoes that are extra wide will cause friction allowing your feet to slip causing blisters and narrow shoes that are too tight can result in pinched nerve pain and bunions.
If your feet have a high arch then you will need shoes with a larger depth, and if your feet are narrow or wide then you need to buy a pair of trainers suited to your foot shape.
Most specialist running shops can offer fitting advice to ensure you find the most suitable running shoes for yourt feet and style. Many also have tread mills to allow you to try the shoes before you buy.
Avoid asking for shoe advice in large stores, because the chances are that the person selling the shoes probably doesn’t run and has very little knowledge on trainers needed for different foot types.
Always try running shoes on with the same socks you run in, this way you can get a better understanding of the fit.
Make sure you pick the right shoe for your needs as well. For example If the majority of your running is done on trails then you need to select a suitable shoe and one made for running on the road just won’t be up to the job
Shoes can shrink over time, especially when they get wet on a regular basis so keep an eye out in case they become too tight!
Look after your running shoes
Shoes need maintaining if you want to get the maximum productivity and life out of them. The average pair of running shoes should last around 350-500 miles.
If you are a taller or heavier runner, or if you don’t have a very smooth gait then your shoes will wear out at a much quicker rate.
Even light footed runners should be aware that materials in the shoe can deteriorate over time causing the shoe to lose some of the shock absorption.
After a hard wet run, most runners will place their shoes in the sun or next to the radiator. If you have been doing this then it’s time to STOP!
This can cause shoes to shrink and putting them in cold temperatures can also damage shoes, making the midsoles harder and the cushioning less bouncy. The best way to store shoes is in the house away from any radiators so they can dry out naturally.
This will help them prolong your shoe life as it reduces the rate of wear and tear.
If you’re run on a daily basis, it’s advisable to have multiple pairs of shoes so that you will always have a dry pair at the ready!
Don’t forget the socks
Bad fitting socks can turn any run into an uncomfortable one, and they are the primary cause of blisters.
Socks that become damp can also cause chaffing which can lead to blistering so it’s crucial that you get a decent pair of running socks that fit well.
Once you have found a style, brand and fabric that work well with your feet and running, you should stock up and purchase several pairs.
Different seasons however bring different weather conditions so bear in mind that you will need different socks for different times of the year.
In the warmer months, you will need a lighter pair that allows your feet to breathe, and in autumn and winter you will need thicker socks that keep your feet warm and don’t absorb water.
If you are an avid trail runner then a pair of waterproof socks such as SealSkinz can help keep your feet warm and dry when the trails are wet.
Over the years we’ve tried many socks, some we like and some we don’t. Below is three of our favourites
Injinji Toe Socks
Check every-day footwear
Running isn’t the only thing that can aggravate your feet, as it is possible for pain to develop when wearing impractical shoes.
If you wear heels or shoes that have very little support when doing everyday tasks, your feet are at a much higher risk of getting a common foot condition such as plantar fasciitis.
To avoid getting a common foot condition examine the shoes you wear every day and test them to see if they are practical, comfy and the correct fit. If you’re in a demanding job where you are required to be on your feet for most of the day ensure that you wear a pair of shoes with a thick sole and plenty of cushioning.
Keep skin soft
Runners are prone to dry skin which can leave feet feeling very sore, irritated and cracked. The skin can become dry when you put your feet through their paces in different temperatures and wet conditions.
The solution to dry skin is to invest in a foot cream or moisturiser that will nourish your feet and prevent them from cracking. Foot cream should be applied on a daily basis after a shower or at least each day you go out for a run.
Seek professional help
By professional help we mean getting a pedicure once every one to two months.
If you have never had a pedicure before then we highly recommend getting one done by a professional.
A pedicure doesn’t always have be for cosmetic purposes, as the pedicurist will trim and file your nails, treat calluses, moisturize your skin and give your feet a nice massage.
This treatment is handy before a big race and it is a very beneficial as it keeps on top of the build-up of dead skin.
Keep feet dry
Everybody’s feet are different, and some runners suffer from dry feet while others get sweaty damp feet when running which are more prone to fungal infections.
