Your feet are arguably the most important physical tool when it comes to running comfortably. Of course, I say arguably because I’m sure anyone could say a strong core, or functioning knees, or any other part of the body could potentially be more important. But ask someone who has developed an agonizing blister only 10 miles into a full marathon and I think they’d agree that your feet can make or break a run or a race. And it only makes sense: Just like the tires on a race car, your feet are the first (and hopefully only) part of your body to come in contact with the ground while you’re running.
Now that I’m nearly a decade into my own running career, I’ve pretty much given up on the idea that I’ll ever have feet worthy of foot model status. There is no denying that runner’s feet take a beating. But aesthetics aside, it’s incredibly important that we keep our feet functioning as well as possible. Here are my tips for what to do to keep your feet in tip-top racing shape.
Make sure your shoes fit.
This truly is key to keeping your feet happy. Shoes that are too small can cause cramping, black toenails, and blisters from the tight-fitting material. Shoes that are too large can cause your feet to slide around inside of them, resulting in blisters and hot spots. Just like Goldilocks testing the porridge of the Three Bears, what you need are shoes that are “just right,” with a secure fit and just enough room to allow for the slight swelling that may occur during distance running. Need help finding that perfect fit? Visit your local running store and let the experts help you.
Invest in good socks.
You always hear of runners saying “cotton is rotten” when it comes to t-shirts or shorts, and there is good reason for it. Technical fabric is preferred over cotton because it doesn’t absorb and hold onto water, creating heavy, uncomfortable, clingy gear. Your socks are no exception. Dry-wicking technical socks will help keep your feet dry and comfortable. Sure, it may seem a bit ridiculous to invest in a $10 (or more!) pair of socks. But it won’t seem so ridiculous when your feet are dry and blister free!
Keep your toenails trimmed.
Long toenails that come in contact with the inside of your shoe—especially while you’re running downhill—are often the culprit behind black and bruised toenail beds. Keep your toenails trimmed…but not too short. You want to avoid the possibility of painful ingrown toenails as well.
Love your calluses.
Calluses happen for a reason, and that reason is to build up thicker, protective skin where there are areas of frequent irritation. So unless those calluses are causing you pain or discomfort, leave them be. Trying to soften them up or grind them down will only result in making your skin more vulnerable to irritation.
Invest in a sport-specific lubricant like Body Glide or Trail Toes to help lessen the chance of chafing or blistering occurring in the first place. These products work extra well in areas that are bound to rub against each other, like between your toes.
Strengthen your feet.
Just like any other part of your body, your feet need proper strengthening and rest periods to help avoid painful conditions such as plantar fasciitis. Check out these five foot-strengthening exercises for some suggestions on how to start getting your feet fit!
There are a number of things that contribute to being an overall strong runner, including proper training, rest, nutrition, and hydration. But it is amazing how many of us ignore one of the most important parts of our running arsenal: our feet. Remember, happy feet = happy runner.