Care For Your Feet
Your feet are the foundation of every stride you take and it’s time to start treating them that way. With that in mind, we caught up with Stuart Brown at Core Health and Wellness to get some great advice to help you look after your often-neglected feet in the run up to and after the Wolf Run.
Having worked with runners and athletes at Birmingham Runner and Core for a number of years it still surprises me how little care and attention people give to their feet! People stretch their hamstrings, work on their core strength and ‘carb-load’ for energy, but hardly even think about their feet (perhaps until that tell-tale sting of a blister or bruised toenail starts forming part way around the course).
However, if you pay attention to your feet, whether simply in terms of choosing well-fitting, suitable shoes for blister-prevention, or taking steps to deal with more serious problems you will feel a real difference. After the knee, the foot is the most frequently injured body part for runners and, in addition, problems originating in the feet (like low arches) can lead to pain and injury of the shins, knees, hips and lower back, making otherwise fit runners injury-prone when they really shouldn't be.
Here are some top tips you should be considering now:
1) Test out your trainers
If you haven’t been out for a few proper runs / jogs in the shoes you plan to wear for the Wolf Run, you won’t really know if they are well-fitting until it’s too late (half way through the run!) A bad shoe fit can cause problems from numbness and burning to blisters and sores, or can even increase your chance of injury. A too-short shoe can cause bruising, a too-narrow shoe can cause pain and calluses, and a too-big shoe can cause friction and blisters (and is more likely to get lost in the mud!)
2) Specialist shoe shops
If you have ‘non-average’ feet (and most people do!) head to a specialty running store and staff there will be able to advise how a shoe is likely to wear with use, and which shoe to choose if you are an orthotics wearer. If you have orthotics also make sure that your running shoe is ‘neutral’.
3) Get measured
Make sure you actually get your feet measured – people often don’t realise that feet can expand by up to a couple of sizes over the years, so don’t assume you’re the same size at 40 as you were at 18. Running shoes should typically be ½ to a full size bigger than your usual shoes to allow for swelling and movement.
4) Change your shoes
Even if you do get the right fit, shoes can shrink with wear – especially if you get them wet and muddy a lot! If you’ve been running in the same shoes for a while they’ll also lose their shock absorption. So, ideally, buy your shoes at least a few weeks before the run and ‘run them in’ so that if you are having any problems you can sort them out before the day of the run – but don’t run in shoes that are so old they’ve lost their bounce and have shrunk too much!
Socks (badly fitting, cotton socks, and wet socks especially) can also cause blistering. Form-fitting acrylic socks, doubled up if you want, are best – again, make sure you try them out in training, with the shoes you’re planning to wear.
SKIN & NAILS
1) Dry Feet
If you’re prone to dry feet it can lead to painful cracks on the soles and between the toes. Use a moisturizer like Neutrogena foot cream every day – after your bath or shower is great as this helps retain some of the moisture. If you’re prone to blisters you might try putting a moisturiser (or lubricant or petroleum jelly) outside the sock as well as on the skin. Try it out on practice runs first to make sure you don’t use too much and make it too slippery.
2) Sweaty Feet
If your problem isn’t dry feet, but sweaty, wet feet (which makes perfect conditions for athlete’s foot and other fungal problems) then lightweight, breathable, moisture-wicking socks are the way to go.
Keeping your nails neatly trimmed can help prevent bruised toenails, ingrown toenails and cuts from your toenails on adjacent toes. If your feet are in pretty good shape a home pedicure is probably fine. If you have more problematic feet (skin problems, nail problems or pain) it’s worth seeing a pedicurist or a chiropodist for a more thorough treatment and professional advice.
MASSAGE & FOOT MUSCLES
1) Foot Workout
Have you thought about your feet as part of your training? The foot needs strength-training like much of the rest of the body – injuries are more likely if your feet muscles are weak. A good way to strengthen your feet is to go barefoot when you can, and foot exercises like toe rises, heel drops, toe grabs (picking up a small object with your toes) are great.
It’s easy to overlook the feet even if you have massages elsewhere. Massaging your own feet, perhaps using a wooden foot roller, or a couple of golf balls, can be really effective at stimulating your foot muscles. Sports massage therapists, reflexologists or podiatrists can provide more expert treatment and advice. Foot massage doesn’t just help the feet – it can have a very uplifting effect both mentally and physically.
ON THE DAY:
- Make sure you’ve ‘run in’ your socks and shoes
- Moisturise the feet (and socks if you’re prone to blisters)
- Warm up and stretch your feet along with your other muscles
- Make sure your laces are well tied so you don’t trip or lose a shoe
- If your feet swell or get overheated on the run the water should cool them down. If they’re still hot and swollen afterwards, apply ice or a cold water soak, or lie down with your feet elevated
- If you get a blister, callus or tender area on the run, try leaving it alone for 24 hours – it may heal itself. You can buy special blister products and may want to change your shoes to something more comfortable for a couple of days. If the blister or sore doesn’t seem to be improving after a few days it’s worth seeking professional help – blisters can become infected, ingrown toenails can become more problematic if left.
Stuart Brown is a Biomechanics Podiatrist and Chiropodist at Core Health and Wellness. He offers a free ‘pain assessment’ appointment for new patients. Head to www.corehealthandwellness.uk