Keeping feet moist free is not exactly easy, as there are around 125,000 sweat glands in each foot which have the ability to produce over 100 grams of moisture every day.
If your feet get very damp when running, then you need to invest in some breathable, lightweight moisture-wicking socks which will help combat the problem. These socks along with a pair of water proof trail running shoes will keep your feet dry in both winter and summer.
Just remember that you should only wear trainers when they are dry and never wear socks that are wet.
Nail care and maintenance
If you’d prefer to do your own nail and foot care routine at home instead of getting a professional pedicure then ensure it is carried out regularly and properly.
Long and sharp toes nails can catch in socks causing them to tear and they can rub at the edge of the shoe which can create a blood pool under the nail turning it black.
Toe nails should be kept short, neat and simple. Always cut the nail in a straight line and use the file to remove any coarse edges.
Avoid curving the nail as this can potentially cause the nail to grow into the skin of the toe which can be painful and cause in growing toe nails.
To get rid of any hard skin your feet, you need to file them down regularly to keep on top of the build-up of dead skin. There are many different tools available out there for this, but cheaper tools are not always the best option because they don’t do a very good job.
Invest a little more money into a foot file and you can get an excellent tool like the Scholl Velvet Smooth Diamond Pedi Electric Hard Skin Remover which combats any dead skin issues on your feet.
Adjust your shoe laces
Are your shoes rubbing when you run? If they are then it might be because you are not tying your laces correctly.
A solution as simple as re-lacing your shoes can enhance your running and stop your feet from rubbing which creates blisters making running uncomfortable.
Depending on where your shoe is rubbing, there are different types of lacing for different spots of the foot that can solve any rubbing.
Rubbing on top of foot
If you have rubbing in one spot on the top of your foot, you can easily eliminate it by lacing around it.
Method: Put a smear of lipstick on the part of your foot where the shoe is rubbing and place you’re barefoot into the shoe. Once you take it out there will be a red patch inside the shoe where the lacing will need to be avoided.
To do this, simply lace your shoe up until the rubbing spot and take the lace back under and bring it through the next eyelet which is on the same side. Repeat this on the other side, so it looks like you have an empty spot on the upper shoe where the rubbing spot is.
This will remove any pressure to the area that gets irritated.
Nails turning black
If your shoes are turning your big toe nails black then it could be because they need cutting or you may need to change how you tie your shoe laces.
You should be able to lift the upper material above your large toe up and bring it off it.
Method: Thread one end of the shoe lace through the eyelet which is situated next to the big toe, then pull the end of that lace up to the last eyelet on the other side, which will bring the lace through to the outside.
Leave enough slack at the top to tie a bow and take the left over lace straight across towards the outer shoe and then diagonally up towards the inside of the trainer.
Repeat this until all the holes are laced. This lacing technique will pull the material above the big toe up and off the nail when you tug on the outside lace.
Shoe is too tight on top of foot
If your trail shoe is too tight on the top of your foot then you should trying parcel lacing to secure your foot inside the shoe.
This will then remove the pressure from the top of your foot.
Method: lace the first 2 holes on the large-toe side of the tongue. Then, bring the lace from the first eyelet over to the first eyelet opposite on the other side and push it through.
Next pull it straight up the other side missing one eyelet and thread it through the third hole. Now pull it straight across the tongue and then push it through the 3rd hole on the other side opposite.
Carefully repeat this until all eyelets on the shoe are laced up and tied.
Toes feel very cramped
We have all had shoes where our toes have felt incredibly cramped, so if you’re having this issue with your trail shoes then try this lacing method which will reduce forefoot constriction by using 4 laces instead of 2.
Method: Remove the laces and measure them. You then need to purchase 2 sets of laces that are half the length of the current shoe’s laces.
Once you have the shorter laces, use one set for the bottom half of the eyelets, and the other shoe lace for the top half. It should end up looking like 2 bows on each shoe and you can tie the bottom lace looser to give your toes more room and less restriction.
Heel moves up and down
You may find that your heel is not secure and rubs on the rear of the shoe, which could result in blisters developing at the back of your heel.
