As a runner, it might seem obvious that looking after your feet would be a key ingredient for long-term running. However, this isn’t always the case, as the feet just don’t receive the attention they should.
A solid immediate piece of advice is that if your feet are in any pain whatsoever, you shouldn’t run. Find out what the problem is and deal with it first, before heading out on the roads, on the track or the treadmill.
In this guide to taking care of your feet when running, there are a number of handy pointers. Implement as many as possible to avoid having foot problems for years to come.
It is very important that you have the perfect sized shoe when running. This covers both the length and width. If the shoe is the wrong size, it can cause multiple different problems.
For example, if the shoe is too short, it can cause the runner to have black toenails. If the shoes are too tight, it can lead to pins and needles and numbness.
You could try a thinner sock in this situation, but if the problem persists, it’s time to go for a bigger shoe. Narrow shoes can also cause pinched nerves, bunions, and other complaints. If the shoe is too large, there will be that much more movement in the shoe, which creates the perfect recipe for a blister.
If your feet are especially narrow or wide, you might need to seek out a specialist stockist who can supply different widths of shoe. You should also make it a standard practice that you should measure your feet regularly. Shoe sizes can change over the years, as much as two sizes as an adult.
Socks can also be a problem when running. Going for your nearest cotton socks before going out on a run might not be the best option. They can be another cause of blisters, as can wearing ill-fitting socks. An acrylic, lightweight and breathable sock is recommended. Make sure you have tried the socks on with your running shoe before you go out on a run, especially a long distance one.
A foot massage after a run can be beneficial as well as enjoyable. If your feet are sore after an intense training session, or if you have any foot pain after a run, a massage is the ideal treatment. By doing this you can improve the circulation of your feet as well as loosen up any tightness.
For even better results, you can combine the massage with applying moisturiser to your feet. This will help with any hardness you have in your feet. You can also use muscle soothing balms and salts too. If you can’t justify a foot spa, there are a number of simple massage rollers on the market which are surprisingly effective.
While running shoes that are too short can be the cause of black toenails, this can also be caused by nails that are too long. If your nails are too long, they will be coming into contact with the end of your shoe on every stride. This will eventually cause problems.
As well as the black toenail, you could also make the toenail loose or lose it completely. Aim to cut your toenails at least once a week when regularly running.
One piece of advice which some will love but others not so much is to soak your feet in iced water. Professional athletes do this as a matter of course post a game / event / run, and it can be a good habit to get into.
Any swelling will be reduced by placing your feet into a bowl or bucket of iced water. Conversely, keeping your feet warm, with the use of a heat pack can also help with swelling. You can use a combination of both – the iced water immediately after the run, and the heat pack in the evening.
One thing you can do on those non-running days is to utilise foot exercises to strengthen your feet. There are some very simple exercises you can do to boost your feet. The simple act of clenching your toes and wiggling them will strengthen the plantar fascia. This is the main muscle along the sole of the foot.
One fun exercise is the toe lift. Stand as you would normally, and then raise your big toe for 2 seconds before setting it down again. Repeat this 20 times, and then raise all of the toes apart from the big toe for 2 seconds. Once again you can repeat this 20 times.
For older readers, the classic ‘Only Fools and Horses’ scene where Trigger gets an award for looking after his broom comes to mind. Road sweepers have a saying ‘Look after your broom.’ Whether it had 17 new heads and 20 new handles notwithstanding. For runners, just adjust this to ‘look after your feet.’ This is way more important than getting the latest tracking / health app or fashionable running gear.
Runners have a lot to think about. While the burn after a great run might be felt in your thighs, looking after your feet is essential. Luckily, with some easy steps, your feet can stay in top condition – and you will be able to enjoy runs for years to come.
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