Try to secure the area around your ankle without tightening the entire shoe. This shoe lace technique will make sure that the last eyelet is able to be tightened while leaving the rest of the shoe as normal.
Method: First lace the shoe as normal then on the last eyelet create a loop by threading the lace through from the outside, repeat on the other side.
Now cross the laces and thread them through the loops you created on the opposite sides. This separates the tightening mechanisms therefore you will be able to create a tighter fit around the ankle whilst maintaining the same tension in the rest of the shoe.
Foot injuries and conditions
As a runner, there are various foot conditions that you need to be aware of and how to treat them. Running adds tension on to the feet which makes them more vulnerable to getting foot problems.
Here are the most common which you need to be aware of;
If you’re a runner then you must be aware of this common foot condition. The planta fascia tendon runs lengthwise across the sole of the foot, and plantar fasciitis is caused when you wear badly fitting shoes or put lots of strain on your feet. This is a sharp stabbing pain in the bottom of your foot which can occur when standing or sitting down, and in the worst cases it can become very painful.
To treat this foot condition, first you have to identify what is causing the pain. Runners usually get plantar fasciitis when wearing badly fitted shoes and ignoring foot pain when it needs to be treated. You should assess the socks and shoes you wear, not just for running but also the things you wear for everyday activities, as cheap shoes with limited cushioning could also be the route of the cause.
Once you have acknowledged what is causing the pain you need treat the condition. This can be dealt with by simply changing the root cause of the condition, but to temporarily reduce the pain until it goes, you should use pain killers when your feet are constantly aching. To soothe the pain you can also place ice or a bag of peas in the arch of the foot.
To stretch out the tendon, walking in a swimming pool can also help supress the pain and get rid of the condition. If after a while it doesn’t disappear then you should visit your doctor for further investigating.
The most common type of fungal infection is athlete’s foot which can be a regular issue for some runners. Athlete’s foot symptoms include itchy redness found on the toes and soles of the feet which can be fairly painful if ignored. If you spot these symptoms, you can purchase some over-the-counter fungicide treatment which will easily get rid of the infection.
The best way to prevent athlete’s foot is by keeping feet clean and dry, because the fungi thrive in dark, moist and unclean areas which provide the ideal living conditions. Other ways to prevent athlete’s foot include changing into clean sock regularly and using a special antiperspirant tailored for feet.
Created by friction, blisters are usually caused when socks and shoes rub, and they are a very common foot injury for runners.
The severity of a blister can intensify when running at a faster pace, wearing ill-fitting shoes or when you have foot abnormalities such as bunions, hammertoes and heel spurs. The heat and moisture inside the shoe intensifies after a short while, which makes your feet swell making them susceptible to blistering.
Blisters are created when there is friction present, the body responds by producing a fluid which builds up beneath the area of skin that is being rubbed which causes pressure and pain. A blood blister can also occur if the friction ruptures a very small blood vessel.
If you get a blister it should be treated with care, because the last thing you want is it getting more painful or infected, for example an infection can occur when you use a dirty needle to pop the blister.
How to prevent blisters
If you’re prone to getting blisters whilst you’re out on a long run, there are various things that you can try to combat the problem and prevent them from forming on your feet.
- Opt for blister free socks – Synthetic materials soak up moisture from the skin, which can cause the skin to rub and blister. Instead, choose some cotton socks as they are lighter, softer and will retain fluid. Socks with a liner or reinforced tips and heels can also help lower friction, like these Injinji Performance Liner Lightweight Crew CoolMax Toe Socks which have 5 toe sleeves offering the best fit, performance and comfort as well as preventing blisters.
- Keep feet moisturised – sweaty skin can create friction, but dry skin is the most prone and easily creates blisters. Lower the risk of getting blisters by using lotions and foot creams daily to maintain the correct level of moisture.
- Apply grease – covering your feet in Vaseline or lubricant before your embark on a run will prevent any friction from occurring, helping your feet to remain blister free.
- Wear socks and shoes that fit – socks that are loose and shoes that are either too big or small will cause blisters to form at the back of the foot and at the end of toes. There should be at least a thumbs width of space between the edge of the toe nails and the end of the shoe. The socks need to be a snug fit with no baggy fabric at the heels or toes.
- Wear 2 pairs of socks – Wearing 2 pairs will make any friction occur between the 2 socks instead of between the skin and the sock. If this solution works for you but your shoes are too tight, then go up half a shoe size which will allocate room for the extra sock.
If the blister on your foot is large then it will need draining, otherwise it will become more irritated and sore, eventually bursting on its own.
When draining a blister, always make sure you have clean washed hands and wipe the needle with some alcohol so it’s sterilised. Avoid using a flame to sterilise the needle, because the heat can irritate the blister.
Once you have punctured a tiny hole in the blister, gently drain the liquid inside by applying pressure to the blister with your fingers. After all the liquid is drained, cover with a tight plaster to stop bacteria entering the wound.
Replace the plaster either once or twice a day, and have one on the blister until the skin starts to dry out.
If the blister in question is small, then leave it intact. The blistered skin acts as a protective shield and provides a sterile environment.
It can also cause additional problems if you try to pop it which might cause sore skin to be exposed which can allow bacteria to enter the wound.
One foot contains 26 bones in total, which makes it susceptible to getting a stress fracture. A stress fracture is most typically found in the metatarsals, and can be an issue that builds up over a period of time and then suddenly results in a sharp sudden pain.
It can be difficult to tell if the pain is a tendon or bone problem, and even X-rays find it difficult to pick up this kind of fracture.
To get rid of a stress fracture, the best thing to do is rest and cut out running for at least 6 weeks. If you want it to heal well and quickly then you should avoid weight baring activities – your doctor will tell you exactly the same!
The good news is that stress fractures heal very easily and once they are fixed the pain is gone for good.
If the thought of not running for a couple of months upsets you, you can still use a cross trainer if you’re itching to do some exercise.
A large number of tendons are in our feet, and they extend down from the muscle in the shin, splitting off to each toe. These tendons are able to move the entire foot and straighten/ pull up each toe.
Sometimes, tendons can become inflamed and cause a pain that feels very similar to a stress fracture. If you’re unsure if the pain is caused from a tendon issue or fracture then apply some pressure to your toes and if it hurts, then chances are it will be tendonitis.
The foot condition extensor tendonitis can be traced down to using improper shoes, weak and tight calf muscles and a tight Achilles heel. This is why it’s very important to have a good stretch before and after a run. If tendons are sore in your toes, soak them in icy cold water and if tendonitis keeps occurring consider getting an inset for your shoe.
Also don’t forget to thoroughly stretch your calf muscles and feet before you embark on a lengthy run!
Adductor and Abductor Hallucis
The adductor hallucis is a muscle situated horizontally across the upper foot forming a v shape with the centre at the big toe.
The abductor is a muscle that runs lengthways on the medial inside the foot along the arch. If you have pain in either of these areas it can feel slightly similar to the pain cause from extensor tendonitis and plantar fasciitis.
You can easily identify a sore and tight abductor because the sharp pain occurs in the arch of the foot.
Any pain with these muscles can simply be created from not having enough arch support in your shoes which is needed for runners with a deep arch.
Also bunions are a large contributor towards this foot condition. The best way to treat adductor and abductor Hallucis is to do a variety of stretches and strength exercises to improve muscle elasticity and keep them healthy and happy.
For this stretch, simply hold your foot at a 90 degree angle then grab your large toe and pull it up. You should feel a bit of tension in the arch of your foot.
Seated toe stretch
Sit on your knees placing your feet behind you, bending your toes and gradually lean back so that your bum is resting on your heels. This should help stretch along the inside of the foot arch, but go steady at first so it isn’t too painful.
Standing straight, roll your feet up and push to the side. Imagine that you are lifting up a ball with towards the front of your foot pushing it back to the heel. This should be done in sets of 10-15 with each foot.
Resistance band toe pulls
For this exercise, sit in a chair and loop a resistance band around both of your big toes. Keep your heels firming on the floor and slowly point your large toes forward and rotate both feet out and then away from each other. This position should be held for 30 seconds then returned back to the starting position. To get the most benefit from this exercise, repeat it 2-3 times a day.